Monday, February 9, 2009

Whale Wars Season Two - Cut, Print

As Sea Shepherd departs from the Southern ocean, once again, claiming to have saved whales from evil whalers let's take a look at their anti whaling efforts in perspective.

This week titular head of organization Paul Watson rammed his vessel into whalers with Animal Planet film crews capturing every moment for season two of Whale Wars. Classic Wagging the Conservation Dog moment with just days to go for Sea Shepherds departure from the area.

The conflict of interest with their reality television relationship goes beyond mentioning, suffice to say it begs the question "what is real and what is staged?"

After this weeks boat ramming spree Watson then claimed "the situation down here is getting very, very chaotic and very aggressive". This statement is tantamount to anti meat protesters ramming their cars into the side of beef processing factories and claiming the same. Add to that a waiting reality television film crew and you begin to see not only the uselessness of actions like these but the abject media fueled cannibalism of the entire event.

What you are looking at is staged eco theater with a side of dead whale at a cost of millions of well meaning dollars from people who really want to see and end to whaling. Like us.

To put this into perspective, this year Watson and company will claim to have saved perhaps 60 whales, that claim, like so many others from Sea Shepherd, will be seriously contested. Meanwhile Watson and company dangerously and egregiously risked a fuel oil breach from either his own vessel or those he rammed in the Southern ocean this year.

In the time it took Sea Shepherd to elicit funds, build a campaign, invite a reality television crew aboard and pump out a mass of seriously massaged media sound bites-whales died worldwide:

48 Sperm Whales Stranding

2 Right Whales Stranding

65 Pilot Whales Stranding

10 Sperm and Pilot Wales Stranding

150 Pilot Whales Stranding

At what cost per whale will donors continue to subsidize and support ineffective media theatre brought to you by Sea Shepherd and company. For us the equation is simple:

Has whaling stopped? No.

Will season two of Whale Wars have moments of high drama with vessels being rammed? Yes.

Is this quality eco work? The answer to that question can be answered with the contents of your wallet or your check book. Place you bets where they will be most effective. For our money Sea Shepherd is out of touch, out of game, and out of time.

Swimming with the Whale sharks - Donsol

Cherie McCosker recently blogged about her eco tour experience with Whale sharks in Donsol, Philippines.

Her article is right on target but misses the larger point of the purpose of shark tourism in many regions worldwide:

"My German companion came back on the boat exclaiming, "You should have seen it, you could see the Whale shark get angry. All of a sudden it thrashed about and dove down to the depths of the sea".

As was blogged about a few months ago these animals were once hunted in that region. With the advent of high dollar Whale shark tourism the hunting stopped. Unfortunately local fishermen still kill sharks for squalene (kudos Diveshopp Blog) but these are deep water species that will probably never be monetized by shark tourism. In region after region worldwide when local populations see a financial incentive to keep sharks they do and the catalyst for that sea change is usually shark tourism.

Ms. McCoskers article talks about people touching and molesting Whale sharks under the guise of shark tourism and she has a solid point. But in the larger picture of animals no longer killed in the region one could argue that while imperfect, shark tourism does stop the killing of sharks.

We'll take that as a win.

Tiger Kill - Outside Magazine 2009

We were speaking with writer Thayer Walker this morning when he gave us the heads up on a new article he just completed for this months Outside Magazine called "Ready, Aim, Sushi".

The article takes an inside look at spearfishing in the Gulf of Mexico, and an unfortunate Tiger shark kill while he was reporting the story:

"Underwater filmmaker Ryan McInnis of InSea.TV accompanied spearfishermen Craig Clasen and Cameron Kirkconnell on recent hunts for tuna in the Gulf of Mexico. During the course of one dive, a Tiger shark charged McInnis. The following short (see website) includes the ensuing back and forth between the divers and the shark."

This morning we called Ryan McInnis to get his take. Our conversation with him revealed a level headed and consummate waterman with a long history in water with sharks. This was a conversation with a diver who was absolutely distraught about killing a Tiger shark.

Here's a quote from our conversation:

"I have been diving my whole life and this was unlike any shark experience I have ever had, or wish to have. All I had was my camera and no spear gun when the animal charged in, fins down, with eyes rolled back, it scared me to death. My buddies came over and saw the animal in an aggressive stance, our vessel was 100 meters away. It closed distance on all three of us and it quickly became evident that we were going to have to defend ourselves. Once the decision was made and the first shot was fired the true horror was now we had to kill it, you never leave a shark just wounded. I have seriously conflicted emotions now, the death of such a beautiful fish made me totally reevaluate spear fishing. This entire event was terribly unfortunate. I think this animal had never encountered humans because of the aggressive manner in which it charged in. We have seen resident sharks become acclimated to us, this animals was not acclimated, it was not going to back down. We postured at the shark trying to look bigger, we swam at the animal, and the last ditch effort was the shot.If getting out of the water was an option we would have taken it, we're not out here to kill sharks".

In the final summation killing any Tiger shark is a tragedy, will this article enrage some? Undoubtedly. Kudos to Ryan for his take on this and willingness to discuss the back story to the story. What we discovered is a man who's equally disturbed by what he saw as a "no win" for both him and the shark.

Photo DJ Struntz