The Whaling Debate Heats Up in Antarctica

Report from Captain Paul Watson, from the Farley Mowat
December 24, 2005

Accusations are being tossed everywhere. Everyone is condemning everyone else for their methods and their tactics. Media releases are being fired off from the hip. The Japanese whaling fleet is on the run and not killing whales. The Japanese decide that Hobart is not a safe port to enter, and instead they remove their sick crewmember by helicopter from fifty miles away to avoid a dockside confrontation with protesters. The Australian government is talking out of both sides of their mouth and looking like Japanese patsies. Yes, sir, the whale wars are heating up down here in the Southern Ocean.

Amid all the talk, the debate and the rhetoric, the fact is that the Japanese whalers are in blatant violation of numerous international conservation laws. The Australian government seems more concerned with condemning the messengers than in addressing the message.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and the Greenpeace Foundation are working together to stop the Japanese whaling fleet. Greenpeace may not agree with this, but the fact is that Greenpeace is the bark and Sea Shepherd is the bite, and a dog needs both bark and bite to repel a trespasser.

The Japanese are illegally trespassing in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and they are illegally trespassing in the Australian Antarctic Territory. The Australian Navy is staying in the doghouse on a chain because its master is encouraging and even giving aid to the burglars.

What is truly staggering is the incredible hypocrisy of the Australian government. Yesterday, Environment Minister Ian Campbell accused Greenpeace of being counter-productive and warned them to obey the laws of the sea. He said nothing about the aggressiveness of the Japanese whalers.

Today, Campbell is accusing Sea Shepherd Conservation Society of conspiring to attack and damage the Japanese fleet and alerting the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General to take action.

"There appears to be a prima facie case that they may be setting out to break the law," Senator Campbell said.

Then he reverses himself on his statements about Greenpeace the day before by saying, "I think there is a very good distance between this and the generally positive approach by Greenpeace. I think Greenpeace what has been doing is a service to the cause," he said. Amazing. Politics - the art of the possible where a politician can't remember what he said the day before.

Yet nowhere is it printed, stated, or recorded that the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Captain and crew have said they intend to attack and damage the Japanese fleet. (The word attack does not necessarily mean damage, it means we are going into a confrontation). There seems to be an assumption of lethality based on this message by an earlier Sea Shepherd reporting that the Japanese whalers have firearms and may use them and that Sea Shepherd crew were expecting to be attacked by the Japanese whalers. The Japanese whalers have, in fact, assaulted Greenpeace crewmembers with poles and water cannons and not a word about this criminal activity from the Australian government. [The message the government and media were referencing which included the word "attack" was neither an official website posting nor a press release it was simply a message from me to a few friends and supporters.]

So how does a report expressing concern about being attacked by the Japanese whalers suddenly transform into a statement of intent to commit criminal action?

The title of the e-mail that I released was "Tora, Tora, Tora." And Campbell has interpreted this to mean that he believes Sea Shepherd intends to attack the Japanese. Yet, the title was posted to focus on the physical aggression of Japan in its unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor. We were warning of the possibility of a Japanese attack on Sea Shepherd. They have already attacked and physically assaulted Greenpeace activists.  

And the question must be asked, what authority does Ian Campbell believe he has to investigate criminal charges against Sea Shepherd anyway? If his authority exists because we are in the Australian Antarctic Territory then why is Australia doing absolutely nothing about the invasion and exploitation of this territory by the Japanese? Does he intend to arrest Sea Shepherd down here and give the Japanese a "Get Out of Jail Free Card?"

Ian Campbell should concentrate on being the Minister of the Environment and protecting the whales instead of acting like a cheap and sleazy public relations flak for the Japanese whaling industry.

Shane Rattenbury of Greenpeace is reported in the Sydney Morning Herald as saying that this confirms his organization's worst fears about Sea Shepherd. We are at a loss to understand what those fears are since we never said at anytime that we intended to physically attack Japanese whalers. Sometimes I think the very existence of Sea Shepherd is the confirmation of Greenpeace's worst fears.

Rattenbury forgets that we are the original Greenpeacers. We were out on the high seas blocking harpoons before most of the Greenpeace crew were born. We are your elders, Shane, and you should be a little more respectful before making accusations that have no basis in fact.

What Rattenbury does not seem to grasp is that Sea Shepherd has inadvertently done Greenpeace a favour. Yesterday Ian Campbell was condemning Greenpeace and today he is lauding them.

What Australia should be doing is sending a Naval vessel down here to keep the peace. That would be the responsible thing to do. But they will not do it because it will be interpreted as an aggressive move by Japan if Australia is seen as having any authority in the area formally known as the Australian Antarctic Territory. We now refer to it as the Japanese Antarctic Territory since Japan seems to call the shots and determines the law down here.

Shane Rattenbury of Greenpeace also stated that what he saw "horrified us." I don't know why, since we have been seeing these exact same images every year for the last three decades. What horrifies me is that this illegal carnage against the whales is unopposed and is allowed to escalate.

Like it or not, Greenpeace will continue to work with Sea Shepherd on this issue because we are both pursuing the same target. Greenpeace can deny we are allies all they wish, but the enemy of my enemy is my ally like it or not. We appreciate the work of the crew of the Esperanza in keeping on the tail of the Japanese fleet. Greenpeace has the war chest to launch the best ship and paid crew for the job. Good for them.

Sea Shepherd does not have the money and hardware that Greenpeace has but we have the desire, the passionate compassion, the courage, and the resolve to defend these whales, and we will do so despite any obstruction placed in our way by Japan, Australia, Greenpeace, or anyone else.

The whales down here are our clients. It is they we defend and it is their interest we represent. Greenpeace may stand witness to the slaughter. We on the other hand will not abide slaughter, not on our watch. Any Japanese harpoon that we can block with our ship, we will do so.