The game between whalers and anti-whalers turned dangerous on Wednesday when at least one activist was injured and an entire $2 million, Batman-styled ship banged up. Now it’s just a matter of time until one side or the other goes too far, and triggers real public outrage.
The ship that had its bow sheared off on Wednesday, the Ady Gil, was especially modified to be hard to spot, is far more manoeuvrable than the vessel with which it collided and was actively looking for trouble. The Shonan Maru 2, which ran it over, is part of the security detail of the reviled Japanese whaling fleet, which uses a barely-legal loophole to hunt for financial gain animals that are generally agreed should be protected.
In the public relations game, that makes for stalemate. There is enough ambiguity to reinforce the pre-existing bias (either for or against the annual whaling) of the average media consumer.
But the stakes have been raised. According to the best reports available at least one Ady Gil crewman was injured, and its operators have vowed to intensify their protest in pretty jingoistic language. The whalers, on the other hand, aren’t about to lose face or money by backing down.
So now we wait. The most likely scenario: the greenies push their luck too far and one of them is maimed or killed during extreme antics. In which case the whaling fleet will be recalled right toot sweet, perhaps never to sail again. Less likely, but still possible, is that it goes the other way. It’s been a while, but fundamentalist environmentalists have in the past proven willing to apply high explosives, Molotov Cocktails and other extreme solutions to what they consider extreme problems. It should take no more than two or three injured Japanese crewman to make general support and funding of the anti-whaling groups become untenable in a world where “terrorism” is increasingly broadly defined.
Or perhaps both sides will postpone disaster – for now. This is, after all, the Middle East of environmental conflicts. It’s not a matter of “if”, but of “when”.
By Phillip de Wet
Main photo: Reuters frame grab
WATCH: AP report on collision