I received a press release today with two major headlines:
SEA SHEPHERD AUSTRALIA TO LEAD ANTARCTIC WHALE DEFENSE CAMPAIGN
Founder and President Captain Paul Watson Steps Down From Sea Shepherd U.S. and Australia
The text from the release:
HOBART, Australia — Jan. 8, 2013 — At a press conference alongside the SSS Sam Simon at 10:00 am AEDT today in Hobart, the Australian Chapter of the global marine conservation non-profit, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, announced it will direct the organization’s ninth Antarctic Whale Defense Campaign, Operation Zero Tolerance.
Sea Shepherd founder and President, Captain Paul Watson, has stepped down from Sea Shepherd U.S. and Sea Shepherd Australia. The SSS Steve Irwin, typically captained by Captain Watson, will be manned by Captain Siddharth Chakravarty for the extent of the campaign. Captain Watson will remain aboard to document the campaign. Long-time colleague and advisor of Captain Watson, current board member Marnie Gaede will assume the role of President of Sea Shepherd U.S. while former Greens Party leader and former Australian Senator Bob Brown has joined the Board of Directors of Sea Shepherd Australia and will direct Operation Zero Tolerance along with Director of Sea Shepherd Australia, Jeff Hansen.
These changes are being adopted in order for Sea Shepherd to continue its vital mission of defending at-risk whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
“I am honored to serve the great whales of the Southern Ocean and Sea Shepherd in this way,” said former Greens Party leader and former Senator Brown. My admiration for Paul Watson is inversely proportional to the Japanese government’s anger at Sea Shepherd’s success at preventing the slaughter of almost 4,000 whales in recent years,” he added. “I ask Australians to support generously so that this great mission can continue.”
Over the past eight seasons, Sea Shepherd’s work defending whales has been endorsed by the majority of Australian citizens, hence Sea Shepherd is doing the job that most Australians want to see done to protect whales. Much like this past summer’s Operation Kimberley Miinimbi, Sea Shepherd’s Southern Ocean campaign is ultimately a project based in Australia and relates to whale protection in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Sea Shepherd Australia has always been heavily involved in the planning and fundraising for the Southern Ocean campaign. Sea Shepherd Australia’s directorship of the Antarctic Whale Defense Campaign is a natural evolution of Sea Shepherd’s growth around the world and in regions such as Australia.
“This is one of Sea Shepherd’s most widely followed campaigns, endorsed by hundreds of thousands of citizens around the world, but the fact remains the whales of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary reside in Australia’s backyard,” Hansen said. “In fact, the whales at risk in the Southern Ocean are some of the very same whales who migrate there from the waters off the coast of Western Australia. It makes sense that Australians should take up the gauntlet and defend them,” he added.
Sea Shepherd has been engaging in interventions on the high seas in defense of marine wildlife for 35 years and for eight seasons against Japan’s Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR) — a front for illegal, government-subsidized whaling — all within the confines of the law and without causing serious injury. Each December, Sea Shepherd journeys to Antarctica to defend the whales inside a marine sanctuary from being killed by the ICR. Over the last eight campaigns in the Southern Ocean, Sea Shepherd has saved the lives of nearly 4,000 whales and exposed illegal Japanese whaling activities to the world.
In February of last year, the ICR lost a preliminary injunction they brought against Sea Shepherd U.S. to try and prevent the organization from protecting whales during this year’s Antarctic whale defense campaign, Operation Zero Tolerance. That decision was overturned last month and an injunction was issued by The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Washington State in favor of the ICR. The whaling fleet has claimed injuries to their crew, although they have not been able to produce a shred of medical evidence confirming their claims.
Meanwhile, Sea Shepherd has videotaped evidence of ICR ships ramming and damaging Sea Shepherd ships, in one case completely destroying a $1.5 million dollar vessel, injuring a cameraman and nearly drowning six crewmembers, but the ICR has not so much as even been questioned. Furthermore, in January 2008, the Federal Court in Australia ruled the ICR’s whaling to be illegal and issued an injunction against the whalers, but the whalers continue killing in violation of that court order. They are also hunting in the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone and are carrying loaded rifles on board their ships in a demilitarized zone, a violation of the Antarctic Treaty.
In addition to Hansen and Brown, former Federal Environment Minister of Australia Ian Campbell spoke at the press conference and had this to say about the campaign: “Sea Shepherd Australia has one mission this summer and that is ‘Zero Tolerance’ of blood in the Southern Ocean. The Japanese have armed their vessels with harpoons that maim and kill whales, and guns that can maim and kill humans,” he said. “Sea Shepherd Australia is there to protect whales and if its vessels have to get within 459 yards of a killer ship to save a whale, then that is what will be done. If the Japanese say they won’t go within 459 yards of a whale, Sea Shepherd Australia will do the same,” he added.
Encouraged by the worldwide support being expressed for this campaign, Captain Paul Watson said: “Sea Shepherd Australia is in a very good position to lead this campaign in the Southern Ocean. We have every faith they will ensure Operation Zero Tolerance is a complete success.”
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Australia instituted proceedings against Japan in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on May 31, 2010 and was joined by New Zealand on November 21, 2012 with respect to a dispute concerning Japan’s JARPA II program on “scientific whaling.”
The December 17th decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Washington State overturns a previous ruling in Sea Shepherd’s favor. It mandates that Sea Shepherd U.S. must not physically confront any vessel or any person on any vessel engaged by plaintiffs, the ICR, in the Southern Ocean, and must not navigate in a manner that is likely to endanger the safe operation of any such vessel. It also states that defendants shall not approach plaintiffs any closer than 500 yards when defendants are navigating on the open sea. The injunction is to remain in place until the court issues an opinion on the merits of the appeal filed by the ICR.
The ICR lawsuit is funded by a Japanese government subsidy of some $30 million USD in Tsunami Relief Funds donated to aid the victims of the tsunami, earthquake and nuclear crisis, not to hunt whales. It is part of a larger strategy by Japan’s ICR to curtail Sea Shepherd’s interventions to defend at-risk whales in the established Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. As a result of this plan, Sea Shepherd founder Captain Paul Watson is the target of two ‘red notices’ issued by Interpol put forth at the request of Costa Rica and Japan, which seek to extradite him to those nations for trial on trumped up, politically motivated charges related to defending marine wildlife from poachers.
Hansen and Brown collaborated this past summer to defend the largest humpback whale nursery in the world from development of the largest gas factory in the world at James Price Point during Sea Shepherd Australia’s highly successful campaign, Operation Kimberley Miinimbi. http://www.seashepherd.org/kimberley-miinimbi/