Safety at Sea, IWC Style
As is their standard practice at IWC, Japan requested an intervention under the IWC agenda item “Safety at Sea” to give their “We Hate Sea Shepherd” presentation. I naively expected that after two years, delegate Joji Morishita (now infamous for his appearance in “The Cove”) would at least change up the presentation even a little for those of us who have seen the presentation at least three times… but no. Even the title was the same – ‘Escalating Violence against Japanese Vessels by the Sea Shepherd’. Mr. Morishita reviewed the arsenal of weapons used against the “research vessel and researchers” (no, I’m not kidding) – Butyric acid (fancy term for rancid butter), beer bottles, laser pointers, prop lines, etc. We also saw – again – video footage of the collision between Sea Shepherd’s “bat-mobile” boat, the Ady Gil and Japan’s whaling vessel, the Shonon Maru II.
Unquestionably, maintaining high standards and expectations for safety at sea are very serious matters, and situations that compromise mariner and vessel safety should be investigated. However, the International Whaling Commission is definitely not the appropriate forum for pursuing such allegations – that is the pervue of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations specialized agency that has responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.
Mr. Morishita concluded his presentation by requesting that port states “prevent and suppress Sea Shepherd attacks” by:
● Increasing enforcement and inspections at port;
● Investigating allegations of criminal activity, and;
● Providing protection for Japan’s “research vessels” in the Southern Ocean.
How was Japan’s presentation and requests received? Here’s what some key IWC contracting governments had to say:
RUSSIA: “ This is not the first time we have received such a presentation regarding behavior at sea. Russia is definitely is against such pirate activities of that organization. We are very much interested to hear the opinion of the countries under whose flag Sea Shepherd is undertaking such activities as well as those ports to which Sea Shepherd is registered. When you watch the film on television, you do not see the actions of violence that we have seen today.”
NETHERLANDS: “I would like to recall this body’s earlier concerns about this item being on the agenda of the IWC. This item should more appropriately be discussed in the IMO. We disagree on the item of whaling, but we agree on safety of sea. We respect the right of individuals and organizations to protest, as long as such demonstrations occur within the limits of the law. We have consistently expressed this view. We also underscore that any unlawful activities should be dealt with under appropriate domestic and international law.”
KIRIBATI: “We strongly condemn the illegal and violent activities of Sea Shepherd toward the Japanese vessels. We are concerned that these violent activities are continuing, and seem to be recurring and escalating in their violence. We understand that any difference in views or opinions regarding whaling should not be resolved in these dangerous and criminal activities.”
AUSTRALIA: “Our position on safety at sea is actually shared by the Japanese Government. Nothing less than full compliance with international laws governing safety at sea is acceptable. What is also asked in Japan’s presentation refers to ‘legitimate’ research – AUS cannot hold this view. The presentation also asks Australia to do more than what our obligations are under the International Maritime Organization. We cannot provide a higher level of safety to a whaling vessel than we would for any other vessel on the high seas. This is not a reasonable expectation for safety at sea.”
KOREA: “ We regret to hear this sort of report over and over again, and we are deeply concerned over any grave consequences over this sort of violence. I must say we all do recognize different views on whaling. And the law provides the right to disagree. As you know, as a student of international law, I see the issue of whaling as a question of utilizing marine resources, not a question of political or moral correctness, from a legal point of view. As long as it is sustainable, from the perspective of science, (whaling) is okay. For this reason, I think that recent demonstrations at sea in the Antarctic Ocean have politically charged motivations. There is no heroism to play here.”
NEW ZEALAND: “We understand Japan’s recent develops in the Southern Ocean. We have called upon Sea Shepherd to act responsibly. NZ is not the flag state of any Sea Shepherd vessel. NZ investigated the incident involving the incident between the Ady Gil and the Shonan Maru II and found that both captains departed from the international collisions regulations and engaged in conduct that resulted in the collision and sinking of the Ady Gil. We must also stress that we are not surprised that Japan’s activities in the Southern Ocean continues to attract such attention, and it is likely to attract such attention as long as it continues.”
ICELAND: “I strongly believe that the focus on our discussion should not be focused on the terrorist group, but on the port states supporting such acts. We don’t find the political will to enforce such terrorist actions. The right of peaceful protest in our view doesn’t have any place when we are discussing violent acts.”
NORWAY: “We express its unconditional sympathy for Japan’s scientists, and stress the obvious legal and moral responsibility of the port states in this matter.”
UNITED STATES: “We associate our comments with those of Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and others.”
Are you satisfied with the position your country has taken?…