Focusing attention on things that matter is always positive even when it appears that it is negative. Oscar Wilde once remarked, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”
I’ve been asked if I am concerned that the recent boarding of a Japanese whaling security ship has resulted in criticisms from some members of the Australian government, the Australian media, and from members of the Australian public. Some people don’t like that we support Forest Rescue. Some people think we are responsible for tax dollars being spent to recover the boarders. Some people just don’t like Sea Shepherd. A few just don’t like whales. And a few live in fear that Japan may cancel a coal or uranium deal (Like Japan really needs uranium!).
The answer is, I am not concerned. It was a brilliant tactic and we support Forest Rescue 100%. Why? Because they are concerned and they’re not sitting on their rear ends whining about the illegal slaughter of whales by Japan; they decided to do something about it.
We’re not worried about losing support, because the action has resulted in a surge of support for Sea Shepherd and Forest Rescue and even if it had not, good strategic moves in the field should not be subject to popularity polls. For those who called the boarding a failure, that is an opinion not backed up by any evidence.
It was a huge success.
Why? For precisely the same reason that Oscar Wilde articulated so brilliantly; that reason is that people are talking about the issue, and whether that talk is for or against the action, people are still talking about the issue. Even the Prime Minister is talking about it, as is the Prime Minister of Japan, and it was even discussed at the White House in Washington D.C.
When Prime Ministers and Presidents, Senators and Members of Parliament, are talking about an issue or a field operation, it automatically marks the issue or operation as relevant, which also makes it substantially important and hugely successful for promoting the cause.
The boarding gained media attention worldwide, not only in Australia and Japan where it was significantly newsworthy. It exposed the illegal invasion of Australian territorial waters by Japanese whalers and it exposed the Australian government’s lack of action in following through on campaign promises to end illegal whaling in the Southern Ocean.
The Prime Minister and the Attorney General, citing the cost to the tax payer, are simply trying to demonize activists. It was their choice to make the expensive decision to transfer the men at sea to the Customs vessel which was in the Southern Ocean already. They could have been transferred to the Steve Irwin at no cost to the taxpayer.
The cost of the transfer could have been taken from the $6 million dollar fund Peter Garrett set up for non-lethal research on whaling- which has not resulted in anything profound nor substantial. When it is considered that every elected member of the government costs the Australian tax payers $1.6 million dollars annually, the recovery of the activists is a rather small sum to pay for three Australians to draw attention to illegal whaling ships in Australian waters. I would even venture to say that these three men from Forest Rescue have done more in their capacity as civilian activists to protect the forests, waters, and endangered species of Australia than your average Australian politician.
For those who question the tactical issues, such as Pete Bethune who went on New Zealand television to say that the Forest Rescue people had been misled by Sea Shepherd and that I had inappropriately guaranteed they would not be transported to Japan as prisoners, I can only say that first, this was a Forest Rescue plan and not a Sea Shepherd plan, and secondly, the credit for its success is really due to the bravery of Geoffrey Tuxworth, Simon Peterffy, and Glen Pendlebury; all three men knew exactly what they were doing.
I did indeed guarantee that they would not be taken back to Japan just as I also guaranteed back in 2008 that Benjamin Potts and Giles Lane would be released. It is simply the elementary understanding of the diplomatic reality that Australia cannot afford to allow its citizens to be taken from Australian territorial waters as prisoners back to Japan. It sets a very dangerous diplomatic precedent and would have long term consequences for Australian sovereignty issues. In 2010 I advised Bethune that he would be taken prisoner and advised him not to board the Shonan Maru #2. He did end up boarding and he was transported to Japan. The difference was that Bethune was not an Australian citizen.
This is the eighth year of operations for Sea Shepherd in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and the fifth year it has been documented by Animal Planet for the television show ‘Whale Wars.’ Sea Shepherd actions have not caused a single injury, nor have our crew sustained any injuries. Aside from Pete Bethune’s unilateral action, no other Sea Shepherd crewmember has been charged with any crime, nor have our ships been ordered to stand down from our activities by our flag nations or the nations where we individually hold citizenship. We have not broken any laws.
What we have done is to intervene against the breaking of international conservation law by the Japanese whaling fleet. Japanese whalers are targeting endangered Fin and Humpback whales and protected Minke whales in an established International Whale Sanctuary and in violation of a global moratorium on commercial whaling. Sea Shepherd is legally empowered to intervene in accordance with the provisions of the United Nations World Charter for Nature.
If governments like Japan wish to call us criminals then I would advise them to actually arrest us, instead of continuing to cowardly throw the canard of “eco-terrorist” about like it actually means something. We are not the law breakers. The whalers are the law breakers and it is the whalers terrorizing the Antarctic eco-system and the whales.
We are not protesting their illegal whaling; we are intervening against it – something the signatory governments should be doing but don’t have the guts to do. They are more concerned with losing a trade deal than they are with protecting the planet and upholding the laws protecting the whales.