Sea Shepherd returns to Australia ‘victorious’

AFP-JIJI

The Sea Shepherd antiwhaling fleet docked in Australia on Wednesday, claiming victory over Japan as the activist group urged Canberra to grant fugitive founder Paul Watson safe passage into the country.

The ships Steve Irwin, Bob Barker and Sam Simon returned from a bitter campaign in the isolated Southern Ocean with an estimated damage bill of 1 million Australian dollars ($1.03 million) after encounters with Japanese whalers.

Their fourth ship, the Brigitte Bardot, was at an undisclosed location with Watson — who is wanted by Japan and under an Interpol Red Notice after skipping bail last July in Germany — thought to be on board.

The ships left port in November and Bob Barker skipper Peter Hammarstedt said it had been the most successful, but most dangerous, campaign of the nine they have waged so far.

“It’s been a long campaign, it’s certainly been the most dangerous to date,” he said in Melbourne. “Never before have the Japanese whalers been as brazen, as reckless, as violent as they have been this year.

“My vessel carries scars from battle and those scars were delivered by illegal Japanese whaling boats that were killing whales unlawfully in Australian Antarctic territorial waters.”

The militant environmental campaigners claim the Japanese fleet “repeatedly rammed” their boats but Japan’s Institute for Cetacean Research has accused Sea Shepherd boats of ramming its vessel, the Nisshin Maru.

Japan, which says the hunt does not breach an international moratorium on commercial whaling because it is done in the name of “scientific research,” had set a quota of more than 1,000 minke and fin whales this season.

But Sea Shepherd claimed only 75 were caught — the smallest haul yet.

Sea Shepherd director Bob Brown, the founding leader of Australia’s Greens Party who assumed command of the campaign from Watson, said it was “a great outcome.”

“Many of the whales are heading to Australia right now rather than as lumps of meat on a factory ship heading to Tokyo,” he said.

Watson himself spent the campaign on board the Steve Irwin and there was no sign of him in Melbourne.

Watson is wanted after skipping bail in Germany where he was arrested on Costa Rican charges relating to a high-seas confrontation over shark-finning in 2002.

Brown said Canberra must allow him into Australia without the risk of arrest.

“The Australian Federal Court has ruled that Japanese whaling is illegal — they are breaking Australian law, and Sea Shepherd is upholding Australian law,” he said.

“We need the chief upholder of Australian law in Antarctic waters, Paul Watson, to know that he can come freely onto these shores knowing that he will not be harassed by the long arm of Tokyo.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/rick.molon Rick Molon

    This is a very fair and balanced article, I am mildly surprised but encouraged by your accurate and non-biased reporting. Good on you Japan Times!

  • Dismayed_citizen

    While I agree wholeheartedly with stopping whaling entirely, I am utterly disgusted by piracy on the high seas for any purpose. Watson is a criminal. It is that simple.

    The international community needs to censure Japan and Norway for their brutal murders of countless intelligent beings.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wade.phillpott Wade Phillpott

    Go, Sea Shepard !

  • http://www.facebook.com/davidowen1031 David Owen

    I find it odd that Australia needs the SSCS to enforce it’s laws…

    • generationpolitics

      Keep in mind Japan and Australia are under scrutiny in the public eye neither want to piss each other off. I am sure Australia helps “Donate” a lot of funds to the cause while at the same time wiping their hands clean if anything goes wrong.

      A great move on Australia’s part since they are saying they are doing something to their citizens and at the same time telling Japan we aren’t controlling SSCS.

    • http://www.facebook.com/cbettington Claire Pyett

      Don’t we all. maybe it is happy to sit back and let someone else do the hard work while claiming that they have no control over what is happening. They aren’t “pirates” but “privateers”. Subtle difference.

  • http://www.facebook.com/genkiguy Christopher Glen

    This is most encouraging news. I hope that the Australian government bows to the wishes of the vast majority of Australian people and gives Watson sanctuary. In addition (and I`m not holding my breath) the Japanese whaling fleet never returns to Antarctica

  • http://www.facebook.com/kevin.yzaguirre.9 Kevin Yzaguirre

    Great news! Yes it was a fair balanced article and that shows that even in Japan the majority of people are turning against this barbaric custom. Paul Watson and all the sea. Sheperd are heros, they’ve stood up to a force much larger then themselves and prevailed. Lets hope this is the last year it’s necessary.

  • STONEIF

    This is amazing! This is the first article where I don’t notice the overabundance of Glen Inwood’s pr work on behalf of the ICR. Decent reporting for a change.