If I see one more link to that “Save the Whales” petition, I’m going to lose it.
If I get one more invite to “Go Away Japan, Leave our whales alone” I shall spit the dummy.
If just one more bozo says “…and they are killing whales in Australian waters!” they are going to be subject to much ranting and raving.
I’ve had it up to here with people getting all high and mighty over something that they seem to think is so completely simple. This is anything but simple. This is an incredibly complicated and serious matter, made even more complicated by the overwhelming public outcry and their painfully underwhelming understanding. I’m not saying I’m an expert on the matter by any means, no doubt I’m well off the mark on some points, but I’m getting so fed up with being fed garbage and being shouted at to ‘save the whales’ and abused when I don’t fall all over myself to support the cause as they see it that I thought I’d get on my own little soap box and do some yelling of my own.
Japan is killing whales in Australian Territorial Waters!
NO, they bloody well are not. If they were, then something would have been done about it well before now. What they are doing is killing whales in our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off the coast of the Australian Antarctic Territory (AAT). This maritime zone extends 200 nautical miles off the coast and encompasses the Australian Territorial Waters which only extend 12 nautical miles. It is big. Within the EEZ, Australia has sovereign rights for the purposes of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing all natural resources. While we have some ability to ensure that people aren’t just popping in and fishing us dry or setting up oil rigs willy nilly, we do not have the same ability to enforce our laws as we would within our Territorial Waters.
But that still seems like the government is twiddling it’s thumbs while those nasty Japanese fish us dry, doesn’t it?
So here’s the thing; Japan, and most other countries in the world for that matter, does not recognise Australia’s claim to territory in Antarctica at all. This is a fairly big deal. This is where it all comes unstuck. If they do not recognise the AAT as being Australian, then they don’t recognise our territorial waters or the EEZ and therefore our right to enforce compliance with Australian and International laws relating to such a zone is somewhat limited. To a majority of the world what we call the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary is actually viewed as the High Seas. This means that in the eyes of the world, we can call it Holly Golightly for all they care, we have no claim.
But wait, it gets better. There is also the Antarctic Treaty.
This spiffy document came into play a long time ago and is essentially a ‘play nice’ document for everyone who has staked a claim to a chunk of the frozen continent and everyone who might wish to do so in the future. It specifically does not recognise any claims to territory, and prohibits the making of new claims. As best as I can see, the EEZ was actually claimed (as an extension, but claimed nonetheless) after the treaty was in place so that is, as you can imagine, a bit of a hiccup . It also states that scientific investigation is to continue so, given that the whalers are operating under the guise of research vessels, they essentially have a free pass.
And then of course we have the toothless tiger – the International Whaling Commission. And you know, I couldn’t be stuffed even going into that, because this is really SO MUCH bigger than whales. This is an international incident waiting to happen. What exactly do people think we should do? Try and drag them to court and see if it flies? What if it does, what then? And what if it doesn’t? We can’t very well send the Navy down to defend disputed territory. There’s a word for that, and anyone willing to go that far is barking mad.
But they are killing endangered whales!
This is highly debatable. The Minke whales that everyone seems to get so tightly wound about are not listed as threatened, vulnerable, or endangered. It has even been said that the Antarctic Minke population might well be the most substantial of all baleen whales. The Fin whales are listed as vulnerable, which is problematic for sure, but the collection limit is set at 50. Japan did apply to harvest humpbacks this year also, but has postponed those plans for a year or two, presumably to see if the interest in the matter diminishes or possibly in an effort to save face.
They are terrorists! They’ve taken two men hostage!
For real? I can’t even begin to get my head around this one. The research vessel was boarded in international waters by two fairly pissed off men that had come from a large vessel that was known to be used by what is essentially a militant offshoot of Greenpeace. I’ll eat my left shoe if the two blokes on the zodiac were just going to politely hand over a letter of explanation and leave. You don’t board a ship uninvited to hand over an impotent piece of paper when a) you can be fairly certain they’ve heard it all before and b) you could get the gist of the letter to them another way, like via marine radio, megaphone or even a big banner. Even if they didn’t intend to cause damage to the Japanse vessel or equipment, they certainly intended to cause a scene. If two foreign men from a hostile protest vessel boarded an Australian ship in that way, I’d be more than willing to bet that every Aussie would happily support their detention, if not for the safety of the vessel and her crew, then for the safety of the protesters themselves. Protesters of that level are not exactly known for their careful attention to health and safety. Can you imagine the outcry if one slipped and drowned or was chewed up by the prop? I’d take a punt at unlawful detainment being a label that might stick, but terrorism? taking hostages? After being boarded in by uninvited guests who had absolutely no right to do so? Yeah. Right.
I am just getting so tired of the same old fiery war cry with seemingly no appreciation for the vast grey area that surrounds this issue. You either want to save the whales at any cost, or you don’t care (and are a horrible, gutless, heartless person with no empathy etc). Why is it so black and white when, quite plainly, the actual issues are anything but?
In case there was any doubt, I don’t support whaling. It isn’t because I think whales are highly developed, beautiful, mystical creatures that deserve a chance to live as intelligent beings. It isn’t because some country is sending vessels into our fairly arbitrary whale sanctuary and picking them off while they feed. It isn’t because the science conducted is probably all done with the view to proving whaling is sustainable and lifting the moratorium on commercial whaling. It isn’t even because it all seems to be conducted for the purpose of preserving a tradition that is not even that important to the current generation.
It is the method, pure and simple. You can’t just go around half-exploding animals and waiting for them to bleed out, I don’t care where you are or why you are taking them. That just isn’t a humane method. It isn’t even particularly efficient.
If anyone asks, that is what I’ll tell them.
But given this is largely being played as an ethical issue, I’ve had to make an ethical decision. I won’t be signing any petitions or joining any Facebook groups or putting my name to vitriolic form letters and sending then to various governments. I can’t seem to get past the fact that in doing those things, I’d be willingly associating myself with the fanatical people who have no concern for the wider issues and would be representing my position as being something that it is not.
It just isn’t that simple. It never is.