After a successful campaign in the Southern Ocean onboard the Steve Irwin, local documentary photographer Sam Edmonds is hoping to join Sea Shepherd at the other end of the earth when Operation Grindstop gets underway in the Northern Hemisphere Summer.
Operation Grindstop 2014 will follow the Sea Shepherd’s modus operandi of direct action to intercept and disrupt, this time in an effort to stop the annual hunt of Pilot Whales and dolphins in the Faroe Island, a small self governing country within the Danish realm.
Sam popped into the studio during the week to show some pictures and talk about Sea Shepherd:
MF: How did you come to get involved with Sea Shepherd?
SE: Like most people on the Northern Beaches, I grew up surfing and pretty much spending every weekend in the water. That meant I had a lot of experiences with whales and dolphins so when I heard about what was going on in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary I got involved with Sea Shepherd straight away. I had just started uni at the time so I spent a couple of years with the onshore team raising awareness and doing events before last year when I was asked to go on campaign to Antarctica.
MF: Tell us about your previous mission with Sea Shepherd to the Southern Ocean?
Sea Shepherd are most famous for their annual anti-whaling campaign protecting Humpback and Minke Whales from Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary around Antarctica. The campaign happens from about November to March so at the end of last year I got a call from Sea Shepherd asking if I would like to board the M/Y Steve Irwin for Operation Relentless as a camera operator. I was elated to be given the opportunity especially because of the impeding ICJ ruling that meant this could have potentially been the last Antarctic campaign ever. Unfortunately, it looks like that isn’t going to be the case but we did manage to save the lives of 784 whales which was an amazing result! It was a really tough campaign in terms of finding the fleet but also because of the aggression from the whalers. They rammed us and tried to prop-foul us on several occasions. It was an awesome experience.
MF: What sets Sea Shepherd’s approach apart from other anti-whaling organisation?
SE: Probably the biggest factor that sets Sea Shepherd apart from other groups is their direct action approach. Sea Shepherd is quite notorious for its controversial tactics, especially in the Southern Ocean. This really stems from the ideology that informed the group when Paul Watson founded it in 1977 and what effectively got him kicked out of Greenpeace. There’s a whole array of environmental groups out there now and most of them have their place. Some appeal to diplomacy and simply raising awareness but Sea Shepherd has always been very hands on and very much about directly intervening when an injustice is taking place.
MF: Where are the Faroe Islands and what is Sea Shepherd’s mission there?
This year, Sea Shepherd is running “Operation Grindstop” again. Grindstop happens in the Faroe Islands, which are about halfway between Scotland and Iceland. The Islands are a part of Denmark and every year the locals there band together and slaughter around 3000 pilot whales, which they argue is subsistence whaling. So basically, Sea Shepherd’s mission there is to stop the hunting of pilot whales and make sure none are killed during the sixteen-week season.
MF: Why is this mission important to you?
Grindstop is really important to me not only because the hunts there are a big tragedy but also because I think the campaign is going to be really vital in communicating this issue to the world and helping to end whaling in a larger context.
People in Australia and on the Northern Beaches especially are really aware of Sea Shepherd’s Antarctic campaign and it’s so inspiring to see the amount of cars on the Northern Beaches that have Sea Shepherd stickers on them! But I think there is a lot of room for other Sea Shepherd campaigns to get some attention. Pilot whales are a hugely intelligent and socially complex species that spend their whole lives in very tight-knit family groups so it’s a huge tragedy to see this slaughter happening and I think it would be awesome to see a whole lot of cars on the Northern Beaches with Operation Grindstop stickers on the back! It’s places like the Northern Beaches where people have such a good connection to the ocean that we see people really coming out and supporting causes like this. So I’m really happy to be attending the campaign and trying to stop the hunts with the help and support of the people from Manly to Palmy.