Wikileaks Reveals Sea Shepherd is a Serious Concern to Japan’s Illegal Whaling Operations
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Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Wikileaks has revealed that the Japanese government views Sea Shepherd Conservation Society as a very serious threat to their illegal whaling activities. In a classified U.S. Department of State document released by Wikileaks to the El Pais newspaper in Spain, the Japanese Deputy General Director for the Japanese Fisheries Agency Mr. Yamashita, pointed out that “the harassment of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society had kept the Japanese whaling fleet from reaching its quotas these last few years.”

There it is! For all the critics who have been saying the anti-whaling campaigns have not been effective, Sea Shepherd holds the same position as the Japanese Fisheries Agency that the campaigns have been very effective, so effective in fact that Sea Shepherd has been discussed in high-level talks by Japanese government representatives with the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The following is the full document release published by the Spanish newspaper El Pais on January 2, 2011.

Captain Paul Watson's comments are added in bold when relevant.

From the El País newspaper:


Tokyo demanded more severe measures against the ecological pirates that harass their fleet – Hillary Clinton agreed but Australia stopped the agreement.

Japan was willing to reduce its whaling quota and the USA was also willing to contribute actively to the agreement. The most persistent petition from the Japanese fishing agency was aimed at achieving more harsh measures in the penal persecution of the ecological pirate group Sea Shepherd, founded by an American that left Greenpeace to organize more firm actions against the predators of the sea. In this article in the series of American diplomatic documents filtered by Wikileaks to EL PAIS, the details of this failed pact are told.

Captain Paul Watson: The reason that Sea Shepherd has named this year’s campaign Operation No Compromise is precisely because of this deal that the U.S. and New Zealand were trying to make with Japan, supported by Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund, to allow Japan to have a legal quota in return for cutting their quota in the Southern Ocean. The paragraph above is incorrect in stating, “Sea Shepherd was founded by an American.” I was a Canadian citizen when Sea Shepherd was founded.

Japan and the USA achieved an initial agreement to reduce the capture of whales in the supposedly Japanese scientific program. One of the conditions set by Tokyo and that the USA accepted, according to the confidential documents obtained by Wikileaks, was to act together against the Sea Shepherds, ecological pirates, an NGO whose emblem is a skull and whose ships - always painted in black- can be seen from freeing tuna fish from the farms in the Mediterranean to harassing Japanese whalers.

Captain Paul Watson: This initial agreement was a betrayal by the Obama administration against the whales. The trade-off was a reduction of the Southern Ocean kill quota in return for legalizing Japanese whaling in the North Pacific. Sea Shepherd had already reduced the kill quotas for the previous four years therefore, nothing would be achieved with such a compromise.

On the 4th of November 2009, the US representative for the International Whaling Commission (IWC) Monica Medina met with the chief of the Japanese fishing agency, Katsuhiro Machida, in Tokyo. Medina said that “ there are reasons for Japan to reduce its present fishing quotas” and claimed that she would work so that the EU and Australia wouldn’t veto the agreement. The IWC was working on a plan that would halve the Japanese quota and save 14000 whales in 10 years. The director of the Japanese fishing agency, Katsuhiro Machida, pointed out that there were matters outside of the IWC that influenced Japan´s position. One of these was “the violent protests of Sea Shepherds, that could limit Japan’s negotiating flexibility” and that “ the Netherlands should act against the Sea Shepherds” since they use the Dutch flag as well as “appreciate the initiative of the US government in facing the tax exempt status of the organization”. Tax exemption is a system that permits US NGO´s to deduct tax payments. Sea Shepherd was founded in the USA in 1981 by Paul Watson who four years earlier had left Greenpeace. Medina replied that she “ thought that the US government was capable to prove that the group doesn’t deserve its tax-exempt status due to aggressive and harmful actions”.

Captain Paul Watson: Medina failed to convince the EU and Australia to support the compromise. Japan seemed to be obsessed with Sea Shepherd’s interference against their whaling activities at this meeting. Japans request for the Netherlands to act against Sea Shepherd failed to solicit any action from the Netherlands. Monica Medina of course had no authority to speak on the issue of tax status because she was not authorized to do so by the Internal Revenue Service or the U.S. Department of State. No harmful or aggressive actions have been proven against Sea Shepherd and no charges have been filed against Sea Shepherd by Japan or any other nation over the issue of whaling in the Southern Ocean.

