A message to Sea Shepherd’s campaign against spearfishing

WARNING: This post contains graphic images

In recent times Sea Shepherd has started a campaign against spearfishing. Sea Shepherd is a wildlife conservation organization, mostly known for its efforts against whaling ships. Their methods are very controversial and quite extreme.

Until their anti spearfishing outbursts we were very supportive of their efforts. We regularly wear items purchased from their online store.

Their new campaign involves advertisements claiming that “predatory fishing also threatens life outside the ocean”

Source: www.ibelieveinadv.com

Obviously, these ads would shock anyone who has no knowledge of what spearfishing is about.

Let me take you back to the dark ages. Humans have always had to survive by feeding themselves. Before food became commercially available, hunting was a necessity. It’s how nature works, animals kill other animals in order to feed themselves and continue through evolution. It has happened forever and it will continue to happen as long as this Earth exists.

Spearfishing is selective. You go out, you dive, if there is a fish there worth hunting you try and shoot it. If you succeed, you have what you were after, if you don’t then, well, nothing. Nothing at all. Spearfishing is subject to all of the same fishing restrictions as other recreational fishing. Actually, in some areas there are even more restrictions. There are countless times we have seen fish swimming around with fishing line attached to a hook they have eaten. How is that better than selective spearfishing?

Commercial fishing is what Sea Shepherd should have an issue about, if anything. That is where nets are used to catch everything possible, without the ability to select certain species. Anything unwanted is then thrown back into the ocean, dead or alive, hurt or not. Now, anyone wanting to go out spearfishing for commercial gain then good luck. That is hard work.

Most spearfishermen/women have a huge respect for the ocean. The sport is a passion and without the ocean and the life in it, it would not be possible. Care is taken to ensure minimal environmental impact, and we even collect the rubbish we find floating around.

Hunting is a natural instinct, required for survival. The most ecological and selective way to hunt fish is by spearfishing. No question about it.

Yes each fish species has its own place on this Earth. Yes it is important to ensure the survival of the species. Yes killing off too many of one species is bad for “life outside the ocean.” No, spearfishing or recreational fishing are not the issue.

Sea Shepherd has gone overboard on this one. I am all for campaigning about saving the oceans, but it should be aimed at the appropriate issues. For an organisation like this, I wonder if they have thought about the impact they have had on our oceans. Here are some facts about what they have achieved, according to www.seashepherd.org.au

The idea behind Sea Shepherd started out in 1977, but here is an extract from their website of some of their more recent history:

In December 2002, the Sea Shepherd set out to hunt down the Japanese whaling fleet in Antarctic waters. Our objective was to enforce the global moratorium against commercial whaling and to enforce the protection regulations granted to the whales inside the official Southern Ocean Sanctuary (AKA the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary).

December: The Farley Mowat departs from Auckland, stops in Hobart and proceeds on to Antarctica to search for the Japanese whaling fleet.

Japan was able to change plans and avoid Sea Shepherd, and we learned a valuable lesson. Without aerial surveillance, the chances of success in tracking the Japanese fleet is small.

2005 – 2006 Antarctic Whale Defense – 2nd expedition

In December of 2005, Sea Shepherd launched our 2nd expedition to the vast and frigid waters of the Antarctic to oppose illegal Japanese whaling. Our flagship Farley Mowatdeparted from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, and stops in Hobart, Tasmania, to pick-up a helicopter to be used for aerial reconnaissance. The whaling fleet is located on December 22nd and flees from Sea Shepherd’s chase. On December 25th, the Farley Mowat intercepts the course line of the Japanese factory ship Nisshin Maru and attempts to foul her propellers. The Nisshin Maru begins to run and once again the Farley Mowat pursues.

The expedition continued into January of 2006 with the Farley Mowat chasing the Nisshin Maru for three thousand miles along the Antarctic coast. On January 8th, the Farley Mowat once again approaches the Nisshin Maru and deploys prop foulers. The Nisshin Marustops whaling activities and flees. On January 9th, the Farley Mowat intercepts and side-swipes the whaling fleet supply vessel Oriental Bluebird. The supply ship is ordered out of the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary and complies. The Oriental Bluebird does not return.

