Japanese whalers and Sea Shepherd clash
The Japanese whaling ship Haiko Maru emerged from dense fog in front of the the Sea Shepherd MV Steve Irwin, crewed by anti-whaling activists about 0730 GMT December 26th, 2008.
The Kaiko Maru had been undertaking a detour in the ice pack area after completing the day’s research activities, according to the Institute Of Cetacean Research (ICA).
The Steve Irwin pursued and came alongside the Kaiko Maru for anti-whaling activists to throw 10 bottles of rotten butter and 15 bottles of a methyl cellulose and indelible dye mixture.
According to the Sea Shepherd news report "As the Steve Irwin came alongside the starboard side of the Kaiko Maru, the whaler steered hard to starboard and struck the Steve Irwin lightly crushing part of the aft port helicopter deck guard rails on the Sea Shepherd ship. There was no serious damage to either ship."
According to a press release by the Institute Of Cetacean Research "The Steve Irwin rammed the Kaiko Maru from the starboard rear side and spent a number of hours in dangerous close-quarter harassment of the Japanese vessel, repeatedly overtaking and circling the Kaiko Maru."
The ICA confirmed that the "topside starboard rear bulwark was damaged" but the damage is "no hindrance to its present operation and research activities".
After the collision, the Sea Shepherd repeatedly overtook and turned around the Kaiko Maru for approximately three hours, according to the ICA, then the Sea Shepherd ship changed course to the east.
Sea Shepherd has been pursuing the whaling fleet east for a week through heavy fog, dense ice and blizzard conditions. While the Whaling fleet has been pursued no whales have been caught.
"Our objective now is to chase them out of Australia's Economic Exclusion Zone," said Captain Paul Watson. "I have a chart here and it clearly states that these waters are Australian EEZ. There is an Australian Federal Court Order specifically prohibiting these ships from whaling in these waters. We have informed the whalers they are in contempt of this Court ruling."
"We still have them on the run and we intend to keep them on the run for as long as our fuel resources allow," said Captain Watson.
In October 2008 the whaling fleet's refueling and cargo vessel, Oriental Bluebird, was deflagged following a ruling by Panamian Authorities, which is expected to greatly impact the whaling fleet's capacity to transport whale meat back to Japan. The maximum fine of 10,000 Balboas (US$10,000) was imposed on the owners of the ship, Hiyo Shipping Co. Ltd, in Japan who on October 8th removed its Panamanian registration and flag.
"The Oriental Bluebird has now become an international pariah vessel, and its owners will be urgently looking for a new flag State which will condone its breaches of environmental treaties. It would make a mockery of international law if Japan continued to rely on the services of this vessel," said Sara Holden, Greenpeace International Whales Campaign coordinator. "We are delighted that Panama has found the vessel guilty. Japan must now do the same, not just by mothballing the Oriental Bluebird, but by retiring the entire whaling fleet. The international community has a responsibility to hold Japan to this."
According to Greenpeace, Japan has ratified an international treaty (FAO Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas) which seeks to end the practice of 're-flagging' vessels in order to circumvent international environmental law. The treaty bars Japan from authorising a ship to participate in the exploitation of marine living resources for at least three years, if that ship has changed its flag after being found in breach of international conservation measures.
The Japanese government has this year added an extra 800 million yen (US$8 million) for a coastguard ship to act as so-called "protection" for the fleet. Sea Shepherd found the Japanese whaling fleet less than a week after leaving Hobart, Tasmania.
Commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean is an illegal activity with Japan engaging in commercial whaling activities in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary under the guise of scientific research provisions of the International Whaling Commission. Whaling has also been determined as illegal by an Australian Federal Court.
Photo: Eric Cheng / Sea Shepherd
Sea Shepherd News December 26, 2008 - Sea Shepherd Clashes With Whaling Fleet in Australian Waters
Press Release: The Institute Of Cetacean Research, Scoop Independent News, December 27, 2008 - Sea Shepherd Attacks Whale Research Vessel
Greenpeace News, October 28, 2008 - - Japanese whaling ship outlawed
Stephen Robert Irwin (22 February 1962 – 4 September 2006), known simply as Steve Irwin and nicknamed "The Crocodile Hunter", was an iconic Australian television personality, wildlife expert, and conservationist. He achieved world-wide fame from the television program The Crocodile Hunter, an internationally broadcast wildlife documentary series co-hosted with his wife Terri Irwin. Together, they also co-owned and operated Australia Zoo, founded by his parents in Beerwah, Queensland. He died in 2006 after his chest was fatally pierced by a stingray barb whilst filming in Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship MV Steve Irwin was named in his honour, christened by his wife Terri, who said "If Steve were alive, he'd be aboard with them!"
