The Sea Shepherd: “Are you willing to die for a whale?”

“All systems of oppression need to be challenged,” said a speaker at the Bali Vegan Festival in Ubud, Bali last month.   Doing just that since 1977, Sea Shepherd,  a non-governmental, non-profit environmental organization, has been using direct action tactics [along with lots of media attention]  to protect marine life [and to educate consumers].

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Sea Shepherd seeking poachers

If you want to volunteer on a Sea Shepherd crew, you will be asked that question, “Are you willing to die for a whale?”  The boats carry no guns but use film and public education to achieve incredible  change.  Their important work continues.

Sea Shepherd claims responsibility for damaging or sinking multiple whaling ships, through sabotage or ramming. The group has attempted to intervene against Russian, Spanish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Makah, Faroese, and Japanese whalers in multiple campaigns around the globe.  Those actions have included scuttling and disabling commercial whaling vessels at harbor, using limpet mines (a type of naval mine attached to a target by magnets) to blow holes in ship hulls,  ramming other vessels, throwing glass bottles of  butyric acid (stinky rancid butter) on the decks of vessels at sea, boarding of whaling vessels while at sea, and seizing  and destroying drift nets  at sea.   Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson has said that the organization has  destroyed millions of dollars worth of equipment.  The Sea Shepherd media extravaganzas have highlighted whaling, long-line fishing nets, and shark fining to get people everywhere informed and conscious of the destruction of life in our oceans.

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Scalloped Hammerhead Shark – over fished, few regulatory guidelines

Some shark populations have decreased by 60-70% due to shark fisheries.

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Scalloped Hammerhead Shark

 

image from:       http://knowledgebase.lookseek.com/Scalloped-Hammerhead-Shark-Sphyrna-lewini.html

Gary Stokes, Asia Director for Sea Shepherd, has spent the past 10 years on documenting, investigating, and exposing the shark fin trade. He was a guest speaker at the Bali Vegan Festival in Ubud last month.  Indonesia is the #1 exporter of shark fins; Spain #2.

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Shark fin    Image from <ocean-news/shark-finning-sharks-turned-prey>

There is much economic pressure to ignore the international bans on shark finning.

Fishermen often choose to keep just the shark fins—only one to five percent of a shark’s weight—and throw the rest of the shark away rather than have the less valuable parts take up space on the boat. The finned sharks are often thrown back alive into the ocean, where unable to swim properly and bleeding profusely, they suffocate or die of blood loss.  Shark meat sold to restaurants and markets is often used in seafood curries and stews.

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Shark fin soup – a sign of status at $100 U.S. a bowl.

Image from: http://ocean.si.edu/ocean-news/shark-finning-sharks-turned-prey

Gary says that now 60% of the fish and seafood in our oceans are in terrible condition. Global fishing fleets are now at 2.5 times the sustainable level.  Just one poaching boat, the “Lafayette” which works the waters off Chili and Peru around the Faroe Islands processes 1,500 tons of fish a day!!    Much of that is Chilean tooth fish; in restaurants, it’s called “Chilean Sea Bass.”  😦  Much of caught sea food goes to animal feed.

“Chilean sea bass”/ tooth fish

A result of Sea Shepherd and other activists groups like Greenpeace and loud voices, many people now know to make conscious choices.

According to a National Geographic article, we now know to “look for the blue eco-label of the Marine Stewardship Council, or ask where in the world the fish comes from. . .[to] help you find the best and avoid the rest”

http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2013/04/12/chilean-seabass-goes-from-take-a-pass-to-take-a-bite/

Stokes reports that forty percent of the tuna that comes into the U.S. is from illegal, unreported fisheries in Thailand.  And forty percent of all fish caught is used for animal feed. 😦  If the world continues to consume and destroy marine life at the current rates, Stokes says that by 1948 there will be no fish!

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The Sea Shepherd Fleet now has nine ships including the Steve Irwin, the Bob Barker, and the Brigette Bardot.

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Shark products.   Ask where, how, and by whom the fish were caught.

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Sea Shepherd goes after ships that  fish illegally

Recently, Sea Shepherd Asia had a hiatus, a year off, when Japan temporarily halted whale hunting.   Gary and his team got to go after other notorious pirate fishing vessels.  For 110 days, a Sea Shepherd ship chased the “Thunder” – #1 on the Interpol list of pirate fishing vessels.  Finally, the captain of the “Thunder” sunk his own ship rather than be caught with the incriminating evidence of illegal fishing!!    But while part of the Sea Shepherd crew was saving the “Thunder” crew, other Sea Shepherd volunteers entered the sinking ship in time to collect computers and other evidence that has the captain and crew serving time in a Nigerian jail.  [It would seem the owners of the pirate ships should be in jail too].  The photo above shows what has happened to other illegal fishing boats that Sea Shepherd has targeted.

Gary says of the ocean marine life, “We are losing everything.”  We must all learn and act.

So why was Gary invited to speak at the Vegan Fest?  The people who volunteer for the Sea Shepherd crews are ardent animal activists.  Many are vegans.  Since 2002, all Sea Shepherd vessels serve only vegan meals.  It would be hypocritical, says Gary, to eat meat while chasing people who are killing marine life.   Gary has been a vegetarian since 1980.  When he first started going out on Sea Shepherd missions, Gary was more worried about what he would get to eat than about the possible confrontations the crew would meet.  But, he has learned that the vegan meals are delicious, healthy, and accommodate everyone on board, and all religions.

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Vegan meals on the Sea Shepherd

The Sea Shepherd logo – a pirate to protect marine life:

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“If the oceans die, we die! We cannot live on this planet with a dead ocean,” said Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson

Watch the following documentaries; you will likely cry, cheer, and laugh.

