Editorial: How to not stop whaling

PETER O'NEILL
Last updated 05:00 08/01/2014

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So the Sea Shepherd has caught up with the Japanese whaling fleet. Again.

And complained about the fleet illegally hunting whales. Again.

And countries opposed to whaling have endorsed the complaints. Again.

This annual scenario, running since 2006, is becoming tedious.

And counter-productive.

But first, some facts. Which is stumbling block number one. "Facts" vary depending on who you talk to.

The Japanese believe the 500 to 1000 whales they take each year is sustainable. The environmental group Sea Shepherd and Australia don't think it is. A report with the International Whaling Commission even suggests that minke whales are so abundant they could officially be hunted again.

Sea Shepherd says Japan's actions are illegal. But that isn't clear cut. A judgment in an Australian-led intervention before the International Court of Justice is yet to be delivered.

Sea Shepherd also claims Japan is fishing in New Zealand waters, but it isn't. The area concerned is within New Zealand's search and rescue jurisdiction, but nothing more.

New Zealand's opposition is not based on sustainability. Our stand is that whaling is pointless and offensive.

That view, Japan says, is culturally driven and racist. And it could be right.

If whaling really is offensive, why don't we make as much noise over the eating of dogs, cats or horses as practised in other countries?

Why don't we complain when Norway and Iceland also go whaling?

The view that it's pointless has more validity, for no one believes the whale hunt is driven by scientific research, and neither is all the whale meat caught eaten. Japan has stockpiles of it and in recent years has provided the meat to schools.

So why then does Japan continue to do what it does?

Most likely, the reason is cultural. It's called saving face.

So while indeed whaling may be pointless, Japan has to see a way to stop doing it on its own terms.

Chasing Japanese fishing vessels on the high seas and seeking redress in world courts seems exactly the wrong way to do that.

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- The Timaru Herald

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