DEFEND CONSERVE PROTECT

Reviewed by GREG KING

Documentary

Director: Stephen Amis

The Sea Shepherd vessel Bob Barker is sandwiched between two Japanese whaling ships.

This powerful eye-opening documentary follows the efforts of the Sea Shepherd crews to thwart the Japanese whaling fleet in the Great Southern Ocean.

Every year the Japanese whaling fleet arrogantly and ignorantly continue to hunt endangered but protected Minke whales under the guise of scientific research. The Sea Shepherd crews are pretty much now the only force policing the illegal whaling and fishing in this part of the world. The crews are mainly volunteers, and they face great danger from the aggressive Japanese ships which use powerful water cannons against them. When the ship Bob Barker attempts to disrupt refuelling activities by placing itself between a whaler and the fuel ship, the Nisshin Maru rams the Sea Shepherd ship. The film was shot over a period of four months by the crews of the ships themselves, and the extraordinary footage takes us into the heart of this David and Goliath like struggle. We see the calmness and beauty of the early days at sea as the crews hunt for the whaling fleet in the vast expanse of ocean. The tension ramps up when they find the whaling fleet and move in to disrupt their illegal activities and the confrontations occur.

The captain of the Bob Barker is Peter Hammarstedt, a 28-year old who is one of the veterans of the Sea Shepherd mission. He talks about the risks that the Sea Shepherd crews face, but these activists feel motivated to act in the face of the seeming apathy and indifference from governments and international organisations like the UN. He describes whaling as an “aging, decrepit and morally bankrupt industry.” Crew members are passionate about their task and speak about how vital and important the whale population is to the ocean environment and the importance of saving them. Since 1950 there has been a 40% decrease in the plankton population on the planet, and this is largely due to the decrease in the whale population. There are many challenges facing our oceans with climate change and whaling, which have an impact on the marine ecosystem.

This is something of a passion project for director Stephen Amis (The BBQ, etc), who spent four years working on the film. Along with editor and co-producer Alana Tompson, Amis has assembled hours of footage shot by the Sea Shepherd crews over two and a half months during their 2013 campaign, and shaped it into this gripping 80-minute film. The raw footage contains some stunning visuals and some terrifying moments. Unlike some other documentaries dealing with this issue which have shown graphic footage of the whales being killed, here Amis eschews that usual vision and concentrates on the Sea Shepherd crews.

There is no voice over narration here, rather the crews speak for themselves and offer context for their actions. Amis has Dan Aykroyd provide the voice for the whales, giving us their perspective, but this device seems a little pretentious.

Defend Conserve Protect is as much about the importance of activism as it is about saving the whales. Like The Cove, the 2009 documentary about Japanese fishermen in a small coastal village who trapped and slaughtered dolphins for pet food, Defend Conserve Protect will make you angry, and will hopefully inspire more people to either take action or support Sea Shepherd in their mission.

★★★

Speak Your Mind