On the 14th of November the State Department sent a confidential cable signed by Hillary Clinton to its key embassies: in Japan, Australia and New Zealand. In the document they pointed out that the existence of new governments in the US and Japan- that in August elected a Democratic Party government- offered a “unique opportunity” to reform the IWC.

Both countries agreed to work to “achieve a significant reduction in the actual fishing quotas of Japan”. Also, Tokyo would accept to not hunt more humpback or minke whales in the southern hemisphere where the pressure from Australia and the ecologists is constantly growing. In exchange the US would support the legalization of “small scale and sustainable whaling activities off the coasts of Japan” and the ratification of laws that would “guarantee security in the seas”. This sentence hides the Tokyo petition to act against Sea Shepherds. The 5th of January 2010 a Japanese fishing boat crashed an ecologist ship, the Ady Gil. This ship sunk in port and who was then its helmsman, Pete Bethune, claimed in the New Zealand press that it was sunk by the ecologists to achieve publicity, something that the NGO denies.

Captain Paul Watson: The United States and the Netherlands have not taken any action against Sea Shepherd in any form. The report states that the Ady Gil was sunk in port. This is incorrect. The Ady Gil was rammed by Japanese whaling vessel the Shonan Maru #2 some 1,400-miles away from the nearest port. Pete Bethune was captain of the Ady Gil, a vessel owned by a Mr. Ady Gil, not Sea Shepherd. The vessel was unsalvageable. Pete Bethune’s claim that he was ordered to scuttle the vessel is untrue. It was his boat and only he could make such a decision. The vessel was not scuttled, it was abandoned, and this decision to abandon the vessel was made by Captain Peter Bethune.

The cable asks to achieve an interim agreement to reduce the whaling quota. The dispatch to its delegations asks to push forward the reform at the IWC “at the highest levels possible”. Its argument is that “the IWC hasn’t worked for many years due to the polarization of its members”.

In 1985 the IWC (where 88 countries are represented) agreed to a moratorium in the commercial fishing of whales. Iceland and Japan didn’t consider themselves to be bound to the agreement and kept hunting whales. Japan did initially sign but later followed its example. Under a so-called scientific program, Japan hunts around 850 minke whales (Tokyo insists that there are some 100,000 specimens left) and another 100 whales from other species.

The agreement was considered a great advancement in favor of whales, fished to almost extinction in the first half of the 20th century: since the moratorium was approved each year the IWC meeting ends in nothing. The commission has to grant any change with a 75% of votes that explains its paralysis. Therefore the State Department cable admits that: ”we know there is an important issue related with the security of Japanese investigation vessels that we have to deal with”.

It’s a way of mentioning Sea Shepherd, a recurring theme. The Japanese exterior vice minister, Shuji Yamada, informed the US that this was “the last chance” to achieve an agreement with the IWC and repeated Japans petition to act against the organization “that creates dangerous situations in the sea”. The US answered that “it gives maximum priority to the security of the ships and life in the high seas” and added that “if they discovered any violation of US laws they would act”. Tokyo answered back that “it would be easier for Japan to move forward in the negotiations at the IWC if the US acted against the Sea Shepherds”.

Captain Paul Watson: The fact is that Sea Shepherd has not violated a single American law, and therefore the U.S. government has no cause to act against a U.S. organization and its U.S. citizens merely at the pleasure of Japan to request that it does so. There is no valid cause for the U.S. government to acquiesce to Japan’s demand in this regard. The report states that Japan’s minke whale quota is 850 when in fact it is 935.

The deputy general director at the Japanese fishing agency, Yamashita, pointed out that, according to another cable, “the harassment of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society had kept the Japanese whaling fleet from reaching its quotas these last few years”. Yamashita, according to the Tokyo embassy confidential cable, underlined that “the Japanese government would feel pressured if the Sea Shepherds harassment continued even after an agreement would be made at the IWC to reduce the quota”. The US representative answered that “the US government was worried about security of life on the seas and was looking into Sea Shepherd activity”.

Captain Paul Watson: The U.S. government may have very well looked into Sea Shepherd’s activities and if they did so, then they obviously did not find any irregularities or unlawful activities because Sea Shepherd was never contacted by any U.S. government official in connection with this matter. For Sea Shepherd, the most important part of this document is the declaration by Japan that Sea Shepherd has been responsible for the whaling fleet not reaching their quotas for the last few years. This statement completely validates Sea Shepherd’s actions as effective.

