Whale Wars: OMG! Somebody’s gonna die!

By ElaineB

Ice Road Truckers and those hunks on Deadliest Catch, move over. The scrawny crew of vegans on the Sea Shepherd have the REAL dangerous job. And they don’t even get paid to do it.

Led by eco-warrior (or eco-terrorist, depending on your perspective) Paul Watson, the Sea Shepherd vessel Steve Irwin (Irwin’s widow christened the ship) travels the Antarctic waters in search of whaling ships that they will then disable or, if possible, sink. In the past, they have gone after illegal whalers, a perfect target for Watson and his crew as no government would bring charges for an assault on a ship they do not acknowledge exists.

But Japan, under the guise of research, allows for legal whaling. Other nations – in particular, Australia, which has a booming whale watching tourist business – have protested but done nothing. As Watson says, “We shouldn’t be doing this. Governments should be doing this. But until they do, we will.”

Watson approached Animal Planet for this series, reminding them that Deadliest Catch is a hugely popular show, but theirs also offers confrontations with whalers, pirate-like boardings, bombings, gunshots and a dedicated crew doing controversial work. And, we might add, breathtaking shots of the Antarctic waters.

In the first episode, we got the setup – met the captain, his first mates and the volunteer crew that have a lot of training to get under their belts before they meet their first whaler. Untrained for sure, as we also watch the tense moments after the volunteers overturn an attack boat, necessitating a quick rescue. Their scouting helicopter was also damaged. We see whaling ships and only the most dedicated sushi lover could not be moved by the sight of whales being pulled up a ramp so they can be harvested. A small portion of the carcass goes for research. Some is sold in Japan for meat and the rest is simply discarded. If Japan would simply outlaw the sale of whale meat (and a single whale is worth up to a quarter million dollars) this practice would simply end. But they haven’t.

I spoke with the producers who had tried to contact the whaling ship captain. Given that they were filming on the Steve Irwin, the captain did not acknowledge that request. So expect a lot of bias, simply because the adventure is being told only from the Shepherd point of view.

It’s likely that Watson wants the series to shed light on what Japan is allowing. If so, I think he has a winner. You can see my own bias here, but I am less clear on whether limited Inuit whaling should be allowed, as their culture has been tied with it for centuries.

So what do you think? Is Watson a pirate, a terrorist, a warrior? Post a comment and let us know.