When it comes to surfing, there is one name that dominates; Kelly Slater. Yet the nine time world champion who has recently been dubbed the number one competitive athlete across the board possesses more than the skill, grace, focus and stamina of a warrior athlete; he also shares a profound connection to his liquid arena and a deep concern for the cetacean inhabitants that reside within. I was both stoked and grateful when the often reserved Slater openly shared his reflections with me regarding the Japanese dolphin slaughter that sadly claimed yet another innocent thirteen lives earlier Monday afternoon. Spoken as a true Ocean ambassador, he writes:
"I am highly against the killings because of my affinity for oceanic creatures. I've ridden waves with countless dolphins and they are such graceful and peaceful mammals. We don't know the levels of intelligence and communications they have, we're only scratching the surface on it. I could not imagine killing something like that. "As someone who spends the majority of his time ripping perfect waves across the planet, Kelly is certainly no stranger to interacting with people's of various cultural traditions. However he makes no qualms about condemning Japan's diluted justifications for the annual dolphin slaughter and illegal commercial whaling activities, to which he refers as "a ridiculous practice and tradition." He states:
"When you travel the world year 'round, you come in contact with many different cultures. You start to realize that people do things you never thought possible or necessary yet somehow make sense to them for either traditional reasons or social pressures. They are not needed as food, are potentially very unhealthy due to mercury levels, and at this point we have traversed the knowledge necessary for 'scientific purposes' of killing them.""Surfers Paddle Out", 2007 photo: Surfers for Cetaceans
As part of the surfing crew that took part in the paddle out ceremony led by Dave Rastovich and Surfers for Cetaceans in 2007 that would later become a scene in the recent Academy Award winning documentary film, The Cove, I was impressed by Kelly's support of his fellow surfer's mission after lending him a copy of the film early last year. "I think it's great. Rasta's brought awareness and visibility to a lot of people around the world. The issues have been raised and can't be ignored now even more so," he told me in a follow up e-mail correspondence and even mentioned the possibility of traveling to Taiji himself to oppose the annual atrocity.
Unfortunately, there is no time like the present. Earlier today, reports began flooding in from the front lines that the infamous killing coves once again shamefully ran red with cetacean blood. Up until now this year's hunting season has been substantially less active than years past, largely in part due to the collaboration of activist groups on the ground to defend the 'homeland' and from the recent outpouring of media support in Tokyo. However the fisherman of Taiji once again turned this otherwise serene coastal village into a disgraceful butcher shop as they resumed business as usual while the concerned eyes of the world continue to watch on in sheer horror and disbelief. Adds Slater:
"I don't understand the need for it or the idea behind it but I do know that when the cameras are on these 'fishermen' they are not proud of the 'job' they're doing and don't want any of it to be made public. There is an inhumanity to this, as there is to war, but there is a conscience in every one of those guys who is doing it."Australian actress and passionate dolphin and whale defender Isabel Lucas, who was also part of our 2007 surfing ceremony to honor the thousands of lives lost throughout the decades and help expose this critical issue quickly chimed in when she learned of the recent reports of this year's bloodbath. She writes:
It is heartbreaking to realize that the Taiji dolphin kills are still happening as we speak. Hundreds of Dolphin and whale families are being exterminated in the name of an outdated tradition and human greed. What is even harder to comprehend is that the meat is filled with heavy metal toxins and mercury poison, and is completely unfit for human consumption. We need to band together as caring human beings to end the slaughter, and protect humans from poisoned meat. I urge everyone to put pressure on the Japanese government to end this practise, and to support direct action groups such as Sea Shepherd and Save Japan Dolphins. According to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Founder, Paul Watson, "The sea teaches us so much and it is the responsibility of surfers to communicate these teachings to humanity." In a previous interview conducted for Surfer Magazine, he further encouraged surfers to take a more active role in the protection of the world's oceans and all the marine life that reside within. He eloquently states:
"Listen to the ocean, listen to the whispers in the waves and surf where your heart leads you, let the ocean speak through you and do everything within your power to protect her majesty the sea from the ignorance and arrogance of humanity. Kelly has said that the ocean has spoken to him as it has spoken to me and many others. He understands what it means to be a moanahepara -- a shepherd of the sea."Captain Paul Waton and Kelly Slater at Australian Quicksilver Pro, 2007. photo: Deborah Bassett
Slater, a long time supporter of Sea Shepherd further adds:
"I believe the dolphin killings are a chance for everyone to sit back and become aware of what impact their lives have on the world around them. I hope for change in a lot of things happening in my own life and in the world around me and this one is at the top. Hopefully, with enough visibility and education to the people involved, there can be a complete stop to this ridiculous practice/tradition."WHAT YOU CAN DOJoin the October 14th Annual Save Japan Dolphins demonstration in a town near you.
Sign the petition at Take Part. 2 million people and growing strong. Watch the celebrity PSA here.
Join the Visual Petition, an ongoing action campaign from Surfers for Cetaceans and Minds in the Waterwith over 10,000 participants including Kelly Slater and numerous other surfers and celebrity activists and concerned citizens from around the world.
