Commentary by Paul Watson Founder of Sea Shepherd.
A Year of Living Precariously
By Captain Paul Watson
May 18th marked a full year since Japan and Japan’s co-conspirator Costa Rica had me detained in Frankfurt, Germany on politically motivated charges.
However despite the fact that Japan has invested close to thirty million dollars to destroy Sea Shepherd and myself, I remain free and Sea Shepherd continues to be an effective organization.
Last month, Sea Shepherd Australia announced plans for Operation Relentless, the 10th campaign to the Southern Ocean to defend the whales from the illegal whaling activities of the Japanese whaling industry.
Japanese economic and political power and influence has succeeded in forcing Sea Shepherd USA to withdraw from the Southern Ocean campaigns to comply with the U.S. Court ordered injunction to not interfere with the slaughter of whales by Japan in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
Fortunately Sea Shepherd Australia under the leadership of Jeff Hansen and Bob Brown are raising the support to carry on the campaigns without the support or involvement of Sea Shepherd USA.
Sea Shepherd groups in different countries are independent of each other but all the groups have three things in common. The first is that Sea Shepherd groups all adhere to a strict nonviolent strategy and that is the reason that not a single person has been killed or injured by any Sea Shepherd action since Sea Shepherd was established as a movement in 1977.
The second thing is that all Sea Shepherd groups were established to intervene against illegal operations. Sea Shepherd groups do not protest. The objective is and always has been to interfere with unlawful operations. The Japanese whaling ships are unlawfully slaughtering whales in an internationally established whale sanctuary. The whalers are also currently in contempt of an Australian Federal Court ruling prohibiting the killing of whales in the waters of the Australian Antarctic Territory.
The third thing is that Sea Shepherd groups recognize and comply with the law. For this reason Sea Shepherd USA complied with a court ordered injunction in 1998 during the Makah whale hunt and Sea Shepherd USA also complied readily and fully with the court ordered injunction granted to the Japanese whalers in December 2012 by the Ninth District Court of the United States.
Sea Shepherd Australia however is not answerable to the U.S. Court but they feel duty bound to uphold the court order of the Australian Federal Court prohibiting whaling in Australian waters.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society of all nations have never been convicted of a criminal action in the entire history of the Sea Shepherd movement and this is a record that Sea Shepherd groups of all nations intend to keep.
One of the problems in the modern world however is that wealthy nations and wealthy corporations consistently abuse the law.
Australia is presently working to bring Japan to the International Court of Justice and hopefully this case will be heard sometime within the next year. Australia and Japan hold the position that Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean under the guise of “scientific research” whaling is illegal.
The United States government has chosen to sit on the fence although the U.S. Ninth District Court has apparently taken a pro whaling stance.
Although I disagree with the injunction imposed by the U.S. Court I am duty bound to comply with it because I am a citizen of the United States. Sea Shepherd USA is also duty bound to comply with the injunction.
Sea Shepherd groups outside of the United States are not bound by a U.S. Court order and in the case of Australia, Sea Shepherd Australia is operating in a manner to uphold the rulings of the Australian Federal Court.
Sea Shepherd ships are allowed unrestricted access to Australian and New Zealand ports. Japanese whaling ships are banned from entry into Australian and New Zealand ports. Any Japanese whaling ship that enters an Australian port would be subject to arrest by Australian authorities for contempt and for unlawfully killing whales in Australian waters.
Sea Shepherd Australia led Operation Zero Tolerance which successfully brought down the kill figures by the Japanese whalers to just under 10%. Operation Zero Tolerance was the most successful of the nine campaigns Sea Shepherd has undertaken to the Southern Ocean.
The Japanese whalers described Operation Zero Tolerance as “violent, relentless” and strangely they also described it as “inhumane”. George Orwell would have chuckled at the irony of that statement.
During Operation Zero Tolerance there was not a single violent action initiated by the Sea Shepherd crew. The whaling ships deliberately and violently attacked the Sea Shepherd ships.
But because the whalers described Sea Shepherd as “relentless”, Sea Shepherd Australia decided to name the next campaign as “Operation Relentless.”
I led the first eight campaigns to the Southern Ocean but over the years, an experienced network of Sea Shepherd directors and crew have evolved so that the helm that I was forced to step away from by the U.S. Court imposed injunction was immediately taken over by Sea Shepherd activists outside of the United States to keep the campaigns on course.
Last month Peter Bethune signed a declaration that he was forced to accuse me of ordering him to board the Japanese security ship Shonan Maru #2. This accusation is the sole basis for the Japanese issuing an arrest warrant for me that has placed me on the Interpol Red List.
In 2010, Japan gave Bethune a suspended sentence in return for that accusation. The question now is whether Interpol will take this into account and drop this listing on the grounds that the listing was politically motivated and without substantial evidence.
I hope they will see the justice of the case but the fact remains that Japan has a army of lawyers to throw at Sea Shepherd and I and the reality is that we am up against one of the great economic super powers on the planet.
But despite the obstacles and the inconvenience of my situation, I am happy with what Sea Shepherd has achieved over the last decade. The thousands of whales that we have saved have been worth the sacrifices.
It has never been easy. From the days of challenging the Soviet whaling fleet in the North Pacific in 1975 to our landing in Siberia in 1981 to get evidence on illegal Soviet whaling in 1981 to stopping the pirate whalers in the Atlantic throughout the Eighties to challenging the illegal operations of the Japanese whaling fleet for the last ten years, my life has been dedicated to saving the lives of whales and doing so aggressively but nonviolently. Thousands of lives saved and none taken and no injuries caused.
No matter what our critics say, not matter what the consequences, the one thing that can never be taken away from us are the lives we have saved, the laws we have helped to bring into play and the criminal operations we have shut down.
Although I am no longer directing Sea Shepherd campaigns I am confident that the Southern Ocean campaigns are in competent hands and that the Sea Shepherd crews will continue to save the lives of whales from the criminal operations of the Japanese whaling fleet.