PART 1: Sea Shepherd, 2011 summer anti-whaling campaign in Faeroe isles

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Update: following up our original piece on the Faeroe islands annual ‘grind’, where Captain Watsonn and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society aimed to stop the traditional slaughter over 1000 pilot whales annually by local Faroese over June/July/August.

Background:

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) is a dedicated group of environmental activists whose aim is simple: stop the slaughter of whales, dolphins, seals and any marine life by humans.

Update: following up our original piece on the Faeroe islands annual ‘grind’, where Captain Wilson and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society aimed to stop the traditional slaughter over 1000 pilot whales annually by local Faroese over June/July/August.

Background:

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) is a dedicated group of environmental activists whose aim is simple: stop the slaughter of whales, dolphins, seals and any marine life by humans.

Since the early 1980s, Sea Shepherd has been leading the opposition against the slaughter of pilot whales in the Faroe Islands.  Captain Watson led campaigns to oppose the hunt in 1985 and 1986, and again in 2000.  Not a single whale was killed while Sea Shepherd patrolled the islands.  Sea Shepherd was also successful in convincing 20,000 stores within two grocery chains in Germany to boycott Faroese fish products.  Sea shepherd returned again this year.

The group recently enjoyed worldwide attention and news coverage following their highly successful campaign against the Japanese whaling fleet – completely frustrating the whalers by harassing and preventing most of them from whaling, causing them to turn back empty handed to Japanese ports and eliciting angry statements from the Japanese fisheries minister.

Japanese whaler attacks Steve Irwin:

Japanese whaler shot at Captain Paul Watson:

Seal hunt in Canada – Steve Irwin, Captain Paul Watson:

 

This summer, the Sea Shepherd ships (Steve Irwin and the Brigitte Bardot) came to Scotland just prior to launching their summer campaign, Operation Ferocious Isles, in the Faeroe isles.

The campaign got off to a rocky start when the Steve Irwin was detained in the Scottish Shetland Isles pending deposit of a £520,000 (approximately $846,290) bond set by the Court of Session in Edinburgh.  The bond followed a civil lawsuit damages claim brought against the group by Maltese fishing company Fish & Fish Limited (F & F), claiming damages after the Steve Irwin crew released about 800 bluefin tuna from nets off Libya in 2010.  The conservation group said the Maltese firm was illegally fishing – poaching after close of season without an inspector onboard or any paperwork documenting the legality of their catch.

There were significant fears that the ship, originally a Scottish government fishery protection vessel, may have had to be sold because the group would be unable to raise the money required.

Payment of such a large bond was made possible however by the enthusiastic generosity of Sea Shepherd supporters around the world.  Less than two weeks after the launch of the save the flagship Steve Irwin SOS fund raising campaign over $735,000 had been raised, allowing Director Darren Collis to scrambled to the bank and set up the money transfer (to the court) with only one minute to spare.

SSCS is looking forward to fighting the civil suit in court and claims to have ‘camera’ evidence of F & F poaching illegally.

Sea Shepherd Founder and President Captain Paul Watson: “We will not be unsettled or bullied by their wealth and their reputation of using litigation to silence their opposition.  The bluefin tuna is on the threshold of extinction.  We owe it to this species to fight the poachers on the sea, in the media, and in the courts.”

“We acted justly in intervening against their illegal operation. And win or lose, we believe that the bluefin tuna—an awesome, magnificent species on the brink of extinction—is worth whatever money and effort we can muster to save it.  Sea Shepherd’s mission Operation Blue Rage will continue to intervene against bluefin tuna poachers.  There is no court, no corporation, and no government on earth that will convince us that it is wrong to prevent the extinction of these fish.”

“The economics of extinction is what we are fighting.  Diminishment drives up prices and as the populations of fish in the oceans plummet, the price of frozen fish in the warehouses increases and this, the most expensive fish in the world will become even more expensive.  With extinction, the frozen corpses become priceless.  This is greed at the height of depravity, showing no respect for nature or regard to future generations, and we will not stand by and allow the bluefin to slip into the oblivion of biological extinction.  Whatever the cost, whatever the risk, we intend to defend the bluefin tuna.”

“We are in a war to save our oceans from ourselves, and if we lose we all lose because if the oceans die, we all die – it’s as simple as that.”

Operation Ferocious Isles: stopping the annual “grind”:

Paid, the Steve Irwin was able to join vessel Brigitte Bardot (captained by veteran crew member Locky MacLean) and her crew already on site defending pilot whales in the Faeroe Islands.

1986, earlier attempt to stop the grind:

2010 the grind (requires a strong stomach):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9eMDh2-1Kwg

A traditional practice known as the Grindadrap or the Grind in the Danish Protectorate of the Faroe Islands involves the annual slaughter of thousand(s) of endangered pilot whales.  The pilot whales migrate via the Faroe islands and are forced en masse into shallow water where they are horrifically slaughtered by locals.

It is estimated that at least 1,000 pilot whales are killed annually during the Grind.  The Faroese accomplish this by corralling pods of migrating pilot whales as they travel in family groups past the islands into shallow coves.  Once spotted, these cetacean families are driven near shore where select men, assisted by children, are awaiting to methodologically sever the spine of each whale using a special knife, one by one, as they die a slow death and the water turns red with their innocent blood.  Often, in peak summer months, pregnant female pilot whales are also rounded up and suffer further injustice as foetuses are cut out of their bodies and lined up near shore alongside the hundreds of other victims.

These days, these mass killings are not performed for any utilitarian purpose other than a so-called ‘cultural importance’ to the Faroese community.  After the locals have finished mutilating the whales, their bodies are mostly discarded into an underwater mass grave, with utter disregard for the value of life.  The Faroese kill far more whales than can reasonably be eaten due to the fact that the meat contains toxic levels of mercury, resulting in whale meat and bodies left as waste in local underwater junkyards.

However, Sea Shepherd isn’t patrolling the Faroe Islands to protest or speak out against the horrific slaughter of the pilot whales that takes place in this barbaric ritual.  Sea Shepherd’s objective is to use aggressive non-violence to intervene in the Grind whenever possible, and also to focus international public attention on this mass slaughter.

Sea Shepherd plans to emphasise that while the Faroes are benefiting from European Union subsidies, they are claiming exemption under European laws forbidding the slaughter of whales.  Sea Shepherd hopes to force an engagement with the Danish government as a means to provide a foundation for legally calling Denmark to task for providing benefits to a people who openly flaunt European law.  If Iceland cannot join the EU because they are a whaling nation, then the Faroes should not be able to benefit either while they are doing the same thing.  This is plain discrimination against Iceland in favor of the Faroes.

Sea Shepherd France President Lamya Essemlali: “How can we as Europeans be critical of the killing of dolphins in Japan while ignoring the cruel massacre of entire pods of gentle and defenseless are pilot whales in Europe?”

Locky MacLean aboard the Steve Irwin: “Our objective is not to exercise our freedom to speak out against this illegal slaughter of defenceless pilot whales, but to shut down this atrocity.  Petitions, protests, banner hanging, meetings, and speeches have not advanced this objective in any way.  Talking has proven to be a waste of time.  While humans prattle on about tradition and rights, intelligent, socially complex, beautiful pilot whales are violently driven into bays and cruelly butchered in a spectacle that has no place in a civilised world.  We don’t wish to dialogue about this obscenity, we wish to stop it.  The rights of these whales to live takes precedence over the ‘rights’ of the Faroese to murder them.”

In PART 2: we’ll look at the 2011 Sea Shepherd Conservation Society campaign in the Faroe Isles.