The Biggest Sea Shepherd Non-Story of the Year
Commentary by Captain Paul Watson
Captain Pete Bethune of the Ady Gil made news this week when he “confessed” to sinking his ship the Ady Gil under my orders. He said he was apologizing to the world for such an awful thing to do.
It caught us at Sea Shepherd by surprise, primarily because we all knew that Bethune himself attempted to scuttle the Ady Gil. In fact, over a million people saw and heard Bethune make the decision to abandon the Ady Gil on the television show “Whale Wars.”
Bethune was not ordered to sink the Ady Gil. The fact is that after towing the Ady Gil for 36 hours and breaking two tow ropes as the vessel became increasingly heavier as it filled with water, Captain Chuck Swift on the Bob Barker called me on the Steve Irwin. I was 200 miles away from the two other vessels at the time. Chuck told me the Ady Gil could not be salvaged and asked me what he should do.
As documented on camera, I say, “it’s Pete’s boat, it’s Pete’ call.”
As documented on camera, Bethune says that the boat cannot be salvaged and that his decision is to abandon it.
Simply abandoning the Ady Gil would have left it as a navigational hazard. It was Bethune who went to the vessel to attempt to scuttle it and Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) was made aware of this. I am not criticizing Bethune’s decision. It was the correct decision to make. What I am saying is that neither Captain Swift nor I ordered Bethune to scuttle the vessel.
In fact, the Ady Gil was not even Sea Shepherd’s property. It was owned by Ady Gil the man and chartered by Sea Shepherd. Bethune was the captain, answerable to Mr. Gil and not to Sea Shepherd for the operation of the vessel Ady Gil.
I could not legally or morally order Bethune to scuttle a vessel that we did not own, and Bethune’s responsibility was to make all decisions relative to the Ady Gil.
So why has Bethune decided to make such an accusation to the media and the public that I ordered him to sink the Ady Gil?
The answer is obvious. I fired him the day before for providing false statements to the Japanese police. He then threatened to make this allegation against me if I did not reinstate him. I refused. In fact, I sent Bethune’s threats to the media before he released them.
Disgruntled, angry and out for revenge, Bethune decided that he could damage Sea Shepherd by making such an allegation.
Perhaps it did do some damage, but the alternative was to surrender to his attempt to get his way by making threats, and that was not going to happen.
What is amazing is that Bethune would make such a statement when he is recorded on film making the decision, and I am recorded on film saying that the fate of the Ady Gil was his decision – not mine. Over a million people saw and heard us make these statements.
Furthermore, all of the deck officers of the Bob Barker, Steve Irwin and Ady Gil are in agreement that no such order was given to Bethune.
What Bethune did in the Ady Gil was the only course of action he could have taken. The ship could not be salvaged, and Bethune says so on camera. We attempted to scuttle the vessel, and when the Bob Barker left the area, the Ady Gil was still afloat, but slowly sinking. In fact, the Shonan Maru # 2 reported seeing the Ady Gil still afloat hours later.
So not only is Bethune’s claim to have been ordered to sink the vessel false, the vessel was not even sunk when he left it. Bethune should have attached a beacon and an EPIRB to the wreck before leaving, but did not do so.
There is actually no evidence that the Ady Gil ever sank at all. It was a carbon fiber and foam construct, and although filled with water and unsalvageable, it could very well still be floating, although primarily submerged. So Bethune cannot even claim that the boat was actually sunk.
AMSA was given the facts and the position of the wreck, and they agreed that there was no choice but to abandon the vessel.
So what is this story about?
To put it bluntly, it was the seizing of an opportunity to make a scandal out of nothing, based on the words of a man who had been fired from Sea Shepherd the day before.
The abandonment of the vessel and the failed attempt to scuttle it were responsible decisions and were made known to the proper authorities at the time. What was not justified is the deliberate destruction of the vessel by the Japanese ship Shonan Maru #2.
But why let the facts get in the way of a “good” story?