Human Interaction

Whale Wars What do Japanese whalers think about Whale Wars?

posted: 05/15/12
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In this photo released by The Institute of Cetacean Research, anti-whaling activists aboard the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship throw glass bottles containing butyric acid towards the Japanese whaling factory ship Nisshin Maru in Antarctic waters.
AP Photo/The Institute of Cetacean Research, HO
Head to the High Se

Since its debut in 2008, Animal Planet's television series "Whale Wars" has given viewers a close-up view of the openly hostile relationship between Japanese whalers and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society — at least from Sea Shepherd's point of view. The Japanese government has steered clear of commenting specifically on "Whale Wars" and instead tends to address Sea Shepherd's actions and its diplomatic interactions with other countries regarding these attacks.

While the government keeps mum about its view of "Whale Wars," the Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) has plenty to say. This nonprofit research organization conducts whaling under the legal authority of Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and it has been vocal about its opinions of the Animal Planet series.

Not Letting Animal Planet Off the Hook

On its website, filed under the heading "Illegal Harassment and Terrorism Against ICR Research," the ICR has posted updates that refer to Animal Planet. They bear titles such as "Animal Planet compels whale saving delusion" and "Dutch ship pirates still short of Animal Planet reel quota."

These titles have a not-so-subtle subtext — that the filming of "Whale Wars" motivates Sea Shepherd and the crew of its ship, the Steve Irwin, to engage in acts that the ICR views as harassment, criminal activity or even eco-terrorism. Although Animal Planet claims to have approached ICR repeatedly about participating in the process of creating "Whale Wars" following the filming of the first season, the relationship is anything but a friendly one, and it appears doubtful that the future holds any collaboration.

Profiting From and Funding Illegal Attacks?

According to an ICR spokesperson, "ICR is not prepared to cooperate with a series which is built upon, and profits from, criminal activities against its lawful operations. Illegal attacks on the ICR research vessels by Sea Shepherd have increased in duration and intensity since Animal Planet began collaborating with Sea Shepherd, and several crew members have been injured. While Animal Planet and the show's producers have denied that they choreograph the illegal and dangerous actions by Sea Shepherd, it is telling that Animal Planet has resisted putting in place any independent controls that could ensure that this is the case."

For its part, Animal Planet maintains that its producers have been instructed expressly both never to direct the actions of the Sea Shepherds and at all times merely to document the activities as they occur.

The ICR asserts that Animal Planet and Sea Shepherd both profit from broadcasting attacks on ICR vessels (Animal Planet through its revenue streams and Sea Shepherd through donations). The organization views this profit as a means to support further attacks against its vessels and consequently, according to the spokesperson, "Animal Planet cannot...remove itself from blame for these attacks."

It's fair to say, then, that Japanese whalers have a low opinion of "Whale Wars."

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