Captain Paul Watson Responds to the Australian Federal Police

Upon receiving a copy of A Warrant to Intervene, Captain Watson received an e-mail from Superintendent Jason Byrnes of the Australian Federal Police:

From: Byrnes, Jason
Date: Thu, 21 Feb 2008 05:08 -0800 Msg: AMOS-115713675
Subject: AFP message to Captain Watson [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]
To: Captain - Steve Irwin
To: Peter Garrett
Cc: AOCC-Duty-Coordinators

Captain Watson

Thank you for this evening's email titled "A Warrant to Intervene - Sea Shepherd Intends to Enforce the Australian Court Order". The AFP is concerned by the contents of your email, particularly in regards to your proposed actions against Japanese whaling vessels in the Southern Ocean.

As you are aware, the Australian Government's position on the issue has been articulated by The Honourable Stephen Smith MP, the Minister for Foreign Affairs.  He stated that "when it comes to actions in the Southern Ocean or on the high seas everyone should exercise restraint and everyone has to conduct themselves in a manner which puts safety at seas as the highest and paramount consideration".

The AFP calls on you to respect the need to practice a high standard of seamanship, and to adhere to the requirements of the regulations of the International Maritime Organisation that require masters of vessels to take all necessary precautions to preserve the safety of life at sea.  Hazard mitigation should, and must be, your principle concern.

In order to clarify the AFP's position for you and your crew, there is no support for violent or unlawful protest activity against the Japanese whaling fleet.

Should you have any further queries or issues, or wish to provide further information, do not hesitate to email or telephone.

Please note that because I work rostered shift operations, it is preferred that future emails be sent to the address of my unit -  This will guarantee a quick response as there is that address is monitored on a '24/7' basis.  Similarly, the telephone number for the Duty Officer's office is +61 (0) 2 6126 7299.

Kind regards,

Superintendent Jason Byrnes
Duty Officer
AFP Operations Coordination Centre
Australian Federal Police

Captain Paul Watson's Response

To: Superintendent Jason Byrnes,

We have absolutely no intention of conducting any violent protest against the Japanese whaling fleet.

The Federal court order was clear. The Japanese whaling fleet must be restrained from killing any whales in the Australian Antarctic Territorial waters. We are not protesting whaling, we are intervening to stop continued illegal whaling activity.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has never committed an act of violence. We have always been committed to the enforcement of international conservation law.

We intend to take all necessary  precautions to preserve safety at sea. We also intend to take all necessary action to prevent the unlawful killing of whales.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society calls upon the Australian Federal Police to intervene to uphold the Federal court order prohibiting unlawful whaling in the Australian Whale Sanctuary.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is not comfortable having to take on the responsibility of enforcement of international and Australian law but lack of enforcement by national enforcement agencies leaves us with no alternative but to do what we can, with the resources available to us to stop the illegal killing of whales.

My crew and I are not operating in any covert manner. We take full responsibility for our actions and we are prepared to defend our actions both legally and morally.

Is there a discrimination here on the enforcement of the law? Is the AFP concerned with enforcement ONLY against actions taken by Sea Shepherd crew against illegal Japanese whaling. It appears that the AFP is unconcerned with enforcement against illegal acts being committed by the Japanese whaling fleet.

I also notice that the AFP seems unconcerned with illegal actions by the Japanese whaling fleet with regard to us. Japanese whaling ships have rammed the Sea Shepherd vessel Robert Hunter. Two crewmembers of the Steve Irwin were held hostage by the crew of the Yushiin Maru No 2 and demands were made in return for their release. That is extortion.

It appears that the Japanese poachers are operating above the law and have been given encouragement to continue to act unlawfully within the territorial waters of Australia.

I can assure the AFP that my crew and I will not initiate any actions that will cause physical harm or injury to any crewmembers of the Japanese fleet. We have an unblemished record in this regard and we do not intend to do anything that will tarnish this record.

We view the "exercising of restraint" requested by the honourable Stephen Smith to include restraint on killing. The Federal Court order specifically called for the Japanese whalers to be "restrained" from further illegal acts of whaling.

On one hand we have a Minister of the government calling for restraint on our part to not intervene against Japanese illegal whaling and on the other hand we have a Federal Court order calling for the Japanese whaling fleet to be "restrained" from killing whales.

Which form of "restraint" takes precedence under the law? Does a Federal Court order take a submissive position to a statement by a Federal Minister?

Should hazard mitigation be our principle concern or should the enforcement of international and Australian law be our principle concern? Would the AFP consider the enforcement of Australian law to be secondary to "hazard mitigation"? If so then all police officers would be unarmed.

With regard to the International Maritime Organization requirements, I believe that legally speaking these requirements do not apply to vessels classified as private yachts. However the Steve Irwin does indeed take all necessary measures to preserve the safety of life at sea. In fact we take it even further than the IMO requires because we take all measures to preserve the safety of ALL LIFE at sea and that includes the protection of the lives of whales that are the illegal targets of Japanese whalers.

Should you have any further queries or issues, or wish to provide further information, do not hesitate to email or telephone. Our position is to cooperate and respond with all inquiries from the AFP with regard to this situation.

We are committed to stopping illegal Japanese whaling activities in these waters over the next three to four weeks.


Captain Paul Watson
Master - The Steve Irwin
Master - The Farley Mowat
Founder and President of the
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.