WHALE CAMPAIGNERS CALL ON KEY TO GET TOUGH WITH JAPAN
By Alan Tristram
March 20, 2010
The anti-whaling campaigner Captain Paul Watson has sailed into Wellington with a message for the Prime Minister – “it’s time to stand up to Japan.”
Captain Watson arrived in the Sea Shepherd organisation ship, the Steve Irwin, from Tasmania after a series of brutal clashes with Japanese whalers in Antarctica.
During one encounter, Kiwi Peter Bethune was arrested and taken to Japan after he boarded the Shonan Maru II to try to make a citizen’s arrest of the captain for attempted murder. In January, Bethune’s boat the Ady Gil was sliced in two by the Japanese whaler.
Captain Watson told the Kapiti Independent News that Prime Minister Key must stop kow towing to the Japanese Government.
“It’s outrageous that a New Zealand ship was deliberately rammed by the Japanese and the New Zealand Government is doing nothing,” he said.
Captain Watson said there were two main reasons why the Steve Irwin and its crew of 17, including three Kiwis, were visiting New Zealand.
“One, it’s to show solidarity with Peter Bethune,” he said.
“Two, we want to express our outrage about New Zealand’s move to compromise on whaling.”
Referring to reports that New Zealand might agree to a compromise deal with Japan in international talks by agreeing to limited whaling, Captain Watson said:
Why has the New /Zealand Government decided to suck up to Japan? I cannot understand it.”
He said Japan was trying to buy votes among smaller Pacific states in the International Whaling Commission, but could not do this with New Zealand, so it was making economic threats.
Powhiri for Ship’s Crew at Dockside
The Steve Irwin crew were given a Maori powhiri welcome on the dockside at Queen’s wharf after they disembarked. Mike Smith (Ngapuhi) said the campaigners had the support of New Zealanders and he praised their courage.
Among the crowd of supporters at the ceremony were the Green Party Co-Leader Russel Norman and the youngest Green MP Gareth Hughes.
The Sea Shepherd campaigners – mostly young men and women in their twenties and thirties – planned several more public activities during their brief stay in the Capital.
Today the ship is open for tours and Captain Watson is giving a talk at the Chicago Bar on the waterfront — and in the evening a charity concert is being held to raise money for the campaign to free Pete Bethune from jail in Tokyo.
An impressive young crew
The crew of young men and women from around the world were impressive by any standard: well-organised, friendly, intelligent — and determined.
One of the crew’s Kiwis, 25-yearold Brad Latimer, from Dunedin, said he thinks New Zealand is going to have to step up its anti-whaling activities.
“It’s time to stop tolerating what’s going on.” He said.
His shipmate Chad Halstead, from Philadelphia in the United States, said they want to raise awareness among New Zealanders.
The Japanese ship Shona Maru, he said, had nearly rammed their ship and could have killed some of the crew.
“I would hope the New Zealand would give Sea Shepherd and their own citizens as much support as the Australian Government does.”
One of the young women, Megan Holly, joined the ship in Hobart, Tasmania, after campaigning on shore for the Sea Shepherd organisation.
What are her duties on board? “I’m a jack of all trades,” she said,” deckhand, quartermaster, whatever.”
She said the crew all get on well. “We’re all here for the same reason – cut from the same piece of cloth,” she said.
New campaign in the Mediterranean
After sailing from Wellington at the weekend, the Steve Irwin will head for the Galapagos Islands, Panama and New York.
Then it will head for the Mediterranean to begin a new campaign against over-fishing of Blue Fin Tuna, which is ravaging the tuna population there.
“This will be even tougher,” said Captain Watson “It (the fishing) is run by the mafia!”