Behind the spin: bearing witness in the Southern Ocean

Feature story - February 22, 2007
In the last week, the difference between what we see and hear, here in the Ross Sea, and what we read in the news could not have been more stark. We are getting conflicting reports from the whaling fleet and from the Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR), Mr Glenn Inwood, who is thousands of miles away on land. Dave and Sara on the Esperanza take a look at the truth and lies of Southern Ocean whaling.

Sakyo Noda (Japanese Campaigner) and Melanie Duchin (US Campaigner) on the bridge of the MY Esperanza.

"The normal whale research program ends around late March, so westill have three to four weeks left and the fleet is going to continuewith the work there," Mr Inwood has been saying. He even told Radio New Zealand "we might even startwhaling again as soon as today".

"We" doesn't seem to include the whalers themselves.  Yesterday, our campaigner Sakyo spoke to the whaling fleet's expedition leader via radio,and asked him if the fleet were starting whaling again - the answer was no. He added that therewas still a lot of work to be done on the ship. They have managed tostart the main engine, but the winch is broken down - due to low oilpressure - and the ship has yet to move under her own power.

"Having a laugh"

"

It is certainly not in anyone's interest to give any information,or correct information, to Greenpeace. They are not a signatory toanything down there. Maybe the skipper was just having a laugh,

" - Inwood to Radio New Zealand.

We might not be a signatory to anythingdown here, but Japan is -  to the Antarctic Treaty.  The Antarctic conditions are nolaughing matter. Not only has one person lost their life, butwe've got a drifting whaling factory ship, an environmental threat, anddozens of crewmen working in the tough conditions of theRoss Sea. It seems unlikely that thewhaling fleet's expedition leader, who is currently trying to deal witha broken-down 8,000-ton ship, has thetime and inclination to make up stories "for a laugh", not to mention that the captain of the chaser ship the Yushin Maru told Maritime New Zealand the same thing.

"Absolutely no threat"?

Mr Inwood also likes to say that there is absolutely no threat to the Antarctic environment from the Nisshin Maru. Unfortunately, unlike the Esperanza, none of the Japanese whaling fleet is "iceclass" - meaning they are not are built to deal with severe seaice conditions. 

Not recognising a potential "threat" to the pristineAntarctic environment that could be sparked off by some adverse weatherconditions leaves Mr Inwood looking a little short on hisunderstanding of geography, meteorology and physics. There's a reported 1,000 tons of oil on board the stranded factoryship.  Also with the fleet is a single-hulled fuel tanker, the Oriental Bluebird, flagged toPanama, that has not filed an Environmental Impact Assessment inaccordance with the Antarctic Treaty.

Environmental Impact Assessments

Actually, none of the vessels inthe whaling fleet have submitted environmental impact assessments(EIA). Because the whaling fleet claims that it is only answerable to theInternational Whaling Commission, it doesn't follow Antarctic Treatyprocedure.  One such procedure is the Madrid Protocol, which subjects all activities taking place in the Treatyarea to prior scrutiny for how they might affect the environment here - including through fires like the one on the Nisshin Maru.

Japan is party to both the Antarctic Treaty and theMadrid Protocol, so it seems strange that the Japanese governmentdoesn't require its whaling fleet to submit EIAs. Especially considering that the

Oriental Bluebird

is not a whaling ship and therefore not even exempt from the Protocol.

We know what we see and hear, and we know what Mr Inwood is reportedto have said and put out in his own press releases - we leave you todecide who is bearing witness to the truth.

For an even more detailed look at Glenn Inwood and ICR spin, see Dave & Sara's assessment on the Esperanza weblog.

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