news_090223_1_5_Tasmania_welcomes_the_Steve_IrwinIf it's a choice between the support of the government and the support of the people, Sea Shepherd captain Paul Watson is happy that Sea Shepherd is enjoying the support of the people.

"From the Australian government we are getting criticism and police raids," said Captain Watson. "But from the Australian people we are getting a wonderful welcome."

Some 2,000 people visited and toured the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin on Saturday, February 21st at MacQuarie Dock in Hobart.

"It's good to be home and it's gratifying to see and hear what people are saying to us and how they appreciate what we are doing," said crew member Andrew Perry of Hobart.

Andrew was married by Captain Watson to Molly Kendall of Adelaide, South Australia during the Antarctic campaign. The Green Party of Australia sent a gift basket to the happy couple. Hobart bars were offering free drinks to Sea Shepherd crew and members of the public have delivered contributions of supplies and money to the Steve Irwin.

"There is no doubt that Australia is the greatest whale loving nation on Earth," said Swedish 1st Officer Peter Hammarstedt. "This country rocks."

The Steve Irwin will remain in Hobart for a month before moving to Melbourne. This week Captain Paul Watson will be speaking at the University of Tasmania, attending a photo exhibit about Tasmanian forests by Green Party leader Senator Bob Brown and will speak to forest activists on the front lines of the battle to save Tasmania's old growth trees.

"These two issues, whales and trees are closely related more than people know," said Captain Watson. "Twenty percent of Japan's paper supply originates in Tasmania. It's a trade-off. Australia wants to continue destroying old growth forests in Tasmania to sell to the Japanese therefore the government is willing to do the bidding of the Japanese whaling industry. In return the Japanese want to kill endangered whales and are threatening trade retaliation against Australia. It seems to me that Japan needs Australia more than Australia needs Japan, but politicians tend to be afraid of anything that upsets the economic apple cart so the whales are being sacrificed so that the destruction of the forests can continue."

When the Japanese see Australia's Environment Minister Peter Garrett supporting the destruction of the forests, endorsing uranium mines, dredging Port Phillips bay and killing dolphins, slaughtering kangaroos and allowing shark finning, they can smile and say, 'he's one of us'.

"If Peter Garrett is willing to crucify me to appease the Japanese whaling industry then so be it," said Captain Watson. "I'd rather be tossed into a cell for life than to betray my love for the diversity of life on this wonderful planet."

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Sea Shepherd
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