In the early hours of Sunday, January 8, three forest rescue activists boarded the Japanese whaling fleet security vessel Shonan Maru No 2 off Bunbury, Western Australia as an act of solidarity with Sea Shepherd in their campaign to stop Japanese commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. While in the Antarctic Sea Shepherd activists from the Bob Barker continue to pursue and harass the main whaling fleet.
Related: Sea Shepherd Media Release - Three Australian prisoners detained on a Japanese whaler in Australian waters | Captain Paul Watson on Forest Rescue men go out on a limb for Sea Shepherd
Geoffrey Owen Tuxworth (47) of Perth, Simon Peterffy (44) of Bunbury and Glen Pendlebury (27) of Fremantle, all from Forest Rescue came by boat from shore to intercept the Japanese vessel the Shonan Maru No2 which was tailing the Sea Shepherd ship the Steve Irwin 16.2 miles off the coast and 22 miles Northwest of Bunbury, Western Australia. The Shonan Maru's position when boarded was 32 degrees, zero minutes south and 115 degrees, 21 minutes east. They were met by two small boats from the Steve Irwin. The boats approached the Shonan Maru under the cover of darkness and the three negotiated their way past the razor wire and spikes and over the rails to sucessffuly board the Japanese whaling vessel.
We have come from the forests of Australia to defend the whales being slaughtered in Australian territorial waters.
We are Australian citizens and we have boarded the Japanese flagged Shonan Maru #2 in Australian territorial waters at a position of (32 degrees zero minutes south and 115 degrees 21 minutes east) We have taken this action of boarding the Shonan Maru #2 to protest the fact that this vessel is part of a whaling fleet that is operating in contempt of the Australian Court and is in Australian waters in defiance of the Australian Federal court ruling and the will of the Australian people.
"We are onboard this ship because our government has failed to uphold its pre-election promise to end whaling in the Southern Ocean," said Simon Peterffy.
Forest Rescue has decided to take action to prevent the Shonan Maru #2 from tailing the Steve Irwin back to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
Forest Rescue is making a stand to assist Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in their campaign to end illegal whale poaching in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
We are taking this action to remind the Australian government of their obligation to enforce existing laws pertaining to the prohibition of whaling ships in our waters.
We as Forest Rescue are insulted and disappointed in our government for allowing the transit of whale poaching vessels in Australian waters.
Glenn Inwood, a New Zealand based public relations spokesperson for the Institute of Cetacean Research in Japan said in this report from the Age Newspaper:
"No decision has been made yet on the fate of the men who boarded the vessel," ICR spokesman Glenn Inwood said. "But they risk being taken back to Japan to face charges and possible imprisonment.
"What these guys don't understand is that the government of Japan's tolerance for Sea Shepherd and its supporters is extremely low and they risk facing that back in Japan."
The Sea Shepherd vessel Steve Irwin had just finished accompanying the Brigitte Bardot wave piercing tri-maran vessel to Fremantle after a rogue wave had damaged the structure of one pontoon. The Shonan Maru No 2 had shadowed the two vessels to Fremantle and waited off the coast at the edge of Australian territorial waters but within Australia's economic exclusion zone and whale sanctuary.
Humane Society International and Greens Senators condemns whaling vessel off WA coast
The presence of the Japanese whaling security vessel drew comment from Humane Society International (HSI).
"The conduct of this Japanese vessel is entirely inappropriate and amounts to aiding and abetting Southern Ocean whaling operations," said Alexia Wellbelove of HSI. "In our view, the ship's presence and intent constitutes a breach of Australian environmental law."
In 2008, HSI succeeded in gaining a Federal Court injunction against Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha Ltd., the company responsible for whaling in the Southern Ocean.
Ms Wellbelove continued, "HSI believes that any person who aids or abets another to commit an offence may be liable as a party to the offence. The owners and persons directing the security vessel, as well as the crew, may therefore be deemed parties both to contempt of the Federal Court order as well as in contravention of Australian environmental law."
Ms Wellbelove concluded with a call upon the Federal Government to "enforce the 2008 Federal Court injunction on Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha in Australia's Antarctic waters, and urged the Coalition to support such actions."
One of the reasons the Shonan Maru waited offshore is that the vessel could potentially be impounded under Australian law for it's active participation in whaling in Australian Antarctic territory, which courts have found to be illegal under Australian law.
