Commentary by Captain Paul Watson
Response to Arizona State University News Article
A Professor at the University of Arizona wants save the whales by advocating the killing of whales.
Just another one of these wishy-washy, self-proclaimed academic experts pandering to the whaling industry by posing as a conservationist. The same kind of mind-set as Texas big game hunter Corey Knowlton who justifies killing rhinos because he calls himself a conservationist.
Leah Gerber is a marine conservation biologist and professor at Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences. She wants a compromise with the whale killers.
She is one of those academics who seem to know everything about whales except for what is really important. She has advocated “culling” (killing) whales to increase fisheries which in my opinion is a very ignorant approach to ocean ecology. She has also advocated placing a value on whales saying that conservationists should be willing to buy their lives. In addition she tends to use other utilitarian wordage like “take” and “harvest instead of kill and “stocks” instead of population. She most definitely lacks empathy for the whales themselves or an understanding of the true value of the whales to the oceanic eco-systems. Leah Gerber boasts of being a sushi lover and is an advisor to the seafood industry which explains her commercially oriented viewpoint on whales.
This is my point-by-point response to this “expert” on whales who lives in that “maritime” state of Arizona.
Arizona State University
ASU: Is it time to cut a deal with Japan on whaling?
Captain Paul Watson: Why is it time to cut a deal with Japan on whaling? Because a professor in Arizona says so.
ASU: The three-decade international moratorium on commercial whaling isn’t working. Animal-rights activists insist the ban remain absolute, while the three rogue nations still pursuing the world’s largest mammals refuse to quit hunting.
Captain Paul Watson: Yes they are rouge nations and they should be dealt with like rogue nations. Japanese whaling has already been condemned by the International Court of Justice. When nations violate international agreements the solution is not to simply legalize their activities because they refuse to stop. Gerber reveals her bias here by referring to whale conservation activists as animal tights activists. This is the mindset that sees only animal rights activists as opposing whaling. Gerber works with WWF, NOAH and other utilitarian groups that see whales as a commodity and thus they see conservation as management, that includes lethal exploitation.
ASU: Leah Gerber, a marine conservation biologist, professor at Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences and founding director of ASU’s Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, floated the idea of a compromise in the September issue of scientific journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.
Captain Paul Watson: She may have floated the idea but it’s an idea that needs sinking.
ASU: Rebounding whale populations, the predominance of other threats, and stubborn stakeholders make the moratorium a “failed management system,” Gerber said. The past 30 years of the International Whaling Commission’s conversation has been stalled by disagreement on the ethics of killing whales.
Captain Paul Watson: The laws to enforce the moratorium exist. There is simply a lack of political and economic will to do so. The moratorium needs strong leadership from the conservation oriented majority members of the International Whaling Commission. The USA should invoke economic sanctions as provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce specifically to uphold the moratorium. This is like saying it is illegal to rob a bank but the bank robbers continue to rob banks despite the law therefore we should allow them to rob some small banks to satisfy their greed.
ASU: “It really boils down to an ethical argument: that it’s not right to kill a whale,” Gerber said. “Personally I don’t like the idea of killing a whale, but that’s my value, and other people have other values. Insisting on our values in discussions about whaling has resulted in a global stalemate.”
Captain Paul Watson: It is both an ethical argument and an ecological argument. Plankton has been diminished by some 40% since 1950 and this has happened in part because of the removal of a very large part of whale biomass. When you consider that one Blue whale defecates 3 tons of iron rich, nitrogen rich feces every day and we removed some 300,000 Blue whales since 1946 alone and whale feces provides a nutrient base for plankton, what whaling has done is to diminish these farmers of the sea. Lower whale populations means lower plankton populations means lower oxygen production and diminished carbon sequestering by plankton. We need to revitalize bio-diversity in the sea and to do that we need to bring back whale populations to pre-exploitation levels.
And there is an ethical argument. Slavery was abolished and was no acceptable compromise that allowed some people to own slaves so that other slaves could be freed. Whales and dolphins are highly sophisticated, intelligent social, self aware, sentient beings. They communicate on a very high level and they have their own cultural units. There cannot be any justification for killing whales or dolphins by any group of humans for any reason, anywhere. The very idea of a compromise is unethical when you consider that to a great many people the idea of killing a whale is simply murder. There is no global stalemate. Commercial whaling is illegal. It just needs to be enforced.
