Whale Wars is back for a second season! What? You’ve never heard of Whale Wars? It’s only the most popular show on Animal Planet. Of course it is. Any show about armies of whales at war with each other must be entertaining! Sadly, Whale Wars is about the war against whaling. We follow the plight of activist Paul Watson, an over-weight Kenny Rogers look-alike, captain of the MV Steve Irwin, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and former member of Greenpeace. There are about forty-five other crewmembers onboard including the camera crew, so although it’s a show on Animal Planet, the only animals we see consistently are the ship’s crew.

Years ago, Japan found a loophole in the international ban on whaling claiming that they are murdering whales for research purposes by taking flesh samples and weighing stomach contents. This year they said they would take 50 endangered Fin whales and 951 Minke whales. I’m not sure why you need to have a thousand dead of any animal in order to research it. The most ludicrous part of this are the huge white letters on the side of the Japanese vessels that read, simply, “RESEARCH,” like a narcotics officer wearing a Bob Marley t-shirt. Naturally, after the whales have been slaughtered, the Japanese sell the meat on the black market.

Now that you’re filled with righteous indignation, let’s send the Steve Irwin to go get those bastards, right? Well, kind of. The “battles” are little more than harassment. They threaten to ram the Japanese ships. They throw bottles of the extremely smelly and meat-ruining butyric acid to disrupt operations. They attempt to destroy propellers by leaving long ropes in the water. Once, in the first season, two crewmembers boarded one of the Japanese ships and were detained. That’s the extent of the Sea Shepherds’ arsenal.

But, the techniques are highly effective, right? Well, yes and no. Actually, just no. Even when the Sea Shepherds’ techniques are successful (they’re usually not), they don’t really cause any damage or force the Japanese ships to port. At best, they momentarily distract the Japanese from whaling. Worse, the Japanese have been fighting back in much more effective ways, for instance, with powerful water cannons and a sound-wave gun called an LRAD (pronounced “ellrad”), which is usually employed by cruise ships to run off Somali pirates.

For these reasons, the show can be frustrating to watch. The Sea Shepherds clearly need to be more aggressive in order to effect any change. They should be actively trying to sink these ships (a technique which they have employed before on docked whaling ships) or trying to capture Japanese crewmembers. Unfortunately, the Sea Shepherds are composed of pacifists who balk at the suggestion of making a grappling hook to board the Japanese vessel because it might hit somebody. Yet the Japanese are far from non-violent. They throw metal objects and use the LRAD on the Steve Irwin’s helicopter, which could greatly disorient the pilot. Moreover, they use harpoons to destroy the earth’s most majestic creatures. And although it’s great that the Sea Shepherds do what they do, you have to roll your eyes. They bring a knife to a gunfight and then refuse to use it because it’s too violent.

The first season starts off with Paul in the heat of battle finding a piece of metal under in his bullet proof vest and claiming he has been shot (this was never confirmed), the rest of the season is a flashback leading up to this point, which in general mostly centers around actually finding the whaling ships. In this season, there is much more action. Most episodes focus on the Steve Irwin harassing the Nisshin Maru, the Japanese whaling mother ship.

Despite all of this, the show is entertaining and even invigorating. The camera work is amazing. The show boasts one of the most fitting theme songs in television history, The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Bullet with Butterfly Wings,” which serves to rally any would-be viewer. Although some of the crewmembers are banal, the subject matter adds an edge to the show that is simply absent from most other television save for the best news magazines and documentaries. Of course, there is a “cliffhanger” before every commercial break and at the end of every show, and you can’t watch it without the sense that Animal Planet is desperately trying to manipulate you. Still, every episode makes you eager to devour the next one, and at this rate, we will definitely see the show back for another season.

So, sharpen your harpoon, batten down your hatches and set sail for Whale Wars. There’s still one episode left in the season (the others are available online) and who knows, maybe Paul and his friends will actually save a whale this time.

Starring: Paul Watson, Christ Aultman, Simon Avery, Laura Dakin, Laurens de Groot, Molly Kendall, Andy Perry, Jane Taylor, Luke van Horn, Peter Hammarstedt.

Producers: Elizabeth Bronstein, Jason Carey, Dee Bagwell Haslam

Network: Animal Planet

Airtime: Fridays, 9:00pm EST


  • Romeo Diaz
    Romeo Diaz on

    I found your review very balanced. I’m hooked on the show. The last episode was heart wrenching to see 4 whales slaughtered. I don’t understand why they don’t have more tools in their arsenal to fight the whaling fleet. How bout remote control unmanned predator type devices. T-shirt canons anyone for the bottles of acid? Helmets and shields that can deflect the sound waves? Am I the only thinking of these things. I will be watching on friday. Go Sea Shepards!

  • Skye Ferguson
    Skye Ferguson on

    While I agree with the aboove poster, I do not think that the poster nor the reviewer understand that using weapons that may injure the Japanese is not the goal. If you can understand the actions of the Sea Shepherd Society, you will see that using such devices will ultimately end the fight as the charges that will be filed will doom the efforts entirely.

    The efforts of the Japanese are much more aggressive than Sea Shepherds, with logical reasoning of it makes the Japanese LOOK really bad…that in turn hurts them commercially and adds public support against the Japanese.

    There is no doubt that using guns and other weapons would work MUCH better…but at what cost to the global aspect of marine animals in general. Whales are not the only efforts by the Sea Shepherd Society. I would suggest every one go to their website http://www.seashepherd.org/ there you will find the real reasons for not more aggressive maneuvers.

