Sea Shepherds count a success, despite loss of racing yacht Ady Gil

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2010:


Sea Shepherd Conservation Society founder
Paul Watson considers the 33-year-old
organization’s most costly campaign yet an
unequivocal success.
The $3 million bio-diesel-powered racing
yacht Ady Gil lies on the ocean floor about 180
miles from the French Antarctic research base
Dumont d’Urville. Rammed by the Japanese harpoon
boat Shonan Maru #2 on January 6, the Ady Gil
sunk on January 8, 2010 after a failed towing
attempt by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
ship Bob Barker. “Fortunately, all fuel and
lubricants had been removed from the Ady Gil
hours earlier,” the Sea Shepherds e-mailed to

Ady Gil skipper Pete Bethune was headed
to Japan as a prisoner on the Shonan Maru #2,
the whale-killing vessel that rammed the Ady Gil
on January 6.
“I think we can guarantee now that the
Japanese whaling fleet will fail to get their
kill quota by 30% to 55%. They will not be
seeing any profits this season,” Watson assessed
on February 18.
The whalers are believed to have killed
about 350 minke whales, about a third of their
goal, before February 5, but none after the Bob
Barker and the Sea Shepherd vessel Steve Irwin
caught up to the whaling factory ship Nisshin
Maru, after two months of atttempting to evade
the Shonan Maru #2. The Shonan Maru #2 appeared
to have been assigned to running interference for
the rest of the fleet. Sending the Shonan Maru
#2 to Japan with Bethune “removes the fourth
harpoon boat from the fleet,” Watson observed.
Bethune on Valentine’s Day morning,
February 14, “boarded the whaling ship under
cover of darkness from a Jet Ski,” recounted a
Sea Shepherd media release. “His first attempt
failed when he fell into the frigid waters, but
despite this the crew of the Shonan Maru #2
failed to see him and he successfully boarded the
whaler without detection.”
Bethune remained undetected for an hour
and a half. “Once the sun had risen, Bethune
calmly knocked on the bridge wing door, entered
the wheelhouse, and presented himself to the
captain of Shonan Maru #2,” Hiroyuki Komiya, the
Sea Shepherd release continued. “He informed the
skipper that he was under arrest for sinking the
Ady Gil.” A Sea Shepherd video showed Bethune
knocking on the wheelhouse door, then entering.
Japanese chief cabinet secretary Hirofumi
Hirano told a news conference that Bethune would
be brought to Japan for questioning, and would
probably face criminal charges. Bethune and the
Sea Shepherds “were prepared for this possibility
prior to the boarding,” the Sea Shepherds said.
Three videos of the ramming, taken from
the Bob Barker, the Ady Gil, and the Shonan
Maru #2, all showed that the Ady Gil was dead in
the water, with the six-member crew all topside,
waving to the Shonan Maru #2 and laughing, until
the Shonan Maru circled, accelerated, and hit
the Ady Gil broadside, shearing off the bow.
“The incident injured one of the six
crewmembers and could have killed all six,” said
Watson. “Who are the pirates here? If the
Japanese put Bethune on trial in Japan,” Watson
added, “it will be a case that will draw the
attention of the world.”
Such a case was already underway.
Greenpeace Japan activists Junichi Sato and Toru
Suzuki pleaded not guilty on February 15 to
charges that they stole a box of whale meat from
a warehouse in Aomor, Japan, in 2008. The
trial was then adjourned until March 8.
Sato and Suzuki admitted taking the box,
but contend that they took it as evidence in
pursuing a case against both individual whalers
and the whaling company Kyodo Senpaku.
“Greenpeace said it had evidence to prove that at
least 23 members of the Nisshin Maru’s crew
smuggled more than 90 boxes of salted whale,
disguised as personal baggage, and accused them
of defrauding the Japanese taxpayer with the
approval of Kyodo Senpaku,” summarized Justin
McCurry, Tokyo correspondent for the
British-based Guardian newspaper chain.
“Kyodo Senpaku insisted the packages were
a bonus for crew. Prosecutors, who initially
agreed to pursue the embezzlement claims, dropped
the investigation on the day Sato and Suzuki were
arrested,” McCurry continued. Held for 26 days,
including 23 days without charges, Sato and
Suzuki were interrogated for up to 12 hours a
day. The United Nations Human Rights
Commission’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
concluded in early February that Japan thereby
violated several articles of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights.
With both the detention of Bethune and
the Greenpeace case whetting demands that
Australia act to keep Japan from killing whales
in Australian waters, Australian prime minister
Kevin Rudd said in a Seven Network broadcast that
while his government would prefer to use
diplomatic means, “If that fails, then we will
initiate court action before the commencement of
the [next] whaling season in November 2010.”
Rudd spoke on the eve of the first visit to
Australia by newly appointed Japanese foreign
minister Katsuya Okada.
Earlier, Hiroshi Hiyami of Agence
France-Presse reported, “Japan will propose
scaling down its troubled annual whale hunt in
Antarctica on condition it is allowed to whale
commercially in its own coastal waters. Tokyo
will present its proposal to the International
Whaling Commission at its annual meeting in
Morocco in June,” Hiyami said, citing a senior
Japanese fisheries official, “even though a
similar plan was rejected by the 85-nation body
last year.”
The plan rejected in 2009 was favored by
then-IWC chair William Hogarth, who headed the
U.S. delegation by appointment of former
President George W. Bush. His term expired after
the 2009 IWC meeting.
The Ady Gil ramming was only the most
serious of many other clashes between the Sea
Shepherds and the Japanese whaling fleet during
January and February 2010. Another collison
occurred on February 6.
“The Bob Barker had been actively
blocking the slipway of the Nisshin Maru, the
Japanese whaling fleet’s factory ship when the
collision occurred,” said Sea Shepherd media
director Amy Baird. “Four harpoon ships, the
Yushin Maru #1, #2, and #3 and the Shonan Maru
#2, were circling and making near passes to the
stern and bow of the Sea Shepherd vessel. The
Bob Barker did not move from its position.” Sea
Shepherd video showed the Yushin Maru #3 racing
with apparent intent to cut off the Bob Barker’s
pursuit of the Nisshin Maru, in sight ahead,
and remaining in sight throughout most of the
incident. The position of the Nisshin Maru
relative to the Bob Barker did not change,
indicating that the Bob Barker kept a straight
The Yushin Maru #3, however, backed off
to avoid crossing in front of the Bob Barker,
which could not have stopped in time to avoid
ramming the Yushin Maru #3. The Yushin Maru #3
then turned parallel to the Bob Barker, and kept
turning, away from the Bob Barker. As it did,
the stern of the Yushin Maru #3 hit the side of
the Bob Barker. Had the collision occurred
seconds later, the impact would probably have
damaged the Yushin Maru #3’s rudder and
propeller. Both vessels made repairs at sea.
On February 11, the Japanese Institute
for Cetacean Research claimed that Sea Shepherd
crew injured the eyes of three members of the
crew of the Shonan Maru #2 with butyric acid,
better known as rancid butter. The Sea Shepherds
have often hurled bottles of rancid butter on the
decks of Japanese whaling vessels, but Sea
Shepherd video of the incident showed nothing
being thrown in the direction of the Shonan Maru
#2 at the time. Instead, recounted Baird, “The
three crew were injured because they shot
themselves in the face with pepper sprayŠThe
video shows two crew with the tanks aiming their
nozzles at Sea Shepherds in an inflatable boat,”
but wind blew their blasts of pepper spray back
in their faces.

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