Comments on BBC's Q&A on Whaling

Captain Watson Responds to BBC's Q&A with Sara Holden of Greenpeace

Comments on BBC's Q&A on Whaling

Captain Watson Responds to BBC's Q&A with Sara Holden of Greenpeace

Although not a part of the Q&A by the BBC, Captain Watson has added his comments to the exchange below because of serious allegations by Sara Holden on the activities of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Q&A: Your whaling questions answered

The BBC's Jonah Fisher has been reporting from the Greenpeace ship Experanza as it tracked the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean. The fleet plans to kill about 900 minke whales and 50 fin whales by mid-April as part of what it describes as a scientific research programme. Greenpeace said they were chasing the whalers who cannot hunt  while being watched, but they had to abandon the chase after six weeks due to fuel shortages.

Below, Jonah Fisher and Sara Holden from Greenpeace answer your questions about Japanese whaling.

QUESTION: What is preventing Greenpeace's Esperanza from refuelling back in Australia and returning to Antarctica? Is the crew physically exhausted or are funds not being released from Greenpeace's HQ to refuel their ship?
Norma Caton Preston Lancashire

SARA HOLDEN: We think now is the time to put political pressure in Japan. We've started that process in the Southern Ocean and what we need to do is concentrate our resources where we will be most effective in stopping whaling for the entire season every year not just this year. It's neither a question of money or energy, it's a question of where we will be the most effective and we believe at this point having generated this amount of pressure that we will be most effective in Japan.

CAPTAIN PAUL WATSON: This is really a non-answer. Diplomatic and political pressure have been directed at Japan over this issue since 1986 without any positive results. The Japanese whaling fleet CAN be stopped at sea. Greenpeace has the money and the ships to harass the Japanese whaling fleet and prevent the killing of whales. In fact they spend more money on raising money to save the whales than they spend in the field and only a fraction of the funds raised to oppose whaling are actually spent opposing whaling. As far as lobbying in Japan, Greenpeace has no credibility in Japan to influence the Japanese media or the politicians. The only credibility activists have is in their actions, not in their talking. Greenpeace has the money and the ability to return to the Southern Oceans with Sea Shepherd yet they will not do so. They have surrendered the Whale Sanctuary to the whalers. Sea Shepherd will not do that. We are returning and we are going into debt to do so.

QUESTION: Greenpeace appears to lack the logistical capabilities to refuel and restock its ships at sea and consequently the whaling fleet will now be able to continue unimpeded with its hunting. Can Greenpeace put in place the necessary logistical capabilities to stay at sea for longer periods of time for next season?
Sean from Bath, in the UK

SARA HOLDEN: We took as much fuel as we could possibly carry. There is an opportunity to refuel at sea, we did that one year but this year we've decided what we need to do now is to use the pressure we've created in the Southern Ocean on the Japanese government in Japan. It's nothing to do with our logistical capabilities.

CAPTAIN PAUL WATSON: The Greenpeace ship could refuel and be back in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary within two weeks if they wanted to do so and there is still the opportunity to harass the whaling fleet and stop whaling for another three to four weeks. Sara is correct that it has nothing to do with their logistical capabilities and everything to do with the refusal to spend the funds needed to return to the Whale Sanctuary.

QUESTION: Can you shame the firms supplying the fleet with fuel? I mean the big boys in the domestic fuel market wouldn't care for it to be known that they help the whaling fleets.
BJ Nicholson Manchester

SARA HOLDEN: Well the big boys of the fuelling companies probably refuel this ship as well so that would be somewhat hypocritical but there is a big question over the refuelling vessel the Oriental Bluebird. She's flagged in Panama and doesn't have a license to be part of the whaling fleet. We have raised that issue very strongly with the Panamanian government.

CAPTAIN PAUL WATSON: And the Panamanian government has responded by doing absolutely nothing. Japan speaks the language of money and that is the primary language of most countries and most certainly of Panama.

