Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Know Your Neighbourhood Eco-Warriors

You know about Greenpeace.
You know about Sea Shepherd.
You know about the Taz Patrol.
Do you know about Agenda 21?
On April 23rd 2009, environmentalists sank the Norwegian whaling ship Skarbakk in the Lofoten islands, Norway. The group responsible took the name of a 1992 UN Conference on the Environment: Agenda 21. The conference had made proposals for a sustainable 21st century, with Sea Shepherd warning Norway if they did not comply with international conservation law, then it would sink their whaling ships.
This was not an empty threat, with SS's Captain Paul Watson having already sunk two Norwegian ships, Nybraena in 1992 and Senet in 1994. The covert group Agenda 21 carried on, scuttling Elin-Toril in 1996, Willassen Senior in 2007 and Skarbakk in 2009.
Paul Watson claims SS neither knew who Agenda 21 were, nor had any warning of their plans, but he did applaud their efforts, as he said Norwegian whalers were in blatant violation of the worldwide ban on commercial whaling: "Agenda 21 did an excellent job: no injuries, no evidence, no mistakes, and no more whaling. These are results we can appreciate and admire. Sinking this whaler was an act of law enforcement, and we applaud this successful retirement of an illegal killing machine."
Skarbakk was the thirteenth ship sunk by eco-warriors since 1979...
Sea Shepherd's tally...
Whaling ships sunk:
1979: pirate whaling ship Sierra rammed/sunk, Portugal - SEA SHEPHERD.
1980: whalers Isba I and Isba II sunk, Spain - SEA SHEPHERD (this ended Spanish whaling).
1980: whalers Susan and Theresa sunk, S.Africa - SEA SHEPHERD and S.AFRICAN NAVY (after this, all illegal Atlantic whaling operations ceased).
1986: whalers Hvalur 6 and Hvalur 7 sunk, Iceland and whale processing station destroyed - SEA SHEPHERD (this shut down Icelandic commercial whaling for the next 16 years).
1992: whaler Nybraena sunk, Norway - SEA SHEPHERD.
1994: whaler Senet sunk, Norway - SEA SHEPHERD.
1996: whaler Elin-Toril sunk, Norway - AGENDA 21.
1998: whaler Morild sunk, Norway - SEA SHEPHERD.
2007: whaler Williassen Senior sunk, Norway - AGENDA 21.
2009: whaler Skarbakk sunk, Norway - AGENDA 21.
Anti-whaling ships sunk:
2010: Ady Gil sunk, Southern Ocean - JAPAN.
While many praise the eco-warriors, others call it eco-terrorism. They ask why groups such as SS and Agenda 21 believe they can act as self-appointed law enforcers. This direct eco-action stems from a growing global frustration, at governments' reluctance to act against companies either breaking international law or finding loopholes to circumvent them. But does this make it right?
And the question arises: why are govts slow to respond? Well, quite often, money talks. It's been proved that Japanese whaling interests have bought the support of smaller impoverished nations around the IWC table. Money also ruled when, in 1979, the Sea Shepherd was confiscated without charges, court hearing, or defence - a decision by a Portuguese judge who'd been bribed by the Sierra Trading Co. (owner of the sunken Sierra and soon-to-be-sunk Susan and Theresa). Of course there're political and trade (and career) considerations too...
Why not leave the enforcing of laws and edicts to the IWC? Problem is: the IWC has no teeth, no enforcement arm to do any more than mere pontification. The same could be said to a lesser degree about the UN: its response time to major situations is woefully inadequate. And do we really want the good ol' USA playing World Policeman at every turn?
So is this a mandate for vigilantism? Given the massive public support, are groups like Agenda 21 and SS more or less legally safe in their actions? Or at least not likely to face massive legal or naval responses?
And what would SS do, if the IWC repealed the ban on commercial whaling? Would it continue direct action in open defiance? If so, what could IWC do about that?
With the three European whaling nations (Norway, Denmark and Iceland) now collectively hunting more whales than Japan, will this mean an increase in sabotage acts?
Questions, questions...no easy answers...

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