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The Wild War to Protect Bluefin Tuna In Libyan Waters, and Obama's Troubling Role

The waters off Libya are a NATO no-fly zone, which is good news to poachers: No inspectors. No surveillance.

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"It's illegal for the US to use the IRS as a weapon against an organization in collusion with a foreign government," says Watson, whose group has maintained tax-exempt status since 1981. "Obama was making secret deals with Japan. No other president has done this. Every president since Reagan has stood fast on the whaling issue. This is the first administration to swerve. This president has reneged on every offer he ever made for us. I voted for him. That's what really gets me," says Watson, who was a Green Party candidate in Vancouver's 1995 mayoral race.

After last year's Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Watson "wanted to go to the gulf with a boat and clean animals. We were told, 'If you so much as touch an animal that's covered with oil, you'll go to jail.' So we couldn't rescue a single animal, because BP owns Obama. He's an industry guy."

On May 27 of this year, the Obama administration officially declined to grant endangered species status to the Atlantic bluefin. 

"At least Republicans are honest," Watson says.

So he battles for tuna, cod, salmon, dolphins and the heavily overfished Chilean seabass, which Watson insists cannot be caught sustainably, no matter what their packaging says at Whole Foods. (He says the word "sustainable" is a euphemism for "business as usual.") He battles for sea cucumbers, whose population has been decimated in the breathtakingly beautiful, mercilessly poached South Pacific. He fights for sharks, as detailed in the gory 2006 documentary Sharkwater. He fights for fur seals, although "I think we won this one. We got the EU to ban seal pelts. Seal pelts are now worthless in Europe." 

And because he fights for whales, "Japan treats Sea Shepherd like we're a nation they're at war with. It's sheer arrogance. They think nobody can tell them what to do."

In 2009, SSCS insiders went undercover at a trendy California sushi restaurant they'd heard served whale to trusted customers. Sneaked-out samples were DNA-identified as whale. The restaurant closed, its owner and chef slammed with federal charges. Last week, a Los Angeles seafood dealer pled guilty to providing the meat.

"But we know there's still a large distribution in whale meat among sushi restaurants in America," Watson says.

"A small group of people will pay a lot of money to eat endangered species. There's a special thrill in ordering something it's a federal crime to eat."

That thrill is alive and well. Mitsubishi Corporation hoards massive quantities of frozen bluefin, hoping to cash in on the species' collapse.

"Mitsubishi has a five-year supply of bluefin," Watson explains. "They'd like to get a ten-year supply, because diminishment translates to scarcity and scarcity translates to higher prices. If they drive the bluefin into extinction, we're looking at a million-dollar fish. So there's no interest in conserving them.

"I call it the economy of extinction."

Whale Wars ' fourth season, which starts this Friday, "will hopefully be our last, because we've succeeded in driving the Japanese whaling fleet out of the Southern Ocean. They can move, but they know we will find them."

So it's on to Libya — and then the Faroe Islands, a North Sea Danish protectorate where thousands of pilot whales are slaughtered every year for sport. In a tradition known as "the Grind," massive quantities of whales — entire pods at a time — are corraled into shallow bays, gaffed, slashed, and slain. The sea turns Clamato-red. The crowds rejoice.

"It's barbaric, a big orgy of slaughter. We've got pictures of people ripping fetuses out of pregnant females for fun." 

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