It’s not so surprising that the violent destruction of a $1.5 million boat would lead to an argument. But you would expect the argument to be between the owners of the boat and the vessel that rammed it.
Instead, members of the activist group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, the group at the center of the Animal Planet TV show Whale Wars, are arguing amongst themselves and are making their he said/he said argument public business.
The group’s expensive and high-tech speedboat, called the Ady Gil, was damaged in a collision with a Japanese whaling ship in early January. The boat, worth $1.5 million, was used to chase down and harass whaling ships. After the crash, the Sea Shepherd crew tried to tow the boat with another vessel for over 36 hours, failing twice, before the salvage effort was given up and the boat was scuttled (deliberately sunk).
After the crash the Ady Gil’s skipper, Pete Bethune, boarded the Japanese ship to confront the captain, but the whalers detained him and Bethune ended up in Japanese court, where he was found guilty of trespassing and assault. In the midst of the legal maneuvering Sea Shepherd’s founder, Paul Watson, fired Bethune, but later said it was a tactical move to get Bethune a reduced sentence. (He was finally given a two-year suspended sentence, and was deported from Japan.)
Last week the argument intensified when a statement by Bethune to Japanese authorities came to light, claiming that Watson had ordered him to board the Japanese ship; there are reports that information has allowed the Japanese authorities to issue a warrant for Watson’s arrest. The reaction to Bethune’s statement was swift and fierce. In an email to Bethune, Watson denied that he had ordered Bethune to board the ship, relieved him of his post at Sea Shepherd, and even blamed Bethune for the destruction of the ship:
Anti-whaling activists are trying a different tack: Rather than focusing on the ethical problems with hunting and eating majestic and often endangered whales, they’re declaring that whale meat could be harmful to your health. Several groups want the World Health Organization to set guidelines for whale consumption, given the meat’s mercury content.
Though the World Health Organization does not currently have guidelines for the amount of whale meat someone should eat, it does list mercury as a chemical of public health concern, the BBC reports. Activist groups, including the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, argue that although fish may contain trace levels of mercury, the animals that consume those fish accrue much higher levels–and whales and dolphins, at the top of the food chain, could have dangerously high levels.
The fight against global warming has a brand new weapon: whale poop.
Scientists from the Australian Antarctic Division have found that whale poop contains huge amounts of iron and when it is released into the waters, the iron-rich feces become food for phytoplankton. Phytoplankton absorbs carbon dioxide from the air, the algae is in turn eaten by Antarctic krill, and baleen whales eat the krill. Through this neat cycle, globe-warming CO2 is kept sequestered in the ocean.
Scientists have long known that iron is necessary to sustain phytoplankton growth in the oceans, which is why one geoengineering scheme calls for adding soluble iron to ocean waters to encourage the growth of carbon-trapping algae blooms. While environmentalists have fretted over the possible consequences of meddling with ocean chemistry that way, this new study on whale poop suggests an all-natural way to get the same carbon-trapping effect: Increase the number of whales in the ocean.