The Farley Mowat completed a 50-day voyage covering 8500 miles between Melbourne and their final destination of Cape Town, South Africa. The Japanese fleet was disrupted for 15 days and prevented from achieving their quota.

2006 – 2007 Operation Leviathan – 3rd expedition

Our 2006-2007 Antarctic whale defense campaign was named Operation Leviathan was the third Sea Shepherd expedition to the Southern Ocean to intervene against illegal whaling operations by the Japanese fleet in the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary. The ambitious campaign involved the utilization of two ships, (the Farley Mowat and the newly-purchasedRobert Hunter), a Hughes 300 helicopter (the Kookabura), and 56 crewmembers from 14 different nations.

October: Sea Shepherd purchases the Scottish Fisheries Patrol vessel Westra in Rosyth, Scotland. The vessel is renamed Robert Hunter in honor of the man who was a journalist, co-founder of Greenpeace, friend of Captain Watson, and Sea Shepherd Advisory Board member.

December: The Robert Hunter departs from Scotland and voyages down the middle of the North and South Atlantic. The Farley Mowat departs from Melbourne, Australia to Hobart, Tasmania.

The Japanese whaling fleet had plans to illegally kill 935 piked (Minke) whales and 50 fin whales. During Operation Leviathan, we were at sea for five weeks and chased the whaling fleet over thousands of square miles constantly interrupting their whaling activities. We intercepted and engaged the fleet on February 9th and 12th, 2007, and their whaling operations were disrupted saving several pods of whales.

2007 – 2008 Operation Migaloo – 4th expedition

2008 January – March: The Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin voyages twice to the coast of Antarctica to disrupt illegal Japanese whaling activities in the Southern Ocean Whale. Two Sea Shepherd crew board a Japanese harpoon boat and are detained for three days and then released. Japanese Coast Guard throws concussion grenades and fires on Sea Shepherd crew. The end result is over 500 whales saved and losses of profits for the Japanese fleet.

We were joined on this campaign by a film crew from Animal Planet who chronicled our journey for the new TV series Whale Wars.

2008 – 2009 Operation Musashi – 5th expedition

December 2008 – February 2009: The 2008-2009 Antarctic Whale Defense Campaign, Operation Musashi, so named in reference to the legendary samurai Ronin and master strategist Miyomoto Musashi who is to Japan what Ned Kelly, Robin Hood, and Jesse James are to Australia, England, and the United States, respectively.

The campaign launched when the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin departed the Port of Brisbane, Australia, with an international volunteer crew of 48 headed for the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. The crew included 33 men and 15 women; 14 of the crew are from Australia and 4 from New Zealand with the rest of the crew hailing from Japan, Canada, Great Britain, the USA, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, South Africa, Hungary, and Bermuda.

The mission was successful – to again intervene against the illegal Japanese whaling fleet. This season, Sea Shepherd’s boat chased the fleet more than 3200 kilometers through the icy waters of the Antarctic Ocean before withdrawing in February. We saved the lives of 305 whales.

Again, we were joined by the Animal Planet crew, filming for the TV series Whale Wars.

2009 – 2010 Operation Waltzing Matilda – 6th expedition

2009 December: Our ships Steve Irwin and the Ady Gil depart for Antarctica in search of the Japanese whaling fleet while our newly-acquired ship Bob Barker secretly departs from Mauritius to locate and surprise the whaling fleet.

2010 January – March: Three of our ships (Steve Irwin, Bob Barker ,and Ady Gil) navigate to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary to intervene against illegal whaling activities by the Japanese. The Shonan Maru No. 2 deliberately rams and sinks the Ady Gil.Captain Peter Bethune boards the Shonan Maru No. 2 to deliver an invoice for the loss of his sunken boat which results in his transport to a Japanese prison. For three weeks straight, not a single whale is killed while the Sea Shepherd ships follow the whaling fleet. Operation Waltzing Matilda is a success resulting in saving the lives of 528 whales and costing the Japanese tens of millions of dollar in losses.

