Proof that the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's Operation Migaloo has been an outstanding success has been demonstrated by Japan's Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda.
For the first time ever the Japanese Prime Minister has raised the question of whaling in the Japanese diet. He specifically raised the issue of Sea Shepherd's boarding of the hunter killer boat Yushin Maru No. 2.
"I don't think it's right for the discussions to become emotional especially with the recent violent act against the Japanese research vessel," he said. "Should that lead to more emotionally charged debates, then I feel that that would be very unfortunate.
Until now, the whaling issue has received little media coverage in Japan and with leading politicians, let alone the Prime Minister, who rarely discussed it publicly.
"The fact that the Prime Minister referred to Sea Shepherd by name before the elected assembly of Japan has given us a great deal of credibility in this debate," said Captain Paul Watson. "The little eco-mouse has roared and Japan is listening."
The current issue of the Economist stated the following:
On January 22nd Greenpeace, an environmental-lobbying group, wedged a small inflatable craft between the Nisshin Maru, the Japanese fleet's factory ship, and its refueling vessel. It managed to delay, but not stop, the operation. This was a minor episode compared with a manoeuvre a week earlier by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, an anti-whaling body. Two protesters boarded one of the Japanese whaling vessels to deliver a letter demanding that the harpooning stop and, say the Japanese, splashed acid about. (editor's note - organic butter acid i.e. rotten butter)
They were detained on the Japanese ship, grabbing headlines worldwide, until an Australian patrol boat returned them to their own ship three days later. More protests seem likely. Paul Watson, captain of the Sea Shepherd ship tracking the whalers, says he is prepared to keep up the chase for weeks. He painted Greenpeace as timid for its failure to prevent refueling: "Of course it's dangerous. Stopping the whaling fleet is not a game."
The economist also quotes Minoru Morimoto, Japan's commissioner to the International Whaling Commission, who said: "There are enough whales for those who want to watch them and those who want to eat them."
Finally an admission by Japan that the whales are killed for the market and not for "scientific research."
Derek Luxford, a Sydney, Australian shipping lawyer told the Economist that "Australia should resolve the impasse by testing its anti-whaling law before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea." The alternative, he says, is to allow "vigilante" groups like Sea Shepherd to enforce its law.
Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura has informed Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean that Australia should take "appropriate action" under national laws against the two Sea Shepherd activists if the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin called at an Australian port.
Captain Watson has responded by saying, "Of course we will be returning to Australia and we are expecting that Australia will take appropriate action against illegal Japanese whaling in the Australian Antarctic Economic Exclusion Zone. If Australia kow-tows to Japan and charges us with piracy, we will make the case into a show trial and a forum to further expose Japan's criminal acts of wildlife poaching."
The January 24, 2008 edition of the Melbourne Age reported that:
As the Steve Irwin attempted to catch up with the whaling fleet, its leader, Paul Watson, said Japan was willing to subsidise a highly unpopular whale hunt because the Japanese had their sights set on establishing rights to other Antarctic resources, such as krill fisheries, and subsea oil and gas.
There is a bigger picture emerging over this controversy. Referring to Japanese Foreign Minister Komura's comments about Sea Shepherd, the Economist wrote:
He may be right. The dispute is souring the air as Australia embarks on talks with Japan about a free-trade agreement. And it complicates the Rudd government's bid to balance Japan against China's growing importance for Australia. Mr Rudd, a Mandarin-speaking China expert, opposed a security pact that Australia's former government signed with Japan last year. Japan will be looking for signs that Australia's concern for the future of the whale is not part of some wider agenda.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is urging Australians to oppose any talks about a Japanese-Australian Free Trade Agreement unless whaling is prohibited in Australian Territorial waters.
"It is ridiculous for Australia to sign a Free Trade Agreement with a nation that does not recognize Australia's sovereignty over the Antarctic territory and flagrantly disregards an Australian court order barring the killing of whales in that same territory," said Captain Watson. "The recognition of sovereignty must be a pre-requisite to partnership. Otherwise Australia will simply be a vassal state to Japan. The last time Japan tried to subjugate Australian territory they were defeated. They should not be allowed to triumph with economic power where they failed with military power."
The Asahi Shimbun once described Sea Shepherd as the Samurai conservation organization.
"I've always been a great admirer of Japanese culture," said Captain Watson. "I wrote a book called Earthforce that incorporated the strategies of 17th Century writer, poet, artist and sword master Miamoto Musashi. I've called upon Musashi's Book of Five Rings in implementing strategy for this campaign. I think we speak the language that the Japanese understand. Japanese culture admires duty and the word samurai means to serve. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society serves the interests of our clients and our clients are the great whales whose lives we will defend to the death if need be."