The Japanese whaling ship Shonan Maru 2 arrived in Tokyo today with the first New Zealand prisoner of war to be transported to Japan as a political prisoner since World War II.
As soon as his foot touched Japanese soil, Captain Bethune reestablished himself as a national hero in New Zealand and an international hero in Australia, France, Britain, the United States, and every other country whose citizens deplore the continued illegal whaling activities of the Japanese whaling fleet.
The situation is a comedy of over reaction by the Japanese. The Japanese ship Shonan Maru 2 deliberately rammed and sank Captain Pete Bethune's New Zealand registered vessel the Ady Gil without any penalty, not even a reprimand. Captain Bethune boarded the vessel that destroyed his ship, politely knocked on the bridge door, and presented himself to the Captain.
Scores of police and TV camera crews on the pier awaited the arrival of the harpoon ship Shonan Maru 2, while nationalist protesters flew Rising Sun flags and rude and abusive signs demonizing Captain Pete Bethune as an "eco-terrorist."
Japanese nationalists have seized the whaling question as an opportunity to broadcast their anti-western sentiments. Sea Shepherd looks on this as an opportunity to use the Japanese nationalists to further illustrate the illegality of Japanese whaling operations in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is prepared to back Captain Peter Bethune with a top legal assistance team and the Society will work to use this extraordinary case to further expose and embarrass the Japanese government concerning their whale poaching operations in the Southern Ocean.
Captain Peter Bethune understands the consequences that may face him for the courage he has displayed in defending endangered whales. He told Captain Paul Watson that, "you don't change the world by sitting on your ass and being afraid to do the right thing."
Simply being arrested took the Shonan Maru 2 out of the whaling operations for a month so they could return Captain Bethune to Japan. That was an enormous cost in fuel to transport one prisoner to Japan from Antarctica and it saved the lives of dozens of whales at the same time.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is confident that the operations of Operation Waltzing Matilda saved the lives of over 500 whales this year. Despite the loss of the Ady Gil and the taking prisoner of Captain Bethune, the campaign has been an awesome success.
"Ships are expendable, the whales are not," said Captain Paul Watson. "My crew is prepared to risk their lives to save the whales. Compared to that, being held as a prisoner is easy stuff."
The Sea Shepherd ships will return to the Southern Ocean in December for a seventh campaign to defend the whales of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary should the Japanese whalers insist on continuing their criminal operations.