For the 3rd year, we were joined by the Animal Planet crew, filming for the TV series Whale Wars.

2010 – 2011 Operation No Compromise – 7th expedition

Operation No Compromise was Sea Shepherd’s most effective campaign to date against illegal whaling activities in the Southern Ocean. We sailed three vessels – the Steve Irwin, the Bob Barker, and the Gojira (later renamed the Brigitte Bardot) – and our interventions forced the Japanese whalers to suspend their operations and leave the Southern Ocean early, thereby saving 863 whales which was verified publicly by the Japanese ICR.

For the 4th year, we were joined by the Animal Planet crew, who filmed for our TV seriesWhale Wars.

2011 – 2012 Operation Divine Wind – 8th expedition

During 2011-2012’s Operation Divine Wind, Sea Shepherd’s eighth Antarctic whale defense expedition, we once again sailed our three main vessels to the icy waters of the Southern Ocean, but were forced to operate with just two ships when a rogue wave damaged a pontoon on the Brigitte Bardot early in the campaign, forcing a rescue of our crew and sending the vessel into port for repairs. Even with just two ships and some of the worst weather our crew had seen in eight seasons in the Antarctic, we once again sent the Japanese whaling fleet home early and saved 768 whales.

In this, our 5th year, Animal Planet filmed the campaign once again for our popular docu-reality TV series, Whale Wars.


sea shepherd1sea shepherd 2

sea shepherd 3 Sea Shepherd 4

Sea Shepherd 5

Photo source: www.seashepherd.org.au

What the website does not tell you is that Sea Shepherd’s ships have sunk 11 whaling ships and rammed others.

Now, I’m not for whaling at all. in fact, it is quite amazing how many whales they have saved over the years. However, have Sea Shepherd thought about the effect they are having on the environment. The pollution they are emitting into the ocean, the number of animals other than whales they have affected through this process? It’s a little hypocritical to put out a campaign like the first two photos on this post, when their actions would be “affecting life outside the ocean.” more so than us spearos.

Sea Shepherd ships might be vegan but do you think all of their staff don’t eat fish when on land? I doubt it. And I bet those fish were caught in a much less environmentally friendly way than spearfishing.

So here is my message to Sea Shepherd: use your non-profit funds to focus on what you know – “anti-whaling” and leave us selective recreational fishers to our happy hunting. Don’t give the world a tainted view of our passion without realising all the facts, or waste your funds on over the top advertising.

15 responses to “A message to Sea Shepherd’s campaign against spearfishing

  1. We’ve been following the Sea Shepherds story with interest recently, we saw the video of them ramming into another boat. Didn’t know they were now going after spear fishing, it’s very popular here too. We agree they should stick to whaling and maybe alter there methods slightly. It’s a very emotive subject.

  2. Excellent post, read it after a 2 week trip out in the local islands spent mainly…. spear fishing! I’ve also been a supporter of these guys, but now I’m leaning more towards the South Park episode on them! They need to stick to whaling and if they really feel the need to branch out, take a look at the gill netting or tuna corralling techniques used around the world, nothing sustainable about fish in a can…

    • I’ve never seen the South Park episode, but can only imagine. Thanks for your comment. I hope you caught some good fish. Will we be seeing some photos or stories on your blog?

  3. It is so easy to pick on spear fishers, they are a small group without the means of mounting a big defense or lobbying against the attack. It will give Sea Shepherd some cheap publicity. Picking on the big fishing industry would be a lot harder for them. It’s not fair.

