Sea Shepherd – Guardians of the Sea

The Sea Shepherd is setup to enforce laws and regulations that protect marine ecosystems. Although the laws have been put in place by the Federal Government, they fail to manage the oceans. All Sea Shepherd campaigns are guided by the United Nations which gives non-governmental organisations the authority to uphold international conservation laws. Sea Shepherd’s Australian director Jeff Hansen says

“In a lot of cases in the southern ocean whale sanctuary what the whaling people are doing is illegal but there is on one down there to prosecute them. Our clients are whales, dolphins, sharks turtles, that is who we represent and ultimately our goal is to protect the biodiversity of the ocean and uphold those laws.”

“If it’s illegal you should get in there and shut it down, there is no compromise.”

“We realise what we are doing is putting our lives on the line to protect whales and if you aren’t prepared to do that you shouldn’t be onboard the vessel.”

Jeff believes the Australian Government hasn’t stepped in with a stern ‘no’ to whaling because the international whaling system is completely corrupt, and because they are one of Australia’s main trading partners.

“It started off with a number of nations managing whale stocks and they were generally nations interested in whaling or had whales in the past. But Japan thought that if they wanted to continue with commercial whaling they needed to get more votes so they started buying them. They went to poor countries or an island nation, injected a heap of money into their economy or built them facilities and forced them into the IWC so they would be a member and could vote for Japan to return to commercial whaling.”

“It (IWC) needs to change its focus from the international whaling commission to one that aims to protect and defend whales.”

According to Jeff, Australia is the the most supportive of the Sea Shepherd in regards to media prominence. The only support received by the Federal Government is that from Greens Leader and Senator Bob Brown, who asks questions on behalf of the Sea Shepherd in the senate.

“It’s definitely not funding, but the Greens will ask questions on our behalf in the senate and ask ‘What’s the Australian government going to do?’ The Sea Shepherd’s vessels are protecting Australian waters an up keeping their laws but why isn’t the government down there doing something about it too?”

Public support includes anything from donors who give five or ten dollars a month to ongoing supporters that turn up when ships are about to leave port with carloads of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Sea Shepherd campaigns can cost between three and four million dollars each, fuel alone for one mission is a million dollars. So how do they get by being a non-governmental, notfor-profit organisation?

“We have money coming in from the United States, we are getting more effective with online merchandise stores in the UK, Europe, Australia and America and our admin is very low. I’m the only full time employee in Australia, and I work from home. We have two part time employees in Melbourne who work in a donated office. Our crew are all volunteers. The captain and chief engineer are paid but apart from that they are really just volunteers from all over the world including Japan. We believe if you want to help the ocean and you want to help sea shepherd then you will do it (donate/volunteer) out of your own interest and out of your heart. All of our volunteers aren’t paid and they aren’t on a commission, they give up their weekends and free time to go out and talk to schools for Sea Shepherd,”

Facts

  • The whalers are everyday fishermen whose vessels are provided by a company in Japan. The costs are now subsidised by the Japanese government who are in debt of $200 million dollars for their whaling. This year they went home a month early and due to the recent tsunami it is hoped tey won’t be able to afford a return next year.
  • 80% of the oxygen we breathe comes from the ocean. If the ocean dies, we die to. It’s quite simple.
  • 98% of the world’s whale population is already wiped out.
  • There is a lunch program in some Japanese schools where whale and dolphin meat is put into the lunch in the hope it can be promoted via children. Somehow this is supposed to get the industry up and running again.
  • Both whale and dolphin meat is highly toxic (mercury) as they are further up in the food chain and our oceans are so sick and polluted. The acceptable level of mercury in dolphin meat is .04 parts per million and the dolphin meat available on shelves in Japan is 2000 parts per million.
  • There is an area of ocean off the coast of Hawaii called the Pacific Vortex. It is the size of the United States and full of plastic. Many of the world’s currents meet there and have created a plastic pool. Whales often ingest plastic bags and can no longer digest their food. Pelicans and other wildlife get caught up in fishing equipment and plastic. The smaller parts are eaten by fish!
  • Some beaches no longer have sand particles – they have plastic particles!

What you can do everyday

  • “One of the biggest things people can do is if you’re at a restaurant and they serve shark fin soup, say that you can’t eat there anymore because you serve shark fin soup and the reason is because we’ve lost 98% of the worlds sharks and if we continue to eat this dish we’ll lose our sharks and die.
  • Another thing is just clean up the beaches, get involved with beach clean ups and put your rubbish in the bin.

There are onshore and offshore volunteering opportunities with the Sea Shepherd if you are interested. For more information, go to: www.seashepherd.org

Words by Sonia Tubb

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