Japanese Whalers Kidnap Two Sea Shepherd Whale Defenders
Despite repeated demands by the captain of the Steve Irwin, the Japanese whaler Yushin Maru No. 2 has refused to release the two Sea Shepherd crewmembers he took hostage.
The much faster harpoon vessels have eluded pursuit from the Steve Irwin and have disappeared from the radar screens.
"Needless to say we are worried about our two crewmembers," said Captain Paul Watson. "The Japanese ship has not responded to a single message from Sea Shepherd and we have no way of knowing just how they are being treated. They have been kidnapped and they are being held against their will by outlaw whalers."
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has lodged a complaint with the Australian Federal Police, with the Australian government and with the British Embassy. The two missing crewmembers are Benjamin Potts 28 from Melbourne and Giles Lane 35 from Brighton, England.
The Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin found the Japanese whaling fleet at 0015 GMT Hours on January 15th, 2008. It was the entire Japanese whaling fleet minus the factory ship Nisshin Maru. The ships scattered as the Steve Irwin approached going in different directions. The Steve Irwin decided on focusing pursuit on the Yushin Maru #2, a large hunter killer vessel.
Benjamin Potts and Giles Lane boarded the Yushin Maru No. 2 to deliver a letter informing the Japanese captain that Japan was in violation of international conservation law by targeting endangered whales in an established whale sanctuary in violation of a global moratorium on commercial whaling. Both men were assaulted, tied to the rails and then taken and tied to the radar mast of the ship. A few hours later they were taken inside the ship. The Japanese ship did not respond to a single radio call in English and Japanese from the time of interception onward. Their radios have been silent.
Last year the Japanese whalers vowed to bring any captured whale defenders back to Japan to place on trial under charges of "eco-terrorism."
The good news is that there has been no whaling in the Southern Ocean for the last five days and with the Nisshin Maru over 1,000 kilometres to the northwest heading towards South Africa, there will be no resumption of whaling for at least another week. There are no whaling ships in the whaling area south of the sixty degrees south line of latitude. The whaling area has been effectively cleared and the whaling ships are scattered.
The Steve Irwin will remain in the area to continue to pursue whaling ships with the objective of preventing the resumption of whaling activities. There are 32 crewmembers remaining on the Steve Irwin. The Sea Shepherd ship and the whaling vessels are in the area of 60 Degrees South and 78 Degrees East about 2500 miles southwest of Fremantle, Western Australia and 2800 miles southeast of Cape Town, South Africa.