Sea Shepherd Receives Message From the Australian Government
Captain Paul Watson received an email from the Australian government. The letter and Captain Watson's response are reprinted below:
From: Donne, Tony
Dear Captain WATSON
Following the transfer by the Oceanic Viking of two of your crew members from the Yushin Maru No. 2 to the Steve Irwin on 18 January 2008, you made the public statement that having delivered a letter of protest to the Japanese whaling fleet, you did not see an incident of this kind occurring again.
The Australian Government is concerned that your recent public statements indicate that you may be contemplating another boarding of a Japanese vessel in the Southern Ocean.
Weather and sea conditions in the Southern Ocean, and the very long distances involved, mean that the area is an inherently dangerous one in which to operate. For this reason, the Australian Government has continually called on all parties in the Southern Ocean to exercise restraint.
As the Australian Government has previously outlined, now that the monitoring mission of the Oceanic Viking has been completed, neither protest nor whaling vessels can in any way assume that the Australian Government will be in a position to respond immediately in the event of any serious incident.
You should also understand that it may not be possible for the Australian Government to intervene, in the event of another boarding incident, to facilitate the transfer of people from one vessel to another on the high seas.
Crew members of ships in the Southern Ocean should not attempt to board other vessels. All parties should understand that to do so may well be contrary to the law of the flag state of any such vessel.
For this reason, the Australian Government once again calls on you - as it does all parties - to exercise the utmost restraint in your activities in the Southern Ocean.
The Australian Government strongly discourages activity which could be illegal or unsafe activity which could lead to injury or loss of life at sea.
Reply from Captain Watson:
Dear Mr. Donne,
Thank-you for your message.
We did say to the media at the time that we saw no need to deliver a another message to the Japanese notifying them of the fact that there was an Australian Federal Court ruling that very day prohibiting Japanese whalers from killing whales in Australian territorial waters.
We never said that we would rule out boarding Japanese vessels as a tactic. If the non-violent boarding of an illegal whaler can shut down illegal whaling for days or weeks then we believe this is a valid tactic.
In fact at no time did any representative of the Australian government ever speak to me directly about tactics, plans or issues. I never spoke to a representative of the Australian government or the Federal police to the fact that we would not board a ship again if circumstances required us to.
We regard the Japanese whaling ships as poaching vessels. I believe that Australia has boarded poaching vessels many times in the past and rightfully so. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has been working in the Galapagos in partnership with the Galapagos National Park rangers and we have boarded shark poaching vessels on many occasions. We have also boarded shark poaching vessels in the waters of Cocos Island National Park off Costa Rica and in 2001 we seized the Ecuadorian long-liner San Jose in the Cocos Island National Park Marine Reserve.
The Japanese whaling fleet is presently hunting whales in the Australian Antarctic Territory despite an Australian Federal Court order specifically prohibiting the killing of whales in these specific waters.
Japan is targeting endangered whales (Fins) in violation of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Japan is violating numerous regulations of the International Whaling Commission.
In your message you relayed it was stated "The Australian Government strongly discourages activity which could be illegal or unsafe activity which could lead to injury or loss of life at sea."
What is Australia going to do to protect the lives of the whales presently threatened by illegal Japanese whaling activity?
When the Australian government calls for the exercising of "restraint" I would expect this to include the Federal Australian court order that used that exact same word in calling for the "restraint" of all Japanese whaling operations.
Last month it was the Japanese who requested that the Oceanic Viking remove two of my crew and return them to the Steve Irwin. I made no such request but I was willing to cooperate with both the Japanese Captain and the Captain of the Oceanic Viking to have the men transferred back to my ship.
I do not expect to and I will not request Australia to intervene in the event any of my crew are once again held hostage by the Japanese. I would find it interesting to see how Australia would react to having an Australian citizen seized in the territorial waters of Australia by illegal Japanese whalers and taken against their will to Japan.
The question must then be asked: Is the line on the nautical charts that indicates the EEZ for Australia 200 miles off the Australian Antarctic coast to be taken seriously? Is this or is this not a legitimate territorial claim? We have been operating under the assumption that these waters do belong to Australia as we have been assuming that an Australian Federal Court order must be worth more than the paper it is printed on. Is this Court Order just a joke to appease Australians who want to see something done about whaling? Is this all just posing and posturing or is Australia serious about ending illegal whaling?
This is my fourth season in these waters. I am well aware of how dangerous and remote this area of the world is. I have never asked nor have I ever expected Australia to come to our rescue in the event of an accident.
The Australian government can expect that the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society will adhere to our long-standing policy of not causing injury to the criminals we oppose. We will however take the required risk to oppose unlawful Japanese whaling operations and we do so within the definition of intervention in the United Nations World Charter for Nature that allows for non-governmental enforcement of international conservation laws and regulations.
I would like to report a crime. The Japanese have eight ships presently inside the Australian Antarctic Territorial waters and these ships are engaged in unlawful activities and they are doing so in blatant contempt of the Australian Federal Court ruling issued January 15th that prohibits the killing of whales in these waters. What is the Australian government going to do about this?
Captain Paul Watson