  4. “Hunting is a natural instinct, required for survival. The most ecological and selective way to hunt fish is by spearfishing”, what?
    There is nothing “natural” about hunting and its for sure not requiered to survive. If that was the case I think the reason that killed Gandhi for sure was not the lack the eating meat or fish. There are so many errors in your article that its hard to know where to begin. I am not that found of Sea Sheperd either but I do think that compared to the pollution they create, they for sure manage to make a lot bigger different then most.
    I wounder If you have seen locals in many parts of the world go spearfishing? I can tell you by my own experience as a marine biologist that thanks to spearfishing there are hardly any lemonsharks, nor blacktip sharks around the Caribbean. The locals (and foreigners where its allowed) gladly go out hunting the species until there are hardly any of them left. This is not a “selectiv hunt” as you say but rather a “i try to catch as much as am able to, and spend all day going up and down to bring back enought fish to sell to the toursit restaurants”.
    I can only hope that when you get aboard your catamaran (that will have the engine on for at least 2 hs a day to maintan your electrical consume for the luxery of a fridge) and you arrive to the caribbean you will be lucky if you manage to see some fish. The delination here is radical (no matter what they are trying to fool the tourists, so they will come back and spend more money). I just hope that you as well as more people will realise this before we stand with out species in our oceans, because by then it will be to late.

    • Well firstly, if hunting is not a natural instinct, then why do we have carnivorous teeth? The canine teeth humans have are there specifically for tearing thought meat.

      Also, without going into an analysis of each continent around the world, lets focus on North America. The Native American Indians have been spearfishing for centuries. There are cave paintings depicting this. I’m pretty sure there are even treaties written to protect some tribal rights to spearfishing.

      Next, I’m not overly knowledgable about how things are done in the Caribbean, but here we don’t go spearfishing for sharks. Shooting a shark is likely to result in losing hundreds of dollars worth of gear. We don’t particularly want to eat it either.

      If a school of fish swim by, there is only one spear so one fish will be caught. The rest of the school swims away.

      Perhaps your gripe is with commercial fishing, as I stated in my post.

      Otherwise, please tell me what other kind of fishing is more ecologically sustainable than spearfishing?

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  6. Wow, Josefin is the most uninformed biologist I have ever come across. The spearfishing community is so small that it does not even make up 1% of the angling community not to mention that commercial fishing has cleaned out the oceans, not spearfishing. Everything you mentioned was incorrect, LEGAL and ETHICAL SPEARFISHING does not include spearing sharks or other sensitive species and you would be correct to deem that irresponsible but then you would also have to blame anglers for doing the exact same thing and they should both be subject to the law. Go crunch the numbers; how long does it take a community of spearfishers to get but ONE load of that of a commercial fishing vessel, big or small? If you want to convince humans to stop being human then try to apply your argument to the rest of nature, start by convincing lions to stop hunting impala because of the negative ‘impact’ they are having or reverse argument, go tell elephants to stop breaking trees because of the ‘negative’ impact they have on the environment. Start being human! and enforce rules which apply to everyone and that ensures responsible sustainable living. Damn, it makes me mad when and idiot gives an opinion when they have no idea how difficult it is to get a Kingfish in 90 feet of water.

  7. I tried posting this as a reply to lil miss sunshine back there, but for some reason it wouldn’t let me, hopefully she took the time to be notified of follow ups, as heres another one for ya josefin –
    I won’t even comment on the majority of your response, I suspect that the caribbean is the limit of your experience as a “marine biologist” and as I have lived there, and now on the Pacific side of Mexico, I can assure you, not everyone in the world is stupid enough to target one species to destruction. I also live on a catamaran, and we NEVER turn on our engines to run the fridge OR the chest freezer OR the watermaker OR the flat screen tv (wifes idea, honest), some of us know how to manage our power/water consumption AND how to install solar panels. Perhaps you should leave the oceans to the rest of us, maybe politics is more your thing, your arguments seem as well researched as theirs 😉

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  9. Es un montaje fotográfico, esas imágenes del oso y la garza no son reales, es una pena que una organización seria y responsable publique imágenes trucadas atacando a un deporte la pesca submaria que es un deporte selectivo, una pena me han defraudado creía que eran más serios y no utilizaban el engaño para convercer argumentar sus acciones de lucha.

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