Sea Shepherd Breaks All Ties With Pete Bethune
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society recently informed Captain Pete Bethune that he will no longer be associated with the society or with any Sea Shepherd campaigns.
The reason is simple. Perhaps in a misguided attempt to gain leniency while still in custody, Bethune provided false testimony to the Japanese authorities regarding Captain Paul Watson. This resulted in an alleged warrant issued for Captain Watson within Japan and the placement of Captain Watson’s name on the Interpol Blue List.
It has been reported that a warrant may have been issued in Japan for the arrest of Captain Watson, although neither Captain Watson nor Sea Shepherd has been formally notified by the Japanese authorities that this is so.
This “warrant” was brought to our attention because of a conversation with the Japanese police and Scott West, Sea Shepherd’s Director for Investigations, who is on the ground in Taiji, Japan to document the annual dolphin slaughter.
In his daily report on September 30, 2010, West wrote:
“During questioning yesterday the police asked me if I knew that Paul Watson was “wanted.” I said that I did not know that and they laughed saying now they do not believe anything I say. They told me the warrant is based upon Pete Bethune’s statement that Paul had instructed Pete to board the Shonan Maru #2. I explained that while Pete may have said that to the police, it is not accurate. Paul did not instruct Pete to take that action. The truth is that neither Paul nor I have seen any official notice of an arrest warrant. If the police want to provide us with an official notice, then we can decide if Paul should come to Japan to answer the charges.”
We have now officially requested information from Japan as to the authenticity of such a warrant. We are still awaiting a reply.
We do know that Japan has placed Captain Watson’s name on the Interpol Blue List, which notifies border authorities in other countries that he is a “person of interest.”
The Blue List is not an arrest warrant. It is set up for international border authorities to pass on information to the Japanese police about a person’s movements and is arguably designed to inconvenience the named individual when travelling internationally.
When recently returning from Canada to the United States, Captain Watson was taken from his vehicle at gunpoint, handcuffed and brought inside the detention area. He was released a few minutes later when the border control supervisor recognized him. Captain Watson was told that he had been stopped because Japan had accused him of being an “armed and dangerous eco-terrorist.”
Captain Watson was ultimately released without any consequences, but this incident confirms that Japan is escalating the pressure in an attempt to stop Sea Shepherd’s annual interventions against Japan’s illegal whaling activities in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
Why is this all happening this year and not in previous years?
The answer, unfortunately, is the arrest of Bethune in Japan in February of this year.
Bethune’s Japanese legal team (to whom Sea Shepherd paid over a half a million dollars to defend Bethune), supplied Sea Shepherd with a transcript of statements made by Bethune to the Japanese prosecutor, wherein Bethune falsely accused Captain Watson of ordering him to board the Shonan Maru #2.
Captain Watson was understandably shocked and deeply disappointed when he read it.
In January 2010, Captain Watson specifically advised Bethune to return to New Zealand after the ramming and sinking of the Ady Gil. Bethune begged Captain Watson to take him back to sea to confront the captain of the Shonan Maru #2.
As documented on camera for the Animal Planet TV show Whale Wars, Captain Watson told Bethune that he could not order him or even ask him to board the Shonan Maru #2. Bethune told Captain Watson he wanted to be taken back to Japan and requested that Sea Shepherd not take him back onboard even if the Japanese whalers offered to return him. He told Captain Watson that someone needed to make a statement and he was prepared to do so; he was prepared to go to prison in Japan if that was what it would take. Captain Watson told Bethune that such a decision had to be Bethune’s and Bethune’s alone. Bethune agreed, and he also agreed to accept full responsibility for the action.
Only with Bethune’s word that the boarding would be Bethune’s decision and his decision alone, was Captain Watson comfortable in cooperating with his request.
Unfortunately, Bethune betrayed Captain Watson in an attempt to secure leniency on his sentence.
Below is the unedited translated transcript of Bethune’s statement to the Japanese prosecutor:
25 On the Steve Irwin, Paul Watson was on board.
26 The reason why I decided to board the Shonan Maru No. 2 was because
Paul Watson said that, regarding the fact that the Ady Gil had sunk,
it would be better to speak to the captain of the Shonan Maru No. 2 face to face.
2 It was 2 days prior to the break in onto the Shonan Maru No. 2
that I began to prepare for the break in.
More specifically, I prepared equipment I would wear, prepared a Jet Ski for the transportation to the Shonan Maru No. 2, and selected a crewmember who would operate the Jet Ski, among other matters.
As to the crew, because Paul Watson asked me whom I would like to have, it was I who selected trustable individuals.