Check the Sea Shepherd website for up to date information from the "Cove Guardians" on the daily happenings in Taiji.
Watch The Cove. Spread the word. Pass it On.
Call and write your local Japanese Embassy to voice your concerns on the issues.
Photo Courtesy: Noah Schutz
The fate of nature's largest marine mammals has been the topic of closed door discussions this past week at the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Agadir, Morocco. Negotiations could have potentially seen the reinstatement of commercial whaling for the first time since the international moratorium was put into effect in 1986. On Wednesday the commission failed to seal the deal, which may appear at first glance as good news for the whales, but still leaves their immediate future in the corrupt hands of rogue whaling nations such as Iceland, Norway and Japan who have continued to illegally hunt tens of thousands of whales since the supposed "ban" was initially introduced three decades ago.
Created after World War II to conserve and manage international whale stocks, The IWC is made up of delegates from 88 both pro and anti-whaling nations, some of whom have no legitimate business in being at the bargaining table in the first place. According to former UN scientist and veteran IWC attendee Dr. Sidney Holt, the officially titled, "Proposed Consensus Decision to Improve the Conservation of Whales," is really "a proposal for the destruction of the International Whaling Commission as a serious inter-governmental body for both the conservation of whales and managing future human uses of them, using relevant and competent scientific and legal advice."
In a speech given to delegates earlier this week, Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett deemed the potential lifting of the 24-year-old moratorium as an impossibility. Garrett, who has come under fire from several key conservationists over the years for his softened stance on whaling issues, appears to finally be stepping up to the plate on behalf of the gentle giants of the sea. Australia not only led the way in opposition of the eventually rejected "peace plan" but they have also recently brought about a lawsuit against Japan at the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands to end the annual hunt in the Antarctic waters that are major feeding grounds for nearly four-fifths of the world's whales.
One of the major components comprising the moot deal would have been the allotment of a certain quota of whales to be legally hunted off the coastal waters of Japan and other pro-whaling nations in exchange for a significant reduction in the number of whales killed in Japan's annual bloodbath in the southern oceans. Hidden under the false guise of "scientific research," Japan's whaling program in the southern hemisphere sanctuary has long made a mockery of basic human intelligence as anyone with an IQ above room temperature can clearly decipher the difference between research and profit. With initiatives set forth by Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research with bogus names like "krill abundance and the feeding ecology of whales," one must wonder about the groundbreaking findings of such in depth analysis. However, the reality is that in over two-and-a-half decades of mass slaughter of these magnificent beings, not a single study has been conducted that has produced any significant conclusions. In short, the Japanese have been allowed to brutally murder 1,000 whales per year in Antarctica in order to inform the global community of their big breakthrough in scientific research: whales eat plankton, lots and lots of plankton. Look out Einstein, we seem to have some real braniacs on our hands here!
Some conservationists argue that the entire "trade off" proposal has been a blow to any real progress of The IWC and criticize certain non-profits for their consideration of the compromise deal as it further undermines the ultimate goal of abolishment of ALL whaling in the world's oceans. Noted Ramon Cardona, founder of Ocean Sentry, who was on the ground this week patiently awaiting the small time slot allowed for the NGO conglamerate's participation in open discussion meetings, "It is absolutely unacceptable that non-profit organizations such as Greenpeace, WWF and PEW, are in favor of the return to commercial whaling in the northern hemisphere in order to phase out whaling in the southern sanctuary. Not only does this go directly against the moratorium on commercial whaling, but it is even more disgraceful coming from supposed environmental organizations who are avidly collecting funds to defend whales."
To add further controversy to this year's meeting, Japan has recently been implicated in a vote-buying scandal in the weeks leading up to the IWC. Whether or not this revelation has influenced the suspension of 17 of the meeting's 88 member nation's right to vote by deputy chairman Anthony Liverpool, a diplomat from Antigua and Barbuda, is still under suspicion by critics. According to the London Sunday Times, Liverpool also appears to be living large at a luxury beach resort courtesy of the government of Japan to which he was quoted by the Associated Press as stating there was, "nothing odd about that." Other reports of bribery have come in the form of overseas aid, cash payments in envelopes and the offer of prostitutes to delegates. The countries banned from voting this year included Palau, the Marshall Islands, Ghana and Gambia and comprised mainly pro-whaling nations which had been expected to back Japan's proposal.
While the issue of fraudulent votes was publicly exposed in the recent Academy Award-winning film The Cove, the film has also put Japan in the hot seat for its horrific annual slaughter of tens of thousands of dolphins and pilot whales in Japanese coastal waters, who are not accounted for or regulated under IWC mandate due to their smaller size. With growing momentum from the film's overwhelming success and the recent worldwide media attention brought about by Sea Shepherd's latest high stakes campaign in the southern ocean, Japan is certainly feeling the pressure from the global community to put an end to its barbaric whaling practices. Of course one can not expect overnight miracles from a country whose former lead whaling negotiator, Masayuki Komatsu, once referred to the cetacean nation as the "cockroaches of the sea." However, one can always continue to have hope.