The two Greens Senators for Western Australia said the presence of the Shonan Maru in the whale sanctuary off the west Australian coast was inflammatory and insensitive in a media release.
"It is highly probable that the Japanese Vessel Shonan Maru 2 has entered the Australian Whale Sanctuary, which surrounds the Australian coastline," Senator Rachel Siewert said on January 6, "This would have occurred while the ship was shadowing the Sea Shepherd vessels Steve Irwin and Brigitte Bardot on their journey to Fremantle. The intelligence being gathered by the Japanese whalers is invaluable as they attempt to conduct their hunt in absolute secrecy. The Government must ask the Japanese Government to order it's vessels out of the sanctuary," Senator Siewert said.
"While it is not illegal for the Japanese vessel to be in the Australian Whale Sanctuary, the move is inflammatory and insensitive," said Senator Ludlam. "Even though the Government is unwilling to use Australian vessels to monitor the Japanese whale hunt, they could at least take action over the intrusion of this vessel into our sanctuaries. By not acting, the Government is making it easier for the Japanese to avoid Sea Shepherd vessels and escape international scrutiny for their actions," Senator Ludlam concluded.
The Steve Irwin has now left Fremantle after 24 hours of re-provisioning and refueling. The Shonan Maru No2 is in pursuit with the 3 forest activists now held captive. Like Peter Bethune, their fate may be an extensive trip to Japan via Antarctica and possibly a kangaroo court hearing in Tokyo and then immigration expulsion back to Australia after a short period of detention.
Sea Shepherd activists clash with Whaling harpoon vessel in Whale Sanctuary
The first clashes in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary occurred on Wednesday January 5h, when the Bob Barker moved in amongst the Japanese whaling fleet 190 miles North of the French Antarctic base of Dumont D'Urville. Sea Shepherd activists in 2 small inflatable boats clashed with the Japanese harpoon vessel Yushin Maru No3 for over 5 hours. According to an ICR media release (PDF) the anti-whaling activists cut across the bow of the Yushin Maru 3 more than 30 times deploying tow ropes and wires to disable the harpoon vessel. The radar mast of one inflatable was damaged when it come into contact with the bow of the larger vessel.
Further clashes occurred on January 6 with activists again deploying tow lines and throwing 3 smoke bombs according to an ICR media release PDF.
According to Sea Shepherd the whaling fleet has been desperately trying to avoid being caught by Sea Shepherd detection and has fled over 1500 miles to the South east of where they were first detected by a drone reconnaissance deployed by the Steve Irwin on Christmas day. The Nisshin Maru factory ship and the harpoon vessels have been constantly moving since first located by Sea Shepherd. According to Sea Shepherd they do not appear to have had any time to kill whales so far this season.
The Japanese Government was accused in December 2011 of diverting $30 million in Tsunami relief funds to bolster security measures by the whaling fleet. Japanese whaling is now uneconomic but a matter of honour and pride.
In October 2011 the Australian Government issued a statement condemning Japan's decision to continue whaling in the Southern Ocean under the guise of science.
Australia is presently taking Japan before the International Court of Justice over commercial whaling in the Antarctic in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Australia lodged proceedings in May 2011 against Japan over whaling in the International Court of Justice, but such legal action may take years before a judgement is made. Japan must lodge it's counter claim by March 9 2012.
There has been no official reaction by Kevin Rudd, the Australian Foreign Affairs Minister in the Australian Government on the three Australians now held captive on the Shonan Maru 2 heading for Antarctica.
Opposition environment spokesperson Greg Hunt called for the immediate dispatch of a Customs Vessel to mediate the transfer of the 3 forest activists to Australian authorities. "They should immediately dispatch a Customs vessel. They should also seek the immediate transfer of the prisoners from the Japanese ship to Australian authorities. Australian authorities could then take any subsequent action they deemed necessary", Mr Hunt said in an afternoon report in the Sydney Morning Herald.
- Various media releases from Sea Shepherd Conservation Foundation
- Various media releases, photos, videos from Insititute for Cetacean Research
- Humane Society International (HSI) media release, January 6, 2012 - HSI Urges Australia to enforce injunction on Japanese whaling fleet in the southern ocean
- Greens MPs media release, January 6, 2012 - Japanese intrusion in Australia's sanctuaries 'inflammatory and insensitive'
- Image Copyright ICR and used as per ICR web statement for news purposes. 2012.01.06 Anti-whaling activists aboard a SS rubber boat approach the Yushin Maru No. 3.