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is a non-profit registered tax-exempt organization in the United States and a registered Stichting (foundation) in the Netherlands. It is based in Friday Harbor, Washington, USA and in Melbourne, Australia for its Southern Hemisphere operations. Members call themselves eco-pirates, undertaking campaigns that the society says are guided by the United Nations World Charter for Nature (1982) and other statutory laws protecting marine species and environments. It operates a fleet of three vessels it calls "Neptune's Navy": the RV Farley Mowat, the MV Steve Irwin, and the RV Sirenian, as well as several smaller boats.
The society was founded in 1977 by Paul Watson, an early member of Greenpeace, after a dispute with the organization over the philosophy of "bearing witness" to the killing of whales. In contrast to Greenpeace, which avoids damage to or physically interfering with whaling ships at sea, Sea Shepherd engages in "direct action" which involves disabling and otherwise physically interfering with the operations of whaling vessels.Sea Shepherd engages in conventional protests and direct actions to protect such marine wildlife as seals, dolphins and whales. Direct actions have included scuttling commercial fishing vessels while in harbor, disabling and "stink bombing" of vessels in harbor and at sea, non-violent but extralegal boarding of whaling vessels while at sea, and seizure and destruction of drift nets at sea. Sea Shepherd has also conducted an intense media campaign against Japanese high-seas whaling and the Canadian sealing industry in particular. No reports of deaths during Sea Shepherd actions have been reported, though several injuries or claims of injuries have been reported. The most recent injury report was made by two Japanese crewmen who claim being splashed with a foul-smelling butyric acid stink bomb during Sea Shepherd's February 2007 action in the Ross Sea. The Sea Shepherds admitted to throwing six one-litre bottles of butyric acid onto the deck of the Nisshin Maru.
Sea Shepherd bases its actions on enforcement of international maritime law under the United Nations World Charter for Nature; however, the organization has no official mandate or authorization to enforce any legislation. Sea Shepherd was deprived of its status as an International Whaling Commission observer after sinking Icelandic vessels in 1986. In 1994, IWC Secretary Ray Gambell stated "the IWC and all its members ardently condemn Sea Shepherd's acts of terrorism." In 2006 the outgoing Vice Chair of the IWC, Horst Kleinschmidt, joined the Board of Sea Shepherd as an advisor. Sea Shepherd is supported by private and corporate donations and operated by volunteers and paid staff, including Watson's current wife. Critics refer to the organization as "pirate[s]" and "terrorist[s]", and consider Sea Shepherd's harassment of targeted fishing and resource-extraction operations to be outside the law. However, Sea Shepherd believes they have a good understanding of the law and operate openly in the UK (where Sea Shepherd UK has charity status) and other countries.
Until recently, countries such as Australia have hesitated to pressure Japan to stop whaling because of concerns about harming trade relations. Sea Shepherd supporters claim that small countries in the IWC that support whaling have been bought by Japanese development aid. Japan is behind only the US as an aid donor. However, the former Australian environment minister, Ian Campbell, stated that the activities of Sea Shepherd "puts the cause of conservation backwards" and urged the organisation to "comply with the law of the sea and not do anything to put at risk other vessels on the high seas and therefore human life". Despite this, Ian Campbell joined the Sea Shepherd advisory board upon retiring from politics.
Paul Watson, the founder of the group, was arrested in 1993 in Canada on charges stemming from actions against Cuban and Spanish fishing boats off the coast of Newfoundland; but he was found not guilty through relying on Canadian ratification of the UN Charter for Nature (1982). In 1997, he was convicted in absentia in Norway on charges of sinking a Norwegian whaling ship, and spent 80 days in jail in the Netherlands, but he was not extradited to face new charges related to the encounter with the Norwegian Coast Guard vessel Andenes in 1994. Costa Rica filed attempted murder charges against Watson for an incident after he caught a Costa Rican fishing boat poaching, but charges were dropped after prosecutors were shown a film of the incident that was shot by a team making a documentary of Sea Shepherd.
Another Animal rights activist, Rod Coronado, who has also had numerous legal problems stemming from his activism, got his start in activism with Sea Shepherd, participating in one of its best-known and most controversial actions, the scuttling of two ships from Iceland's whaling fleet while in port in 1986.As a result of such activities, several nations, including Japan, have pressed the United States to declare Sea Shepherd a terrorist organization.
The recent 2007-08 Antarctic campaign was named Operation Migaloo, after the only known albino humpback in the world and is the focus of the weekly Animal Planet reality television series Whale Wars, which premiered on American TV on November 7, 2008.
On January 15, 2008, after attempting to entangle the whaling vessel's propeller and throwing containers of butyric acid onto the decks, two Sea Shepherd members Benjamin Potts and Giles Lane from the Sea Shepherd vessel MV Steve Irwin boarded the Japanese whaling vessel Yushin Maru No. 2 while both were underway in the High Seas of the Antarctic Ocean, by using a Zodiac inflatable boat. A "hostage" situation would result after MV Steve Irwin first mate Peter Brown turned the ship around and left forcing the Japanese crew to hold the Sea Shepherd activists until they could be handed over to Australian authorities. The crew of the Yushin Maru No. 2 detained the two men for illegal boarding and vandalism. The pair were initially tied to the railings, and then tied to the Satellite transmitter mast for several minutes. The ICR initially denied these reports although Sea Shepherd later released photographs they claimed showed the point where Potts and Lane were tied to the Satellite transmitter mast.
