The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is happy to report that there is at least one world government with the courage to stand up to the economic bullying by the government, the whaling industry, and the corporations of Japan.
In the face of incredible political and economic pressure from Japan, the Netherlands has not only refused the Japanese demand to strike the Dutch flag from our ship the Steve Irwin, they have now officially registered our ship the Bob Barker under the Dutch flag.
Since 2005, pressure from the Japanese government has cost us the flags of Canada, Great Britain, the Cayman Islands, Togo, and Belize. Without any reason given, we were simply informed that our flags were struck. Belize cancelled our registration after only 19 days in December 2007.
The Dutch registrar told us from the beginning that the Netherlands did not take its orders from Tokyo. We have enjoyed the honor of the Dutch flag since 2008 on the Farley Mowat and the Steve Irwin, and now also proud to fly the Dutch flag on the Bob Barker.
In 2009, the Japanese Prime Minister communicated directly with the Prime Minister of the Netherlands to appeal for the removal of the Dutch flag. Despite this very high level request, the Dutch registry did not submit.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has not been charged with any maritime or criminal infraction by the Netherlands for our efforts to protect and defend marine wildlife on the high seas. The Netherlands will not strike a flag from a Dutch ship on the basis of political pressure.
This is much different from Britain and Canada, where the flag was struck at the first whining request from Tokyo. Belize, Togo, and the Cayman Islands were not much of a surprise to us. We had thought that Britain at least had some remnant of maritime pride, but apparently not.
And thus the Sea Shepherd fleet will henceforth be exclusively Dutch and it is a tricolor that we will fly with pride in recognition of the integrity of the Netherlands and their refusal to be coerced for political reasons by a nation ruthlessly and illegally slaughtering whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
With the Dutch government we know we have the backing of a registry with integrity. We made a mistake with the Ady Gil, a vessel that sailed under the flag of New Zealand with a New Zealand captain and crew.
On January 6th, the Japanese harpoon vessel Shonan Maru 2 deliberately rammed and destroyed the Ady Gil and almost killed six crewmembers. That Japanese captain has not been questioned by anyone for this crime. Instead the Kiwi skipper of the Ady Gil has been held as a prisoner of war by the Japanese ever since. He goes on trial this week, facing multiple years in prison for daring to board the ship that destroyed his ship to confront the captain of the Shonan Maru 2 man-to-man. Australia and New Zealand both say that the investigation is dead in the water because of Japan's refusal to cooperate. Yet at Japan's request, Australia is investigating complaints against Sea Shepherd.
If the Ady Gil had been registered in the Netherlands we would not now be dealing with the cowardly actions of the New Zealand government. Our case would be backed by the integrity of a government whose soul has not been bought and paid for by Japan.
Thank-you from the international volunteer crew of the Sea Shepherd ships Steve Irwin and Bob Barker to the people of the Netherlands for both the courage to back our flag and for the vision to understand that if we are to save the world's oceans, we will have to take responsible aggressive action.
Both Sea Shepherd ships will return under the colors of the Netherlands to the Southern Ocean in December 2010 to once again pursue and intervene against the unlawful actions of the Japanese whaling fleet.