  • Rex
    Rex on

    The Sea Shepherds must adhere to international maritime laws or have their Dutch flag revoked. That’s why they can’t just ram and sink other ships at sea. A flagless ship is considered a “pirate” and can be legally attacked without reason by anyone. The Sea Shepherds are having an effect by (mostly) preventing the whalers from actually whaling. Each day without a whale slaughtered costs the whale poachers millions of dollars. They’ve made it clear they are trying to “sink” the Japanese whaling industry financially – without harming a single animal (humans included). Yes, please read the Sea Shepherd site for details. This issue is so important as within the last 100 years we have already seen the extinction of a number of whale species. Animals which we will never see on planet Earth again.

  • Evan Jacobs
    Evan Jacobs on

    @Rex and @Skye Ferguson

    What I didn’t mention in my review is that I am slightly biased. I have been fascinated with whales nearly my entire life and even find the killing of whales in America to be a heinous crime, regardless of culture.

    I completely understand that the Sea Shepherd must adhere to international maritime laws, but at that rate, their methods have been shown to be completely ineffective. Now, the real answer to the problem is finding a way to dissuade people from buying whale meat on the black market. Once that happens, the whaling industry will have no way to make a profit. But, considering that there still must be a show called whale wars, the Sea Shepherds could at least get their own LRAD or something like that.

    Furthermore, I did read that they previously scuttled two of the Japanese’s vessels. So why couldn’t they do that again?

    Paul Watson was a man who attacked Greenpeace for their lack of aggression, but here he is again, stymied by his own need to play fair. The problem is that the enemy is not playing fair. For God’s sake, they’re killing fin whales, an endangered species.

    Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not talking about hurting the Japanese sailors. For the most part they are just trying to feed their families. But it is a lifestyle that they must give up.

    Because, although the Japanese may LOOK bad (at least to the few people who actually watch this show), they are still killing whales, even right in front of the Sea Shepherds. It might be worth the cost of an international incident to sink the Nisshin Maru. At least that guarantees safety for hundreds of whales while the Japanese scramble to get a new ship. And I’m not saying that this has to be televised, it could just be a rogue entity. In the meantime, the Steve Irwin should at least equip an LRAD.

    Anyway, I appreciate the comments!

  • D Palmer
    D Palmer on

    I found this review very bias and it shows a lack of knowledge.

    The Japanese whalers are not selling the meat on the black market. The meat is sold on the regular market like any other animal product. And the Japanese are required to use as much of the animal as possible by the same regulations that allow them to perform the whale hunt. Try visiting the IWC website.

    The Sea Shepherd should adhere to international maritime laws, but they don’t. Boarding a ship at sea is not legal. Attempting to disable a ship at sea is not legal. Ramming another ship at sea is not legal.

    The helo pilot played up the danger of the LRAD and he wouldn’t have had anything to worry about if he wasn’t flying too close to the Japanese ship.

  • Moon
    Moon on

    You remind me a lot of Paul Watson in the way you are making up crapo. You spin your nonsense without any facts. You are using your forum to tell the same kind of lies as the boneheads from the SS. The whale meat is NOT SOLD ON THE BLACK MARKET. It is totally legal in Japan and sold right in the open fish market with all of the other sea food. So quite with the black market BS.

    The Japanese are following a moratorium on whaling set forth in 1984. This they do on their own without being forced to do so by anyone. They could at any moment thumb their nose at everyone who cares about whales at start up a complete whaling force again. With this kind of continuing hassle they may do so soon just out of spite.

    You are using the analogy of sinking the mother ship. How about using the same one on you and your web site crew. Someone makes the terrible choice to get rid of you and chooses to plant a bomb at your building, Itâ

  • Daniel Tant
    Daniel Tant on

    If whales are able to communicate at very long distance then why can’t the Steve Irwine use large underwater speakers useing whale sounds of danger.

  • Bob
    Bob on

    I’m not surprised that the Japanese are bat-shit crazy!

    Afer all, they eat all the tainted crap out of the ocean.

    Mercury and other toxins have been proven to totally mess your brain up.

    The Sea Shepherds are unfortunately stuck with certain rules of engagement.

    I wish the hell they could just torpedo the crap out of these crazy Jap SOBS.

    Unfortunately they can’t, and watching the shows, it shows how woefully out-gunned they are.

    To their detractors, f-you! What are you doing to save this planet!

    While I realize it is a lost cause, at least these people are doing something.

    While the author doesn’t get some facts straight, lets nit-pick him to death. I believe you f—s couldn’t get your story straight on what you had for breakfast this morning.

    So lead on Sea Shepherd, may all you Japanese whaling boats be sunk to the bottom of the briny deep!

    Feel free to email me: cemtest@hotmail.com

  • Evan Jacobs
    Evan Jacobs on

    Thanks for all the comments!

    I am just writing to say that I am taking back what I said about the black market. Yes, the whale meat from Minke and Fin whales is sold legitimately. However, Blue Whale meat has also been found on the Japanese black market. (See “Kingdom of the Blue Whale.” And it MUST be whaling ships processing the Blue Whales because there are no other ships that have the capacity to do so, although it might not necessarily be the Nisshin Maru. So, although they are not selling the Minke and Fin meat on the black market, there is almost certainly a lot of unseen illegal operations, as the Japanese whaling market is corrupt. So, I take back what I said about the black market. Only some meat is sold there.

    Besides that fact, I have not “made up” anything. True, I didn’t to a huge amount of research (this is, after all, a television show review, and not a commentary on whaling), but I must say that in terms of my review, I was very unbiased. I said what problems the show had and what was good about it.

    That being said, after having seen the season finale, I find it troubling that we are not given any numbers, save for the total whale count from the Japanese fleet, that can show us whether Paul and his crew are really doing anything. And these are not just my views. The crew members repeatedly say that they aren’t sure that they are effective, and that they need to come up with some new tricks.

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