Whale wars in Washington D.C. & the Southern Oceans

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2009:
WASHINGTON D.C.–“The American people
care deeply about protecting whales and do not
want the U.S. to be the broker who capitulated to
those who still want to kill whales for
commercial gain,” declared U.S. House of
Representatives Natural Resources Committee chair
Nick Rahall in a February 4, 2009 letter asking
the acting U.S. Secretary of Commerce to replace
William Hogarth as U.S. representative on the
International Whaling Commission. Hogarth is
also the current IWC chair.
The Rahall letter reinforced a February
2, 2009 appeal to U.S. President Barack Obama by
the Whales Need Us coalition, representing 13
prominent anti-whaling organizations, headed by
Animal Welfare Institute wildlife biologist D.J.
Schubert.


Alleged the Humane Society Inter-national
division of the Humane Society of the U.S.,
“Documents from closed-door meetings corroborate
the disturbing nature of a secret deal the U.S.
is attempting to broker with Japan to legitimize
and expand commercial whaling. Hogarth led the
small group of member countries that devised the
proposal┼áTo appease Japan–the most vocal of the
three nations that still conduct large-scale
whaling–the group worked behind-the-scenes to
draft packages for consideration by the full
commission which would allow Japan and possibly
other countries to expand commercial whale hunts
to coastal waters.”
The purported deal would follow the
recommendations of a “Whale Symposium” held by
the Pew Charitable Trusts in February 2008. The
symposium concluded that “the most promising
compromise” to end conflict with Japan over the
23-year-old IWC moratorium on commercial whaling
“would recognize potentially legitimate claims by
coastal whaling communities; suspend scientific
whaling in its current form and respect
sanctuaries; and define a finite number of
whales that can be taken by all of the world’s
nations.”
Charged HSI, “The Hogarth package would
undermine the IWC’s moratorium on commercial
whaling and provide an official stamp of approval
for Japan’s self-allotted quotas,” through which
the Japanese whaling fleet has killed more than
15,000 whales.
“Hogarth’s plan proposes to put all
decisions regarding conservation and protection
issues on hold for five years,” HSI continued,
“but would result in an immediate partial lifting
of the moratorium on commercial whaling once the
deal has IWC consent.
“The only concession that Japan makes
under the deal,” HSI said, “is to promise to
reduce the number of whales it kills in the
IWC-designated Southern Ocean Sanctuary. There
will be no mandatory sanctions should the promise
be broken. The plan also opens the door for
other countries to initiate hunts in their
coastal waters.”
Hogarth, dean of the University of South
Florida marine science department, was appointed
U.S. representative to the IWC by former U.S.
president George W. Bush.
Hogarth told St. Petersburg Times staff
writer Craig Pittman that he intends to resign
after the IWC elects a new chair and vice chair
in June 2009, but that will be after the IWC
acts on whatever proposals are advanced at the
2009 IWC annual meeting, to be held in Santiago,
Chile, June 16-19.

Meanwhile at sea

Word of the Hogarth deal and the appeals
for his replacement reached mass media just as
the Japanese whaling fleet, operating well
inside the Southern Oceans Whale Sanctuary,
turned more aggressive in response to a fourth
consecutive winter of pursuit by the Sea Shepherd
Conservation Society.
Shadowed by the Sea Shepherd vessel Steve
Irwin, the whalers apparently killed no whales
from December 18, 2008 until January 7, 2009,
when the Steve Irwin returned to Australia to
refuel. Catching up to the whaling fleet again
on February 1, the Sea Shepherds “pursued them
for another nine days, during which time the
whalers were only able to kill five whales,”
reported an Environmental News Service
correspondent from aboard the Steve Irwin.
“Typically the whalers take eight to 10 whales
per day,” said the ENS correspondent.
E-mailed Sea Shepherd founder Paul
Watson, “On February 5th, the fifth day that
the Steve Irwin had shut down all whaling
activities by the Japanese fleet,” in part by
blocking the harpoon vessels as they tried to
transport whale carcasses to the factory ship
Nisshin Maru for processing, “the frustration of
the whalers violently erupted. All three harpoon
vessels attacked the Steve Irwin, making close
passes with their ships, lobbing metal balls at
our crew and using a Long Range Acoustical
Device, which causes nausea and deafness. At
one point they even pointed the LRAD at our
helicopter, filming the confrontation from the
skies.”
British activist Steve Roest “became
disoriented in an inflatable from the sonic
blast, fell, and cut his head, needing five
stitches,” reported ENS. “Watson said this was
followed by the Nisshin Maru turning into the
Steve Irwin and attempting to ram the Sea
Shepherd vessel at full speed.”
“On February 6th,” e-mailed Watson, “two
incidents occurred where the Steve Irwin collided
with harpoon vessels as they forced their way
past the Steve Irwin’s blockade. These
collisions were not intentional on the part of
Sea Shepherd.”
The Steve Irwin turned back to port on
February 9. “Watson said he believes that on
January 31 the Japanese government dispatched a
security vessel called the Taiyo Maru #38 from
Fiji to intercept the Steve Irwin,” reported ENS.
“The ship is believed to be carrying a
special boarding unit and has orders to seize the
ship and all video evidence, according to a
source in Fiji,” Watson told ENS. “We cannot
allow this documentation to be captured.”
Added ENS, “The Steve Irwin had only
another four days of fuel before being forced to
return anyway, said Watson, who plans to begin
preparations to return next season with a faster
and longer range ship.”
Concluded Watson, “We found and engaged
the whalers earlier than ever, chasing the
whaling fleet over 2,000 miles, and for 27 days
we physically prevented the killing of any
whales. We’ve cost the Japanese whaling industry
millions of dollars.”
But with the U.S. delegation to the IWC
apparently wavering, the whalers’ determination
to continue killing whales appeared to be as
strong as ever.

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