Police fear green groups will target G-8 summit

Captain Paul Watson Responds to the Yomiuri Shimbun

This article was published on February 21st in the Japanese language newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun. Captain Paul Watson responds to the misinformation in the story.

Yomiuri Shimbun: The police are becoming increasingly concerned that environmental and anti-globalization groups from the United States and Europe may try to disrupt July’s Group of Eight summit meeting in Toyakocho, Hokkaido.

Bild: Watson

Captain Paul Watson: The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society does not organize street protests and Sea Shepherd has no plans to disrupt the Group of Eight Summit meeting in Japan to be held in July. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is simply concerned with opposing Japan’s illegal whaling activities in the Southern Ocean and Japan’s cruel and illegal slaughter of dolphins in Taiji and other locations in Japan.

Yomiuri Shimbun: The concern comes as green groups turn to increasingly radical tactics. On Jan. 15, two members of the U.S.-based environmental group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society were seized by crew members after they boarded the whaling ship Yushin Maru No.2, part of Japan’s Antarctic whaling fleet, in an attempt to stop it operating by handing a letter of protest to the crew. Two days later, the activists, a 28-year-old Australian and a 35-year-old Briton, were handed over to the Australian government, which had acted as a mediator. However, the Sea Shepherd vessel continued to harass the Yushin Maru No.2, doing things such as throwing chemicals at it, and broadcast all such activities live via the Internet.

Captain Paul Watson: It is interesting that boarding an illegally operated whaling ship inside the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary to notify the Captain of an Australian court order prohibiting whaling in the Sanctuary is described as an “increasingly radical tactic.” The reference to chemicals is misleading. What Sea Shepherd crew did was throw stink bombs composed of rancid butter onto the ship. The chemical name for rotten butter is Butyric Acid which allows the Japanese to put the misleading spin on it to suggest that “acid” was tossed on the ship suggesting of course the lethal types of acid like sulfuric acid.

Yomiuri Shimbun: Media in Australia and New Zealand, both known as anti-whaling countries, repeatedly featured the group’s protest activities, and many supporters of the group welcomed the protest ship when it made a port call in Melbourne.

Captain Paul Watson: Perhaps the Japanese media is suggesting that there is a conspiracy in Australia to oppose illegal Japanese whaling. They refer to both Australia and New Zealand as “known anti-whaling countries” as if suggesting that anti-whaling is a form of terrorist activity in itself. The story was also well covered in the Japanese media which is not anti-whaling.

Yomiuri Shimbun: Following the clashes over whaling, Sea Shepherd ship Capt. Paul Watson said in a telephone interview that the group would continue its activities. He described the boarding of the Yushin Maru as a great success.

Sea Shepherd started its attempts to disrupt whaling in the 1990s. In November 2003, two members of the group were arrested on suspicion of forcible disruption of business for destroying a net used for whaling in Taijicho, Wakayama Prefecture.

Captain Paul Watson: They were in fact arrested for releasing and saving the lives of 15 dolphins held behind the nets and set to be slaughtered that afternoon. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has no regrets or apologies for saving the lives of these 15 dolphins. The campaign in January 2008 was a great success, the whaling ships were stopped from killing whales for over three weeks.

Yomiuri Shimbun: Despite the arrests, Sea Shepherd has continued dangerous protest activities, such as using ropes to foul whaling ships’ propellers, saying Japan was committing a crime by violating international rules on whaling.

Captain Paul Watson: Accusing Japan of committing crimes by killing endangered whales in a Whale Sanctuary in violation of a global moratorium on whaling is hardly a dangerous protest.

Yomiuri Shimbun: In the same telephone interview, Watson said the response to the latest incident helped the international community recognize Japan’s whaling as a problem.

Captain Paul Watson: This is very true.

Yomiuri Shimbun: Meanwhile, an official at the Fisheries Agency said: “They won’t hesitate to do anything to achieve their goals. In that sense, I think they are the same as terrorists.”

Captain Paul Watson: Japanese whaling ships have rammed our ships. Japanese whalers held two of my crew hostage for three days and issued demands in return for their release. This is a blatant terrorist tactic. Yet the spokesperson for the whalers states that we will do “anything” to achieve our goals. Of course this is not true.

Sea Shepherd has a primary policy of not causing physical injury to any persons we oppose and we have never caused a single injury in the three decade history of our operations.

Yomiuri Shimbun: The Japanese police have become increasingly concerned by the behavior of such groups.

Captain Paul Watson: International environmental organizations are becoming increasingly concerned about the increasing ecological crimes carried out by Japanese corporations and condoned by the Japanese government.

Yomiuri Shimbun: Before the G-8 summit meeting at Toyakocho, Hokkaido, many important international conferences and meetings will be held in this country. Recently, some environmental groups based in the United States or Europe have started to work together with anti-globalization groups, which oppose the economic system led by the major developed countries, and have been taking increasingly radical measures at venues for summits and other meetings, sometimes resulting in clashes with police.

Captain Paul Watson: The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s mission is to intervene against illegal activity, not to clash with police. In fact the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society works in partnership with policing agencies on a regular basis to oppose poaching operations.

Yomiuri Shimbun: If the Japanese police allow such groups to obstruct meetings, it might give the international community the impression that they are unable or unwilling to prevent trouble.

Captain Paul Watson: I think the international community is very much aware that Japan willfully violates international conservation law by unlawfully whaling and engaging in fish poaching operations worldwide.

Yomiuri Shimbun: For this reason, the Public Safety Bureau of the Metropolitan Police Department has begun investigating charges that Sea Shepherd activists in February 2007 attacked the Japanese whaler Nisshin Maru by throwing a bottle containing chemicals at it and other means. The attack reportedly resulted in two crewmen of the 8,030-ton ship suffering minor injuries, and the police are trying to build a case for a charge of assault or forcible disruption of business.

Captain Paul Watson: Two crewmembers were not injured. This was a spin put on the story by the Japanese P.R. firms a day after Sea Shepherd crewmembers tossed rotten butter stink bombs onboard the Nisshin Maru. Rotten butter smells horrible but it does not cause injuries. The Japanese police have not been in contact with myself, or anyone with Sea Shepherd, over this incident.

The Australian government is collecting evidence to be used in establishing a court case against Japan for illegal whaling operations.

Yomiuri Shimbun: Following a request from the owners of the Nisshin Maru, investigators have been looking into the incident and have inspected the ship for damage.

Captain Paul Watson: It will be difficult to find damage caused by rotten butter but I’m sure they will do their best to try. The Japanese whalers refused to cooperate with the investigation by the Australian Federal Police concerning the ramming of the Sea Shepherd ship Robert Hunter by the Japanese whaling ship Kaiko Maru in February 2007.

(Feb. 21, 2008)