ASU: Changing course and allowing Iceland, Japan and Norway to legally hunt under regulations and monitoring might break the current stalemate. Currently Japan whales under a loophole allowing for scientific research. The other two countries hunt whales commercially in protest of the ban
Captain Paul Watson: Since 1974 my course has been set on 100% abolishment of the slaughter of whales and dolphins. I have no intention of changing course because a professor in the desert somewhere has decided that Japan, Norway, Iceland and Denmark should be allowed to kill whales.
ASU: “If our common goal is a healthy and sustainable population of whales, let’s find a way to develop strategies that achieve that,” Gerber said. “That may involve agreeing to a small level of take. That would certainly be a reduced take to what’s happening now.”
Captain Paul Watson: I have a major problem with anyone who refers to killing as taking. You don’t take a whale’s life, you kill an intelligent sentient being. A so-called “small level of killing” simply keeps an industry alive that should be tossed onto the dustbin of history. Whaling needs to be abolished 100% by everyone, everywhere for any reason. Sea Shepherd has seen to it that the Japanese kill quota has been substantially reduced.
ASU: Since the moratorium was declared in 1982 and begun in 1985, whale populations have rebounded across the board, Gerber said.
Captain Paul Watson: First Gerber says the moratorium in not working then in the same breath she says the moratorium has caused whale populations to rebound. Whale populations are indeed slowly recovering but there is still a long way to go before returning to pre-industrial whaling levels. We need more whales to address climate change and the health of the Ocean. We do not need whale meat on anyone’s plate. Economically whales are more important alive than dead both to what the contribute to the ecology of the Ocean and in terms of the revenue generated by the whale watching industry which is far more lucrative than commercial whaling.
ASU: “Overall the whaling that’s happening is not threatening any population,” she said.
Captain Paul Watson: I disagree. The loss of every whale is a loss to the planet in a world where whales and dolphins are dying from pollution, reduced fish populations and habitat destruction.
ASU: “With the exception of the J stock (a population that lives in the East China Sea, the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea) of minke whales, current levels of take are fairly sustainable.”
Captain Paul Watson: Gerber has not provided any evidence to back this ridiculous statement up. To say that Bowheads, Southern and Northern Right whales, Humpback whales, Fin whales, Blue whale populations can be sustainably slaughtered is absurd. The Icelanders want Fin whales. The Greenlanders want to kill Bowheads, Humpbacks, Fins and Minke’s.
ASU: The appetite for whale meat has been on the decline in Japan. An April 2014 poll by Asahi Shimbun,Japan’s newspaper of record, revealed that 14 percent of respondents occasionally or rarely ate whale meat. (Thirty-seven percent said they never ate it.) Consumption in Japan peaked in the 1960s and has steadily decreased; today, whale-meat consumption is about 1 percent of its peak, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
Captain Paul Watson: Having stated this, it is a puzzle as to why Gerber feels there is a need to allow a legal return to whaling.
ASU: The Japanese have argued that it’s part of their cultural heritage. They also call American protests hypocritical because Alaskan Inuit tribe members hunt whales every year.
Captain Paul Watson: Whaling is not part of Japanese culture historically. It was an activity that took place in a few isolated communities. It was never a national traditional activity. 95% of Japanese people never ate whale meat until General Douglas MacArthur introduced the modern whaling fleet in 1946 to provide cheap protein for post war Japanese populations. Whaling was part of Ainu culture but Japan passed laws to ban whaling by the Ainu. It is hypocritical of Gerber to compare Inuit whaling allowed by the U.S. government to Japan where aboriginal Ainu whaling has been banned.
ASU: Norwegians have eaten whale meat since medieval times, but that habit has slowed in more recent times. Whale was served in school cafeterias and as military rations during the 1970s and 1980s, making it the mystery meat for a generation who won’t touch it anymore. It’s seen as something your grandparents ate. (Oddly, it’s enjoying a renaissance among young Norwegian foodies.)
Captain Paul Watson: Norwegian whaling is a blatant violation of IWC regulations and the global moratorium and economic sanctions should be invoked against Norway, Japan and Iceland by the signatory members of the IWC.
ASU: The 2015 catch netted about 700 tons of whale meat, while the Norwegian market won’t bear much more than 500 tons.
Captain Paul Watson: Norway’s whaling operations are illegal under international conservation law. The killing of these whales is not only illegal but ecologically senseless and economically unnecessary.
