In the News: Battle Over Whaling Hots Up

“Australia’s hands tied as whaling war deepens”

The struggle in the Southern Ocean between Japanese whaling vessels and anti-whaling activists from the organisation Sea Shepard reached a new high yesterday, as the 52-metre Japanese vessel the Shonan Maru 2 rammed the Sea Shepard’s $1.5 million carbon fibre trimaran, the Ady Gil, severing the bow and leaving one anti-whaling activist with broken ribs. The Ady Gil was the secret weapon revealed by Sea Shepard prior to this whaling season: able to travel at up to 50 knots and equipped with expanded fuel capacity for hounding the whaling ships and obstructing their hunt.

The Sea Shepard crew and Japanese representative Glenn Inwood, of the Institute of Cetacean Research in Tokyo, have put out contrasting accounts of the incident. Sea Shepherd claims that the Ady Gil was motionless in the water when the Shonan Maru 2 swerved to hit it; while Mr Inwood claims that:

“The [Ady Gil] skipper puts the boat into full sting to try to cut the Shonan Maru off … You can see that the Shonan Maru is moving to port to try and avoid a collision and there’s no avoiding the collision with the Ady Gil … It’s a fast boat, she heads off full steam in front of it and miscalculates. So it’s no wonder that it came to the grief that it has.”

Judge for yourselves by watching footage of the collision here:

It seems to me that the Agy Gil is motionless in the water until the last minute, when it tries to accelerate out of the imminent collision. It was certainly not heading at “full sting” on a collision course with the Japanese vessel. That would make Mr Inwood ‘a liar’. I also don’t believe that the crew would have deliberately left the trimaran in the Shonan Maru’s path unless it was a tactic used in the heat of blocking a whale kill – which it wasn’t. Watching the video, the Ady Gil’s crew also seem unprepared for the collision, again indicating it was not something they orchestrated. So what we seem to be observing is the Japanese ship deliberately ramming the stationary Ady Gil.

## Update: This footage is even clearer –

Now regardless of one’s position on the legitimacy of whaling, it seems problematic to me that the Australian government is taking no action on these issues. The incident occurred in the waters of the Australian Antarctic Territory, and the two sides are variously using Australian ports, and hiring Australian resources (i.e. the Japanese hired spotter planes from Albany to track the Sea Shepard), and so their must be some point at which Australian authorities have to take some responsibility. Whether it be poaching, or piracy, or ‘terrorism’, one of the sides must be doing something wrong. At what point will Australia intervene? People could well have been killed in the Ady Gil incident.

So what is the issue? Sea Shepard has enormous support amongst the Australian public, who is generally dead-set against whaling; but the government doesn’t want to upset as important a regional ally and trade partner as Japan, and ultimately fears a legal battle over its Antarctic territory because, as Dr David Leary from the University of New South Wales says, “if this ever ends up before the International Court of Justice or the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, we may end up with a situation where we have a finding by an international court that says our claim to our Antarctic territory is not legitimate”.

Meanwhile, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) says it will not investigate the incident because it believes it “was a deliberate action by one or both parties. ‘It’s not a matter of a safety lapse, so there’s no safety lesson to be learnt’”.

Australians are increasingly finding the Rudd Labor government to be one that will shirk on principles when the odds are rough, will back away from global leadership on issues of importance, and kowtow to an array of allies whenever controversy arises. We are now well-positioned to be an exemplary vassal state for the Great Powers of the 21st Century.

Explore posts in the same categories: Asia, Australia, Environment

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