Sea Shepherd exits Palau agreement, heads for Libya

Sea Shepherd announced last Tuesday that Palau, under diplomatic pressure from Japan, has rescinded its Memorandum of Understanding to have Sea Shepherd patrol Palau for marine poachers (I stumbled across an article implicating the United States in pressuring Palau but, frustratingly enough, forgot to save the link).  A cursory internet search seems to confirm the news, though there’s little to link to here (Palau’s Island Times article was paywalled; I google-translated another from Spanish).  Japan reportedly made a counteroffer to provide its own patrol vessel in lieu of Sea Shepherd’s.  Sea Shepherd “welcomed” the news from Japan, which probably serves a few purposes for the Shepherds, not least of which is that they avoid the charges of hypocrisy that might result from attacking Japan for an anti-poaching effort.

The affair seems analogous to naming and shaming–how embarrassing must it be for a marine-oriented state to have an activist group known for harassing and sabotaging its quasi-private enterprise entering into a formal marine conservation agreement with an allied state?  The best case scenario is that the compromise, along with Sea Shepherd’s encouragement, will tip Japan’s norms in favor of marine conservation. However, as one of the largest tourism importers to tiny Palau, Japan can afford to maintain a cynical attitude toward the deal.

The development also frees up Sea Shepherd’s vessel for deployment elsewhere.  On a related note, Sea Shepherd has announced their supremely ballsy and probably stupid intention to patrol for tuna poachers off the Libyan coast.  The Steve Irwin has, insanely, been painted camouflage and its deck officers reportedly outfitted with bulletproof vests (I wonder if they know well enough to wear level 3/4 inserts over the soft kevlar).  It and Gojira are said to sail to Libya from Cannes around June 1st. Definitely one to keep an eye on as Season Four of Whale Wars kicks off next week(!).

UPDATE: I misused the word “insanely” in the above paragraph. Using camouflage to mitigate anticipated danger is a very rational move on the part of Sea Shepherd. I used “insanely” to express my amazement that they are fully aware of the danger they are courting in order to save some fish.

No one can say they aren't putting their money where their mouth is. Credit: Gerry Waneck/Sea Shepherd/MSNBC.

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