ASU: “Good catch is all very well, but we have challenges in the market,” Åge Eriksen, CEO of a seafood supply company, told Norwegian public broadcaster NRK last year. “We’ve got more meat on land than we can sell, and it is not a desirable situation.”
Captain Paul Watson: Unfortunately that is the situation with the commodity market over all – over production resulting in huge wastage.
ASU: Minke whales in the Southern Hemisphere have such a large population that taking a few wouldn’t be a big deal, Gerber said.
Captain Paul Watson: Gerber lacks the data to make such an assumption. In fact in a paper she wrote Minke whale populations are not as large as they need to be. We need a great increase in whale populations in order to repair the ecological instability in the Ocean, Also from an ethical point of view, killing (not taking) of a highly intelligent sentient being should not be allowed. In one of her papers she stated that the moratorium failed to increase whale populations and now she contradicts herself.
ASU: The media perception of whaling is often that it’s evil, but there are worse threats to the whales’ livelihoods, Gerber said. For instance, she said that whale mortality numbers are also driven by the mammals being hit by ships. For instance, blue whales off the coast of Long Beach, California, simply didn’t know to get out of the way of ships, according to a Stanford University study released in April. Because they are the biggest creatures in the sea, they’ve never had to avoid threats.
Bycatch entanglement, where whales are snagged in nets, and contaminants in seawater are two other serious threats.
Captain Paul Watson: To say that there are worse threats is like saying that murder is not the worst evil because more humans die in auto accidents so we should allow for a few murders. Stopping ship strikes is something that must be worked on and there is the technology to address this threat. There are many other threats to the whales like radiation, chemical and plastic pollution, climate change and diminishment of plankton and fish. These other threats to the survival of the whales cannot be used to justify the slaughter of whales.
ASU: “For most populations, whaling actually makes up a pretty small fraction (of whale deaths),” she said, pointing out that International Whaling Commission members know this. “We don’t have to agree on everything, but let’s take some baby steps.”
Violent action by animal-rights groups has not had an effect, either.
Captain Paul Watson: Baby steps may be fine for the whalers but the whales need abolition of whaling now. The prejudice of Gerber can be seen in her reference to “violent action.” There has been no violent action by anti-whalers. Not a single whaler has ever been injured by a whale defender. Japanese whalers have violently attacked whale defenders and have caused injury. Sea Shepherd may be aggressive but certainly not violent. You cannot describe the saving of the lives of whales from harpoons as violent. Whaling is violent, saving whales is not. Blocking a weapon of violence is a non-violent act.
ASU: “A lot of the (non-governmental organizations) like Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd raise a lot of money in advocating for saving whales by chasing whaling vessels in the open ocean,” Gerber said. “What success has that had?”
Captain Paul Watson: Gerber needs to do some research. Over 6,000 whales saved in the Southern Ocean is what I call success. The Japanese have failed to get their quotas every year since 2007 and in most years they took less then 30% and sometimes as low as 10% and in the last season (2014/2015) they took zero whales. The ICJ ruled against them. The IWC ruled against them. The campaign has been quite successful Leah Gerber, thank you very much. As for collecting money, Sea Shepherd has raised a fraction in donations to oppose whaling compared to the profits that whalers made before Sea Shepherd intervened.
ASU: Japanese whaling delegates have said they’re open to compromise arrangements, Gerber said.
“The animal-rights groups, on the other hand, are like, ‘Nope. My deal or nothing.’ To me, it’s not the best way to lead to change.”
Captain Paul Watson: You do not compromise with lives. We will not compromise on the lives of whales. One position is to kill whales. The other position is to not kill whales. The only possible compromise is to allow the killing of some whales which means killing whales, but if our position is against killing whales how can that be justified? To get what they want in a compromise the whalers can agree to accept lower profits. However we cannot morally agree to accept lower deaths. Whales are not a commodity to us. They are distinct individual living sentient beings. It would be extremely cold hearted for us to barter their lives in exchange for allowing whalers some profit.
My position is clear I cannot respect any scientist who advocates the killing of whales or dolphins. There is nothing scientific about killing whales. Advocating lethal exploitation benefits only those who profit economically. It does not benefit the species and it does not benefit science. All my life I have had to battle these scientists who act as apologists for the exploitation industries. Many years ago I coined a name for them. Biostitutes, the appeasers of those who profit from inflicting cruelty, death and diminishment.