I’m no tree hugger. I hunt and I fish (not as often as I would like). But, I have my limits. I will not hunt anything I won’t eat or won’t be eaten by somebody. I have found that ardent hunters and fishermen are dedicated conservationists. Ducks Unlimited has done more to protect waterfowl than any liberal environmental movement. That said, I don’t think marine mammals have any significant food value. I would never consider eating a dolphin (porpoise) or a whale. In fact, just recently I was at a meeting on the southwest coast of Maui and spent hours watching humpback whales (and their calves) frolic in the Pacific. They were spectacular. Every time one of these leviathans hit the surface, a tour boat would approach. Finally, a group of jet skiers chased them off (these jet skiers could face large fines for approaching whales under Hawai’i wildlife laws). Life and let live I have always said.
The night after watching the whales off the Maui coast I caught a show about an activist environmental group called the Sea Shepherds. This was a group that broke from the Greenpeace people because the Sea Shepherds wanted to be more aggressive in stopping whaling and other animal abuses. I always thought the Greenpeace people were a little kooky. I have encountered them in Australia and they can be fairly militant. The Sea Shepherd people operate a boat called the “Steve Irwin” named after the Australian crocodile hunter who succumbed to a massive ray after the animal plunged the tip of his serrated tail into Steve’s heart. The Sea Shepherd boat had the usually suspects—twenty-first century hippies, vegans, and remittance men. Interestingly, everybody was from a first world country (there would be something ironic about an Ethiopian or Nigerian on the boat preventing the harvesting of food. Of course, if there were Nigerians on board nobody could access the internet because of the outgoing email scams). But, I digress.
I actually thought whaling was illegal with the exception of some Canadian and Alaskan aboriginals who hunt whales specifically for sustenance and actually respect the species. Thus, I have read quite a bit about whaling over the last few days. Whaling may be restricted in most waters, but the Southern Ocean appears to be a different story. The Japanese, who will eat anything that comes from the sea, still have an active whaling program. I read where the Japanese do not see any difference between pelagic mammals and fish--they all should be on the dinner plate. They harvest about 1,000 whales a year—primarily minke and finback whales. This year they are hunting the humpbacks as well—an endangered species. There are treaties in place that prevent whaling. The Japanese take advantage of a loophole in the treaties. The loophole allows whales taken for research to be subsequently butchered and sold. Thus, the Japanese take upwards of 1,000 whales a year for “tissue samples” and to monitor calving patterns and diet (supposedly). Every Japanese sailing vessel has the word “research” on the side. In one camera snap on the Animal Planet channel show they showed several Japanese fishermen butchering a whale while an idiot in a hard hat holds up a sign (in English) that says they are “taking tissue samples.” Horse shit!
If a people are dying and whale meat will save them, I’ll be the first son-of-a-bitch on the water looking for these critters. But, Japan has plenty of food. In fact, the demand for whale meat in Japan has fallen to a point where it is almost negligible. In fact, Japan has tons of whale meat from prior hunts in frozen storage. In order to support the archaic whaling industry, the Japanese government is trying to get schools to include whale meat in their school lunches. Why not serve Nemo as Sushi?
I have been to Japan several times. It is a curious, yet beautiful country. I cannot understand their adherence to traditions that result in whaling or the harvesting of shark fins (I like to catch and eat small black tip sharks—they are great. But, the Japanese cut the dorsal fin off the shark and throw it back in the sea where it dies immediately or becomes vulnerable to predation). I just can’t understand the Japanese way of thinking. I also can’t understand why Japanese women can’t walk in high-heel shoes—their gait is a continuous near fall. I am not sure I have a point here—just a concern.
By the way—the day I was watching the whales in Maui was Sunday, December 7, 2008. Seems as though the Japanese have struck again.