Operation Musashi Heats Up Over Antarctic Whaling

The Japanese police have issued international arrest warrants against three Sea Shepherd crewmembers who participated in the Sea Shepherd Whale Defense Campaign: Operation Leviathan in December 2006 and January and February 2007.

Warrants have been issued for Jon Batchelor and Dr. Ralph Koo of the USA and Daniel Bebawi of the U.K.

"It's a mystery to me why the Japanese police would target three relatively minor crewmembers," said Captain Paul Watson. "As captain, all Sea Shepherd crewmembers act in accordance with my orders. All activities opposing the illegal actions of the Japanese whaling fleet are my responsibility, yet no charges have been filed against me. This is absurd and makes no sense at all."

The charges apparently stem from an incident where the Japanese whaling vessel Keiko Maru rammed the Sea Shepherd ship Robert Hunter. The ramming was investigated by the Australian Federal police.

The forensic evidence demonstrated that it was the Keiko Maru that rammed the Robert Hunter. The support beams in the bow of the Robert Hunter were bent forward and that means the force came from behind. If the Robert Hunter had rammed the Keiko Maru the support beams would have been bent backwards.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society intends to return for a fifth campaign to the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary in December 2008 to resume the anti-whaling actions that effectively prevented the whalers from taking half their quota for the last two years.

This year's Whale Defense Campaign is named Operation Musashi in honor of the legendary Japanese strategist Miyamoto Musashi.

"The arrest warrants against these three men will have absolutely no impact on the campaign," said Captain Watson. "We will return to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and we will resume our campaign of intervention against the illegal activities of the Japanese whaling fleet. We will not be deterred, we will not retreat and we will never surrender the lives of these defenseless whales to the outlaw whalers from Japan."
The Japanese announcement that they have issued arrest warrants for three Sea Shepherd volunteers follows the announcement last week that Sea Shepherd has issued an arrest order for the Japanese whaling fleet.

"For now it seems to be dueling arrest warrants," said Captain Watson. "In December this ridiculous rhetoric will be set aside as we go head to head with the whale killers with new tactics, new strategies and with two ships against the pirate whale killing fleet. The whalers are getting desperate."

Japan is seeking Interpol warrants for the three men. Interpol can refuse to send an alert if it is seen as politically motivated, according to the global police agency's website.

"There is no doubt that this is politically motivated," said Captain Watson. "The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is not protesting whaling, we are opposing illegal whaling in accordance with the principles of the United Nation World Charter for Nature. If our activities are illegal then the warrant would be addressed to me, not to three non-officer volunteers."

Japanese claims that Sea Shepherd crew tossed "acid" onto the deck of the Japanese whaling vessels is a distortion and exaggeration of the truth. What was tossed was rotten butter which is chemically defined as butyric acid the same way orange juice is defined as citric acid. It is non-toxic, non harmful and simply stinks very bad. In short, it's a stink bomb. Using the same tactic in 2008, the Japanese retaliated with live bullets and concussion grenades. Captain Watson was struck in the chest with a bullet in March 2008 and was saved by his Kevlar vest. The incident was fully documented by an onboard documentary crew from Animal Planet.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society actions are legal and non-violent. In over three decades of operations, the Society has not injured a single person and no crewmember has ever been convicted of a felony crime.

"We are the sea-cops and our targets are criminals who illegally plunder the oceans of life in violation of international laws. If the Japanese police succeed in arresting any of these three men we will use the courts as a forum to focus international attention on Japan's continued illegal whaling activities," said Captain Watson. "What we have here is a criminal operation receiving the support of the Japanese government targeting conservationists attempting to oppose the unlawful slaughter of the whales. All I can say to the Japanese whalers is - see you in December face to face in the Southern Ocean for a show-down on the high seas once again. We will be there!"