Monday, June 13, 2011

Have we won the whale wars?

Paul Watson's Sea Shepherd Conservation Society can claim credit for helping to send the Japanese whaling fleet home early last whaling season. But will their campaign have a lasting impact? Andy Revkin at the NY Times Dot Earth blog posted an interesting interview with the always controversial Watson recently, in which Watson responded to criticism of his methods by saying "Shut up and arrest me" - that is, if he really is a criminal as whaling advocates say.

What really can stop Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean permanently, if Sea Shepherd's work proves to have only stopped it for a season? This question seems to me to be impossible to answer. It's not really economically viable, it really accomplishes nothing in terms of research (its ostensible purpose), and it hurts relations with countries usually friendly to Japan. So since there aren't any logical reasons to continue whaling, it follows that it's going to be harder to stop it, because it's difficult to argue against positions that don't have a rational basis. This is a common theme in politics. Here in the US it's difficult to get broad political support for ending farm subsidies or the War on Drugs, even though neither is really accomplishing its intended mission and both programs receive harsh criticism from people and organizations with a wide variety of political opinions. Whaling seems to be similarly intractable, based more on vague notions of national pride than on practical considerations of national interest. We in the conservation community will keep making our case for full protection of Southern Ocean whales, of course. But with the knowledge that Japan may stay just as firm in its position that whaling is legitimate.

1 comment:

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