Sea Shepherd stated that the pair were attempting to deliver a letter of protest, after many hours during which the Japanese vessels did not acknowledge any radio contact, with the news that the Japanese whale hunt in Australia's Antarctic waters and Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary had earlier in the day been ruled illegal by the Australian Federal Court. The Japanese stated that it was the Sea Shepherd vessel who refused the radio contact, and the response from the foreign minister of Japan Nobutaka Machimura was that "The arctic territory is not at all internationally recognized. This sentence by the Australian court is based on a wrong assumption." Since both Sea Shepherd and Japan blamed each other for not responding to the radio contact, the two men were finally released from the Japanese ship 17 January, and were handed over to the Australian customs vessel MV Oceanic Viking. The Australian government decided to release them the same day without criminal charges because they "apparently had no intention to commit malicious crimes, such as robbery."
On March 3, 2008 Sea Shepherd members threw bottles of butyric acid and packages of white powder onto the Japanese vessel Nisshin Maru. Three on board were allegedly injured, with one reporting acid in his eyes, according to a report in the Yomiuri Shimbun.. Paul Watson rejected the claims of injury "We filmed and photographed the entire thing. Not a single thing landed anywhere near their crew." and said that only bottles of butyric acid and a slippery powder were thrown by hand onto the whaling ship. The Japanese deputy foreign minister Itsunori Onodera summoned the ambassadors of the Netherlands and Australia and requested to take "immediate and appropriate actions". The Australian ambassador expressed his "sincere regret" to the incident. He also referred to the statement from the Australian foreign minister Stephen Smith who condemned any kind of violence against the Japanese crew members.
Four days later on March 17, 2008 crew from the Steve Irwin again threw bottles containing butyric acid onto the decks of the Nisshin Maru. The Japan Coast Guard, reportedly armed with sidearms and rifles, responded by throwing flash grenades at the crew of the Steve Irwin, with claims by Sea Shepherd of one crew being slightly injured directly from an explosion. Paul Watson was allegedly hit by a bullet which lodged in his ballistic vest that he was wearing. David Page, the ship's doctor onboard the Steve Irwin, was filmed by Sea Shepherd crew prying a bullet from Watsons's Kevlar vest, and said "You have been hit by a bullet". The Japanese denied the story of Watson and the president of the Japanese Whaling Association (to which the Japanese vessel belongs) Keiichi Nakajima released a press comment. "Paul Watson is lying and fabricating the story."
According to the Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, Japan advised the Australian Embassy in Tokyo that a crew member on board the Japanese whaling vessel fired warning shots, but this was later retracted in an update press release.
The International Whaling Commission issued a statement on March 8, 2008 that "called upon the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to refrain from dangerous actions that jeopardise safety at sea, and on vessels and crews concerned to exercise restraint." The statement also reiterated earlier IWC resolutions from May and July of 2007 not specifically directed at Sea Shepherd that read in part, "The commission and its contracting governments do not condone and in fact condemn any actions that are a risk to human life and property in relation to the activities of vessels at sea."
On September 17th, 2008, Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department has announced that the Interpol has put three Sea Shepherd members on an international wanted list on suspicion of interfering with Japan’s whaling activities in the Antarctic Ocean in February 12th, 2007.
Canadian Seal Hunt
On March 29, 2008 the M/V Farley Mowat and a Canadian Coast Guard ship collided while the M/V Farley Mowat was observing the Canadian seal hunts. This incident led to the arrest of the captain and first officer of the ship on April 12, 2008.
On April 12, 2008, during the 2008 Canadian commercial seal hunt, the M/V Farley Mowat was raided by Canadian coast guard vessels after the ship was said to have encroached on seal hunters off the coast of Newfoundland. During the raid, the captain and first officer were arrested and are awaiting charges. The location of the boat at the time of the seizure is controversial. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society claims the boat was seized illegally in international waters. The Canadian Fisheries minister claims that the boat was seized in Canadian waters, but also that the Fisheries Act gave him authority to order the boarding outside Canada's territorial waters zone of 12 nautical miles.
The captain and first officer made a court appearance on May 1, 2008. On July 2 2008, they entered a plea of not guilty to coming too close to sealers. Trial dates have not been set.
The current 2008-2009 Antarctic campaign is named Operation Musashi after the 17th-century Japanese strategist Miyamoto Musashi. On December 4th, 2008, actress Daryl Hannah joined Sea Shepherd's crew aboard the Steve Irwin to take part in this season's operation.