Why did the Esperanza not put itself between the tanker and the whaling ship?
Sylvia Johnson London England

SARA HOLDEN: One of the reasons we're objecting to what they were doing is that they were refuelling within Antarctic waters and there is quite clearly a risk of a spill in what is a protected area. We would not want to aggravate that by putting in a much larger ship. What we wanted to do was try and delay the process by using small inflatables without risking the environment.

CAPTAIN PAUL WATSON: Good question. The Esperanza could have blocked the Oriental Bluebird. Or if Greenpeace had cooperated with Sea Shepherd they would have realized that the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin was the best tool they had. Twice before we have disrupted refueling operations between the Oriental Bluebird and the whalers by simply approaching them. If Greenpeace had cooperated with coordinates we could have been there to prevent the refueling. By allowing the whalers to refuel, Greenpeace allowed the whalers to continue to operate. They could have been stopped right there by blocking the ships with the Esperanza. Or if they had kept their inflatables between the two ships they could have also stopped the two ships from coming together. Greenpeace said that such a tactic was dangerous and they withdrew. Of course it was dangerous but non-violent tactics can be dangerous. Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. had their followers injured and even killed but they did not back down because it was "dangerous."

QUESTIONS: I received reports that the Sea Shepherd organisation tried in vain to co-operate with Greenpeace. On a budget far less than Greenpeace's they, in my opinion, have done far more than Greenpeace to highlight the plight of the whales. Why will Greenpeace not co-operate with Sea Shepherd?
Nicki Edwards in Kent, England

SARA HOLDEN: We have a policy of non violence and non violence is non negotiable as far as Greenpeace is concerned. Sea Shepherd we believe doesn't have the same attitude towards the tactics that they use and that's why we don't work with them.

CAPTAIN PAUL WATSON: This is the question that motivated my comments. Greenpeace constantly accused Sea Shepherd of being a violent organization yet Sea Shepherd has never caused a single injury to any person in our entire 30 year history of high seas activism and we have never had a crewmember convicted of a felony crime.

Sea Shepherd does not even protest, we oppose illegal activities that exploit marine wildlife and habitats. We do destroy equipment used to illegally kill whales or shark or seals but even Martin Luther King Jr. once wrote that violence cannot be committed against a non-sentient object. The Dalai Lama is a supporter of Sea Shepherd and he would not support us if we were a violent organization. The Greenpeace strategy is the same one promoted by the Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels who said that if you tell a lie often enough people will begin to believe it. Greenpeace works with Earthfirst! a group that sabotages legal logging equipment yet they condemn Sea Shepherd for damaging illegal whaling equipment.

Sea Shepherd has tried to cooperate with Greenpeace for years. We gave Greenpeace the coordinates to find the fleet last year and we gave them the coordinates to locate the catcher boats this year. We offered to share our helicopter with them and we offered to set up a search pattern with them. They have consistently refused to cooperate.

QUESTION: Will Sea Shepherd or the Australian Oceanic Viking be able to continue where the Esperanza left off?
Malcolm Espley, Tattenhall near Chester

SARA HOLDEN: We expect that the same thing will happen as happened with us. That the Japanese do not want to be scrutinised and so they will not whale while the Oceanic Viking is there. And that's a good indication of the level of pressure they're under and the dramatic impact that those kind of images have on world opinion that they don't want them shown. If they're doing nothing wrong what are they hiding from?

CATAIN PAUL WATSON:  Sara was proven wrong today when the Japanese killed five whales as the crew of the Oceanic Viking looked on and took pictures. They will not kill whales when Sea Shepherd returns to harass them. The one great difference between Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd is that since I left Greenpeace 30 years ago I have not seen a whale die at sea from a harpoon. The reason is that when Sea Shepherd arrives the killing stops and they run. We don't hang banners. We don't film and photograph whales dying in horrific agony. What we do is intervene and shut down the killing and we do it on a fraction of the Greenpeace budget with volunteers and we do it without in injuring anyone. Lives saved without injuries inflicted. What is there to oppose with that approach?