The past 4th of February, the Australian environment minister Peter Garrett told the embassy in Canberra that the proposal was “unacceptable” for the Australian government and that they would need to create a sanctuary in the Antarctic.

In June 2010 the IWC met in Agadir (Morocco). In spite of Japan announcing that they had shed “blood and sweat” in the agreement, they accepted in reducing the quotas but would not reduce them to zero. Sea Shepherd kept with the struggle and the past 31st of December announced that they has located the Japanese whaling fleet. Just yesterday they was a first serious skirmish between these ecologists and three Japanese harpooners. Nothing has changed.

Captain Paul Watson: The attempt to compromise with Japan failed in Agadir and New Zealand. The U.S. and Japan’s proposal was voted down by the majority led by Australia, the European Union, and the Latin American nations. It was an embarrassing blow to the both the U.S. and New Zealand, as well as to the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace for supporting the compromise. Sea Shepherd’s position is that only a zero quota is acceptable because the area the Japanese conduct their lethal activities in is designated as the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

The Legitimacy of Sea Shepherd’s Conservation Activities

Position of Sea Shepherd regarding the Japanese Whaling Activities in the Southern Ocean

The Japanese government and the Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR) consistently refer to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society as “eco-terrorists” and “pirates.” However, Sea Shepherd has not been charged with any crime by any nation including Japan for interventions against Japanese whaling activities in the Southern Ocean. Sea Shepherd has not been reprimanded by the United States, Australia, New Zealand or the Netherlands. I have not been reprimanded as a citizen by the United States or Canada. We have not committed any crime nor have we injured a single Japanese whaler.

Sea Shepherd's ships may utilize Australian and New Zealand ports for supplies and fuel. Japanese whalers are not permitted the use of Australian or New Zealand ports. The Australian Federal Court has found Japan to be in contempt of an Australian Federal Court ruling barring Japan from killing whales in the Australian Antarctic Territory.

The position of Sea Shepherd is that Japanese whalers are targeting endangered humpback and fin whales and threatened Minke whales within the territory of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, and in violation of the global moratorium on commercial whaling worldwide. They are illegally refueling their ships below the 60th degree of latitude, and they are illegally discharging offal from the whales into the waters of the Antarctic Treaty Zone in violation of the Antarctic Treaty.

Sea Shepherd welcomes and has always welcomed discussion with government agencies relevant to these matters. Our position is that we are not protesting whaling in the Southern Ocean, but we are intervening against what we see as a clear violation of international conservation law by Japanese whalers. In the absence of enforcement by signatory members of the International Whaling Commission and the Antarctic Treaty, we have no choice as an international non-governmental organization but to intervene in accordance with the United Nations World Charter for Nature.

If Japan’s accusation that Sea Shepherd’s are “pirates and eco-terrorists” are to be believed, then these questions must be asked: How is it that Sea Shepherd’s ships can use New Zealand and Australian ports but the Japanese whalers are banned from entry into Australian and New Zealand ports? How is it that none of my officers nor I have been charged for intervention and interference with Japanese whaling? How is it that the Dutch government has not reprimanded our Dutch registered ships, and the Australian government has not reprimanded our Australian flagged ship? Why would Australia give the Gojira a flag if they considered us “pirates and eco-terrorists?”

Sea Shepherd is defending a whale sanctuary whereas the whalers are slaughtering whales in a whale sanctuary. Sea Shepherd is taking every precaution to not injure any of the whalers yet the whalers are intent upon causing bodily harm to Sea Shepherd’s crewmembers.

The whalers are involved in bribery scandals, vote buying, and corruption. I do not believe that the United States government wishes to side with a scandal-riddled subsidized enterprise that involves defending the slaughter of whales in an established international whale sanctuary.

Sea Shepherd continues to implement a campaign of intervention against illegal whaling operations in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, while exercising extreme caution not to cause bodily harm to any whaler and not to violate any international laws. Sea Shepherd has not committed a crime. Sea Shepherd has not been charged with committing a crime and Sea Shepherd has no intention of committing a crime.

The Japanese whaling industry is conducting criminal operations by targeting endangered and protected whales inside the boundaries of an established international whale sanctuary. They are also in violation of a global moratorium on commercial whaling by using subterfuge to claim their whaling is “scientific,” all while utilizing bribery to secure the necessary votes to support their bogus claims. 

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