Dutch Transport Minister Tineke Huizinga has rejected a Japanese government complaint and demand to remove the Dutch flag from the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin.
The Japanese Prime Minster brought the matter to the attention of Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende a month ago when Balkenende was on a visit to Japan. Balkenende stressed then that the Netherlands does not agree with the Japanese views on whaling.
Under pressure from the Japanese government however, the Dutch foreign Ministry gave indications that they would seek to change the legislation to allow the Dutch government to remove the Dutch flag from the Steve Irwin despite the fact that no charges had been laid against the Steve Irwin or Sea Shepherd by the Dutch, Japanese, or Australian governments in connection with Sea Shepherd efforts to end illegal Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
Research by the Dutch shipping inspectorate showed both sides had broken international sea rules, the minister said. The Japanese government refused to cooperate with the Dutch shipping inspectorate and therefore a complete investigation into the incidents in the Southern Ocean was not possible.
The Japanese fleet departed from Japan on November 19th for the Southern Ocean. The Sea Shepherd ships Steve Irwin and the Ady Gil are scheduled to depart from Australia on December 7th.
The Mainichi Daily News of Japan asked this question this weekend: With its modus operandi becoming ever more violent in recent years, could the group bring about the end of whaling in Japan?
Their activities have caused catches in the past two years to drop to just 60-75 percent of expected figures, and this year Watson says he wants to get this figure down to at least half.
With even the Japanese media acknowledging the impact of Sea Shepherd interventions, the prognosis for toe 2009/2010 whaling season looks promising for the whale defenders.
"We need to keep the financial pressure on the whaling fleet," said Captain Paul Watson. "We have cost them their profits for the last three years and we have them on the ropes economically. I am confident and hopeful that we can deliver the knock-out punch this year and that we will bankrupt these poachers."
Sea Shepherd will be the subject for the third season of Animal Planet's Whale Wars.