In a news release today, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands stated support for an amendment to Dutch law that would facilitate vessel deregistration. Dutch Sea Shepherd Board member Laurens De Groot responded, "We have a Dutch ship with a Dutch captain and Dutch crewmembers, and we demand that the Dutch government take action to protect our safety from the dangerous and illegal attacks by illegal Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean."
De Groot is a former Rotterdam police officer who now serves onboard the Rotterdam registered marine conservation ship Steve Irwin for Sea Shepherd.
The Steve Irwin is scheduled to depart from Fremantle in Western Australia on December 7th, 2009 to once again interfere and harass illegal Japanese whaling operations in the waters off the coast of Western Australia.
The Japanese whalers are targeting endangered whales in an established international whale sanctuary in violation of the global moratorium on commercial whaling and in violation of the Antarctic Treaty.
"I am appalled that the Prime Minster Jan Peter Balkenende has agreed to change Dutch law to de-flag the one ship in the world that is actually doing something to oppose illegal whaling," said De Groot. "We have not injured anyone, we have not been charged with any violations. The Japanese whalers have tried to kill us yet the Prime Minister refuses to hear our side of the story. He is more interested in appeasing the criminal activities of the Japanese whalers than he is of protecting the safety of Dutch citizens. We demand as Dutch citizens on a Dutch flagged ship that our government warn the government of Japan to cease and desist their violent attacks on the crew of the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin."
Prime Minister Balkenende responded to concerns expressed by the Prime Minister of Japan that, "as to whaling, I explained the Dutch government is working on a change in the law that would make it possible to take adequate measures against Dutch ships that commit unlawful acts."
The truth is that the crew of the Steve Irwin has not committed any unlawful acts. The Dutch government has not cited the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society or the Captain and crew of the Steve Irwin with any violations. The governments of Japan and Australia have not charged Sea Shepherd with any violations.
"This is all political and it is not proper for the Prime Minister of the Netherlands to be threatening to pass legislation to remove the Dutch flag from a vessel that has not been charged with any wrong doing," said Captain Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd Founder and President. "The Prime Minister should be more concerned about protecting the safety of Dutch citizens than he seems to be about protecting the interests of the Japanese whale poachers."
The Sea Shepherd whale defense campaign this year is called Operation Waltzing Matilda and will be the sixth expedition to intervene against illegal Japanese whaling. During these encounters, the Japanese whalers have used acoustical weapons, concussion grenades, and have even shot at Sea Shepherd crew. One bullet struck Captain Paul Watson in the chest and was stopped by his Kevlar vest.
"I think that the Prime Minister should be more concerned about Japanese violence than about our non-violent measures to stop illegal whaling," said De Groot.
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Japan urges Netherlands to help against whaling activists
(AFP) - 7 hours ago
TOKYO -- Japan on Monday urged the Netherlands to take action against the Dutch-registered flagship of the Sea Shepherd environmentalist group over its attacks on Japanese whalers in the Antarctic.
Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said he made the request when he met his Dutch counterpart Jan Peter Balkenende, now on his four-day visit to the country.
"I asked as a flag state to handle the obstruction of maritime safety," Hatoyama told reporters at a joint news conference with Balkenende.
The Dutch premier replied: "As to whaling, I explained the Dutch government is working on a change in the law that would make it possible to take adequate measures against Dutch ships that commit unlawful acts."
He added: "We disagree about whaling... but we do not disagree on the importance of safety at sea."
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has repeatedly harassed Japanese whaling vessels as the group's ship rammed into Japanese whalers in Antarctic waters and its crew threw bottles filled with chemicals.
Japan hunts whales by using a loophole in the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling that allows whales to be killed for "lethal research," and Tokyo often accuses western critics of insensitivity toward its culture.