The three Australian protestors on the Japanese vessel Shonan Maru No. 2 were successfully transferred to the ACV Ocean Protector this afternoon and will be brought back to Australia.
Captain Paul Watson said today ‘The crews of the Steve Irwin, Brigitte Bardot and the Bob Barker welcome this news.’
The three men had boarded the Japanese vessel on Sunday. On Tuesday the Japanese Government confirmed that it would transfer the men to Australian authorities.
The transfer of the Australians was conducted using the tenders from the ACV Ocean Protector approaching the Shonan Maru No. 2. The transfer process took place with full cooperation from all parties.
The men are reported to be in good health, but all will be assessed by medical staff onboard the ACV Ocean Protector.
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon hoped the men would reflect on their actions.
Captain Paul Watson responded ‘I’m sure they will reflect upon the huge success this was for the movement to defend the whales of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. This action focused international attention on Japan’s continued illegal whaling activities in the Southern Ocean.
It also illustrated the lack of action by the Australian government to uphold its pre-election campaign promises to get tough on whaling. The action illustrated the contradiction of allowing a whaling vessel into Australian waters in violation of the 2008 Australian Federal Court ruling prohibiting Japanese whaling vessels from entering Australian territorial waters.
‘In addition, the action deeply embarrassed the Japanese security team by having three unarmed Australian citizens board the designated security vessel for the whaling fleet. There are a great many positive results from this boarding that these men can indeed reflect upon and be proud of.’
Attorney General Nicola Roxon said 'We support peaceful protest, but dangerous action on the high seas is quite different. We strongly encourage both sides of this dispute to respect the law and act calmly.
Captain Paul Watson responded ‘Not one of my crewmembers has broken a law nor have we been charged with breaking a law over the last eight years.
‘Pete Bethune was acting independently when he boarded the Shonan Maru No. 2 in 2010 and he boarded against my advice not to do so. We are not down in the Southern Ocean protesting whaling. Sea Shepherd is not a protest organization.
‘We are intervening against an illegal whaling operation in accordance with the principles of the United Nations World Charter for Nature.
‘The Japanese are targeting endangered and protected whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in violation of a global moratorium on commercial whaling. Sea Shepherd is simply opposing a criminal operation because the signatories to the treaties are not enforcing the regulations.
Attorney General Roxon said 'Protestors must be aware that, in the future, such action may lead to charges in another country and possible conviction.
Captain Paul Watson: We have always been aware of the risks involved with our activities.
Attorney General Roxon said 'This mission to collect the three Australians has also been of great expense to the Australian taxpayer.’
Captain Paul Watson retorted ‘ These expenses could have been avoided if the Attorney General had first examined the evidence before taking the word of the Japanese that they were not inside the Australian contiguous zone.
‘Sea Shepherd’s GPS was able to prove that the Shonan Maru No. 2 was actually boarded 16 miles off the beach. The Australian government allowed the Japanese vessel to remove the three men from Australian waters. They refused Sea Shepherd’s offer to accept the men to be transferred from the Shonan Maru No. 2 to the Steve Irwin which would have cost nothing.
‘This expense was unnecessary but the decision to do it the way it was done rests with the Attorney General. There was an additional expense caused by the refusal of the Shonan Maru No. 2 to stop its pursuit of the Steve Irwin.
Attorney General Roxon 'The Australian Government thanks Japan for its cooperation in the return of the Australian citizens.’
Captain Paul Watson said ‘Australia should not be thanking Japan for illegally entering into Australian waters and removing Australian citizens from Australian waters. I’m sure this is of course a diplomatic necessity.
Attorney General Roxon said 'The Australian Government continues to condemn Japan's decision to continue its so-called ‘scientific’ whaling in the Southern Ocean this summer and reiterates its request for whaling vessels to stay out of Australia’s territorial waters and exclusive economic zone.
Captain Paul Watson replied ‘It does not appear that they are listening. Japanese whalers behave like they can go anywhere whenever they choose. Two days after this incident, the Yushin Maru No. 3 pursued the Bob Barker 4 miles off the coast of Macquarie Island.
Attorney General Roxon said ‘I call upon those who oppose whaling to support the Australian Government’s legal action in the International Court of Justice, rather than recklessly taking the law into their own hands.
Captain Paul Watson: Sorry Ms Roxon, but the whales can’t wait years for this to be resolved. If Australia would seek an injunction, Sea Shepherd will withdraw.
However, Sea Shepherd is not taking any laws into our own hands. We have not broken any laws. We are simply intervening against international environmental crimes in accordance with the United Nations World Charter for Nature.
We have been doing this for eight years without a single injury inflicted or sustained.
We are not being reckless. We are being responsible and we are doing something no one else is doing – saving whales. 858 last season, 525 the season before and 483 the year before that.
The ACV Ocean Protector is now returning to Albany, Western Australia, after the transfer was successfully completed. Customs and Border Protection anticipate the transit to Albany could take approximately three days, depending on weather. Captain Paul Watson said ‘Our supporters in Albany will certainly give them a warm welcome.’