It appears as though Japan may have finally succeeded in gaining enough influence in the Netherlands to attempt to dictate Dutch law.

Because the Steve Irwin, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's flagship (used to obstruct activities by Japanese whalers in violation of international laws and in an internationally recognized Whale Sanctuary), is registered in the Netherlands, the Japanese authorities have lodged an official complaint regarding the conduct and behavior of the Steve Irwin.

In recent years, a number of incidents have taken place between the vessels of the Japanese whaling fleet and Sea Shepherd in the waters of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. According to the Dutch Transport and Water Management Inspectorate, both parties have been guilty of breaking international regulations concerning good seamanship and the safety at sea.

While it appears that this will not have any serious consequences for Japanese state-supported and illegal operations, it may carry serious consequences for Sea Shepherd.

On request of the Dutch Transport and Water Management Inspectorate, the Dutch Public Ministry investigated and determined it is not feasible to start a legal prosecution. The Dutch cabinet is now considering a ban against Sea Shepherd vessels sailing under the Dutch flag. Public Works State Secretary Tineke Huizinga said she wants to amend the law quickly to make this possible.

Japan has repeatedly complained to the Netherlands about Sea Shepherd. Current law makes it difficult to take action against ships already registered with the Dutch government, so the cabinet wants to speedily extend its legal options for withdrawing certificates of registry, according to Huizinga.

Unfortunately, the Dutch authorities would be closing their eyes to the fact that all the incidents between the illegal Japanese whalers and Sea Shepherd have taken place in the waters of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and/or in others areas protected by international and Australian Federal law.

The Japanese whaling fleet is engaged in illegal activities, but lack of enforcement allows them to operate largely unopposed. Sea Shepherd is the only organization actively enforcing conservation law to stop these Antarctic poachers, and operates under the UN World Charter for Nature to that end.

For years now the Netherlands have stated they are against whaling, but have not taken any action to back up this statement. Now, given the opportunity to stand up to Japan, they intend to persecute the only organization worldwide actively striving to enforce international laws and protect whales.

Why does the Dutch government not show its independence and acknowledge the violations of the law committed by the Japanese whalers? Why is Japan apparently placed above international law?

Japan has placed itself above the law because it assumes no government in the world would show the will to actively accuse and legally prosecute Japan for their many violations of international conservation laws. The only entity that has dared to stand up and act is Sea Shepherd. The Netherlands now has an opportunity to join the legal and ethical side in this battle.

Will the Dutch government narrow-mindedly support illegal whaling operations, or will they support the only organization actively seeking to uphold those same laws by not pandering to Japanese objections?

It seems that Japan is attempting to amend Dutch law. We hope we are wrong. Regardless, we will continue to defend the defenseless against illegal activities in the Antarctic and elsewhere.

Sea Shepherd
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