LETTER TO THE EDITOR: A note of thanks Print E-mail
Thursday, 17 January 2008 00:00

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: A note of thanks

Royal Gazette, 17 Jan 2008

January 13, 2008

Dear Sir,

I would like to thank the 100- plus demonstrators, especially the schoolchildren, who came out on Friday to protest against the presence of the Mihama, a Fisheries Agency of Japan patrol boat tied alongside Hamilton waterfront. Bermuda is not a nation known for protest demonstrations but on Friday, Bermudians demonstrated their willingness to confront the Fisheries Agency of Japan, the government-owned agency responsible for the whaling campaign in the Antarctic where over a thousand whales are targeted annually for 'scientific research'.

Japan has been 'researching' whales with great effectiveness, killing more than 25,000 whales in the Southern Ocean and the North Pacific. The product of this 'research' is sold commercially. This year the Japanese added 50 humpbacks and 50 fin whales to the 935 minke whales included in the total number of whales to be targeted for their 'research'. The Mihama, a patrol boat belonging to the Fisheries Agency of Japan is supposed to monitor Japanese long line tuna fishing fleets around the world to ensure they are not over fishing. When the same Fisheries Agency of Japan kills a thousand whales annually for scientific research, and tells us that the research shows whales and dolphins are responsible for declining fish stocks, the Agency loses any semblance of credibility.

Thanks to long lining we have already lost 90 percent of the pelagic predator fish stocks including marlin, tuna, swordfish, and the great sharks that existed before 1950. 100 million sharks are killed each year just for their fins. Their bodies are thrown overboard, often alive. Half the world's reefs are dead or dying. If the current trends of over fishing continue, every fishery will collapse by 2048. We can no longer remain in denial. We need to raise our awareness of what is happening out in our oceans. The high seas are not governed by any single nation, which means the rules pertaining to marine life are often complicated and difficult if not impossible to police. The world's marine life is on the brink of collapse. Japanese whaling in the Antarctic Whale sanctuary is just the tip of the iceberg.

Continued plundering of our ocean environment based on greed, cultural traditions or national pride needs to become a thing of the past. Today's oceans are in great peril. If the oceans die, we die.

I had already met the captain of the Mihama to question him about the purposes of his boat. Invited on board, I presented him with a ten-minute video of my underwater footage of humpback whales in Bermuda. On the day of the demonstration, I persuaded my four-year old daughter Elsa to offer the captain and crew of the Fisheries Agency of Japan patrol vessel Mihama, her humpback whale in a symbolic token of appreciation that the 50 humpback whales were taken off Japan's list of targeted whales. These humpbacks were removed from their self-imposed quota of whales to be targeted by public pressure, through demonstrations such as ours. Perhaps when a Fisheries Agency of Japan patrol vessel comes back to Bermuda, we will be able to offer the crew a minke and fin whale.

When the captain and crew of the Mihama did not accept the proffered whale, Elsa and I returned to our boat. We were the last of the demonstrators to leave and as we did so we waved at the captain. After a second's hesitation he waved back. I like to think that he understood the goodwill in Elsa's gesture, and the significance of the offered humpback. The next evening we were gazing out to sea on Grape Bay when we saw a humpback rise vertically out of the water. Elsa's eyes lit up. "It's thanking us for what we did!" I'm sure it was and we'd like to pass that message on to everyone else who was at the demonstration on Friday, especially the children. Well done.



RG Editor's Note: Video of the underwater footage of whales presented to the Captain of the Mihama can be viewed on http://www.youtube.com/awstevenson

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