P.R. Armor For A Whale War

The Bob Barker gets sideswiped by the Nisshin Maru in a risky maneuver with the whaler’s refueling tanker.

The Sea Shepherds, made famous for their anti-whaling crusade in Whale Wars, have generally held the edge in media control. They have an action-packed show with speed boats, helicopters, daring activists, and the Smashing Pumpkins. Whalers aren’t that sexy. But some are fighting back with more than water cannons.

In this image, the Sea Shepherds’ Bob Barker has deliberately run between the Nisshin Maru (left) and a refueling tanker (right). The Barker has been struck by the whaler on the port side. Someone also threw a flash-bang device into the chaos, which explains all the smoke. But that’s not what intrigued me. . . it was the giant web address and billboard on the tail of the Nisshin Maru.

For some time, ships of the Institute of Cetacean Research have hunted whales for scientific research. The nonprofit ICR is authorized to perform such operations under supervision of Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and within the boundaries of the International Whaling Commission’s moratorium on commercial whaling. Regardless of what research is conducted on a dead whale, ICR’s procedure for disposal is straightforward:

After biological sampling, the carcass of captured whales is disposed of according to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling regulations (Article VIII Paragraph 2) which require that byproducts be processed and utilized so far as practicable. Thus, byproducts of both whale research programs are processed and sold within Japan under guidance of the Japanese government and the proceeds of the sale are used to cover a portion of the research costs.

ICR_2Greenpeace and the Sea Shepherds repeatedly harass vessels like the Nisshin Maru with the notion that ICR uses the moratorium loophole to continue commercial whaling. ICR accuses these groups of terrorism. This is truly a whale war, and when it comes to incidents in international waters, the media may be ICR’s best defense. The giant billboard on the Maru intimates exemption in IWC regulations (set by 89 different governments), and a giant address shows ICR’s web site. But advertising is tricky for a group that hauls dead whales out of the water. Located just under that sign is a great set of doors that slide apart, allowing the crew to winch dead whales up a loading ramp and into the ship. I’ve not seen enough episodes of Whale Wars, but I do wonder if the signs go down when the whales come up.

Can the Institute for Cetacean Research fight a media war and whale war at the same time? Let’s see how they fare:

ICR’s Facebook page:  1,301 likes

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s Facebook page:  499,350 likes

ICR’s web site:  1,288,808 visitors

Sea Shepherd’s web site:  no counter, but their Twitter followers exceed 22,000 and their YouTube channel has 16,797 subscribers.

If Japan’s nonprofit whale hunter wants to start their own TV show, they certainly have a lot of catching up to do.  Animal Planet’s Whale Wars has at least five seasons under its belt and a couple of spinoffs.


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