Paul Watson: The Whale Warrior: A Pirate for the Sea

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nzbTsrOUxw

and

Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist – a full documentary film

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOSo_LHZeTw

Seafood Watch has a free app for iPhone and Android that’s updated as recommendations change.

Please be ocean-friendly when you shop for seafood.  Even better, eat vegetarian/vegan.  Think about it.  And tell your friends.  Do what you can do.

Remember that ardent animal rights Sea Shepherd crews don’t have guns.  Gary Stokes says that even one pissed off vegan is a force to be reckoned with.

Full steam ahead, Sea Shepherd.  We need you now more than ever.

Aloha, Renée

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About reneeriley

Our blog was begun as a way to share our experiences in China. From August 2010 to July 2011, my husband, Barry Kristel, and I were at our University of Hawaii Maui College sister school, Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University in Lin'an, China, a city considered rural because it has only 500,000 people! We had a wonderful time. Then in February 2012, we returned to teach this time at our other sister school, Shanghai Normal University, in a city of over 21 million people. We've made many discoveries. Did you know that now Chinese girls, at least the ones who go to university, for the most part feel they are luckier than the Chinese boys? Did you know that Shanghai saved over 20,000 European Jews during WWII? Do you know how Chinese university students would deal with problems that come up in Dear Abby letters? What's it like to be on the Great Wall of China? Do you know how many Chinese girls had their feet bound and why? And we have recipes from many of the places we've visited. Among others, you can find instructions on how to fry cicadas from one of my ZAFU students and how to make chocolate-Kahlua waffles from my brother Mike in Gainesville. You can also look back to our earliest entry to see what we experienced in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006 during the mainly peaceful six months of protest until the Mexican government sent in the troops. Between our stays in China, Barry and I have been on the Mainland U.S. visiting family, friends and Servas hosts as we traveled home to Maui. We share those experiences too. Welcome to our blog! Aloha and Zài Jiàn, Renée and Barry

2 responses to “The Sea Shepherd: “Are you willing to die for a whale?””

  1. Rosita says :

    Sad post. I had no idea that things were this bad….😔 Since yuh mentioned shark fins, do u know fish and chips, right? OK, then, do u know that in Trinidad & Tobago, they do eat “shark and chips”, their own local version of fish and chips? And in Fernando de Noronha, on Northeast coast of brasil, the same occurs. That should be shameful, but…there’s a common sense who says that sharks are innate dangerous animals, and, to be honest, I do believe on it, as many Brazilian do & I’m sure y’all do that. But keep calm, I DON’T eat shark and chips nor shark fins. I just do avoid entering on seas with confirmed constant presence of sharks, and coincidentally my mom was also viewing a short movie about most dangerous beaches on world, yersterday, and Praia da Boa Viagem, in Recife, here in Brasil, is one of them, due to constant shark appearance & attacks. But, sincerely, I do believe that sharks will attack people if is there having an ecological disturbance who makes them without their common food, which would be smaller fishes or sea turtles. Am I right? Plz correct me if an I wrong. As I was born on Northern Brasil, although raised on Northeast Brasil, more specifically into 2 cities, and I was kinda raised between an island & a proudly touristic, Caribbean-like city, so the beach has became like my childhood’s playground, and I was always told not to stay on waters if it was too cold nor gonna to sea at night, due to possible shark appearance, although I don’t recall seeing none of them….IDK if is that true, that sharks do prefer cold waters…anyone knows? Are there any myths about shark attacks there in Hawaii? Are shark attacks common in Bali? And all shark species can attack people?
    Love y’all,
    R

    • reneeriley says :

      Hi Rosita: Living where you do, you know a lot about sharks. And you are wise to stay out of the ocean when there are shark sightings. Here in Hawaii, the conventional wisdom is to stay out of the water at dawn and dusk, when the water is murky from runoff after a storm, and the Hawaiians say don’t go out in the water in Oct./Nov. when the baby turtles are hatching. Sharks don’t see well; they prefer to eat a turtle rather than a human. Because of water pollution, over fishing, fishermen dragging bait and freshly caught fish – which lures sharks to attack, and because more of us go in the water now, there are more attacks. Last week here at a beach in Kihei about 30 yards from shore, a woman was hit by a shark resulting in her having to get multiple stitches to her right leg; she’s okay. That was a freak incident, but the sharks live in the ocean. And our water is warm, so they can be in warm or cold water. According to Ocean of Know, “Many species of sharks have adapted to live primarily in warm and shallow coastal waters along the continental shelves (usually no deeper than 650ft ), in the top few hundred meters of the open ocean (pelagic waters), or in very deep, cold waters near the bottom of the ocean.” I’ve heard sharks are the “garbage collectors” of the oceans. One afternoon when my son was crewing on a sailboat in the South Pacific, he was daydreaming as he swam toward the boat – and bumped into a hammerhead shark! They eyed each other – and went off in different directions. He was lucky. The shark nets the government puts up along beaches in Australia do not work – except to kill other marine life that gets caught. 😦 Most sharks – like the nurse shark – do not attack humans. Wikipedia says, “Out of more than 480 shark species, only three are responsible for two-digit numbers of fatal unprovoked attacks on humans: the great white, tiger and bull; however, the oceanic whitetip has probably killed many more castaways, not recorded in the statistics.” But we all hear about the attacks that do happen. For native Hawaiians, the shark can be an “ʻaumākua,” a manifested ancestral spirit, so sharks are honored and respected. There are stories about sharks who come to the aid of shipwrecked fishermen. So go swimming – just be aware and don’t go in murky water. Hope all is well with you. Aloha, Renée

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