After I climbed up to the deck of the upper part of the bridge, I radioed the bridge of the Steve Irwin.
The crew in the bridge of the Steve Irwin said to me:
Paul is saying “well done”.
I was thinking along that line, and Paul Watson said to me:
Why don’t you go board the Shonan Maru No. 2?
Hearing that, I agreed to that proposal.
3 At the beginning, Paul Watson said: Why don’t you go on board and say you will ‘citizen-arrest’ the captain of the Shonan Maru No. 2?
Later on, as discussions continued, it was decided to make additional demands in addition to the citizen-arrest.
One of them was to demand that a total of 6 sailors from the sunken Ady Gil be taken on board the Shonan Maru No. 2 and transported to New Zealand or a port the Shonan Maru No. 2 was to call next.
It was also decided to demand compensation for the Ady Gil.
Additionally, it was decided that obtaining the name of the captain of the Shonan Maru No. 2 was part of the purpose of the boarding so as to pursue the captain’s legal responsibility for the collision in the future.
4 These discussions were conducted mainly between Paul Watson and myself by telephone and E-mail because I stayed on board the Bob Barker [?] for a while after the sinking of the Ady Gil, but Paul Watson was on board the Steve Irwin.
1 When I fired the bottles containing butyric acid using the launcher, I was acting according to the command of the operator of the rubber boat
because for Sea Shepherd activities, it was a customary rule that the operator of a rubber boat was in the position of the commander and that other crewmembers were to act according to the operator’s command.
However, in this instance, the operator of the rubber boat was acting under the instructions he was receiving from the Steven Irwin by radio.
For this reason, I can generally say that I was acting according to the instructions of Paul Watson, the captain of the Steve Irwin.
3 Incidentally, Paul Watson is not a type of person who would give concrete and detailed instructions such as: “Aim at such and such area of the Shonan Maru No. 2” and I believe those things were decided by the operator of the rubber boat in his discretion.
One thing I remember in detail as one of Paul Watson’s instructions is that I was told on board the Steve Irwin the day before the day when I actually made a sortie:
Make a sortie in a rubber boat and try to prevent the Shonan Maru No. 2 and the Yushin Maru No. 3 from coming close to the stern of the Steve Irwin.
A helicopter was scheduled to take off from the Steven Irwin the next day, but because the Shonan Maru No. 2 and the Yushin Maru No. 3 were anticipated to intercept it, Paul Watson gave such instruction.
There were approximately 10 people then and there, including bridge members and Animal Planet members, besides myself and Paul Watson.
3 The launcher I used at that time is what had been fabricated sometime in September of last year or thereabouts following Paul Watson’s instruction to prepare one.
I did not make it myself, but Sea Shepherd members [this sentence cut off here]
-1- Prosecutors’ Office
And then, Paul Watson gave Sea Shepherd members, including myself, the instruction:
Take the launcher with you and make a sortie in the rubber boat, and thwart their water spraying on the helicopter.
Based on which, I boarded the rubber boat and left the Steve Irwin.
In addition to myself, there were other members assigned to the roles of an operator, a navigator, a cameraman etc., but I cannot state their names.
Transferred from the Steve Irwin to the rubber boat with us on board were the launcher and a box which contained several bottles containing butyric acid.
Seeing them, I understood that firing the bottles containing butyric acid at the Japanese ships was Paul Watson’s instruction.
2 This launcher is what I asked Sea Shepherd members to make when I was instructed by Paul Watson to prepare.
The time when I received this instruction from Paul Watson was in July of last year when Paul Watson, myself and others, totaling about 6 persons, got together and had a meeting.
During the meeting, Paul Watson said to me:
Prepare a launcher.
I do not recall the exact word Paul Watson used, but I understood that I was to prepare a “potato launcher.
I do not recall for sure whether Paul Watson expressly said that it would be used for the campaign at the Antarctic Ocean, but because the instruction was given during this meeting, I understood that of course it would be used for the campaign at the Antarctic Ocean.
Regarding the butyric acid next, my thoughts were that it would certainly splash more widely than flying pieces of broken bottles and that the droplets might reach some people in the surrounding area, but I never thought butyric acid would cause any bodily injury.
One of the reasons is that Paul Watson had said butyric acid was harmless to human bodies.
The letter addressed to Kyodo Senpaku Company, Ltd. was written by Paul Watson and 2 Sea Shepherd members.
Because of Bethune’s testimony, which contains false statements, Sea Shepherd must publicly disassociate itself from any further involvement with Bethune.
Captain Watson requested that Pete Bethune withdraw quietly so as to not create a drama over this. Bethune replied with a message that was a blatant attempt to use this controversy to try to force Sea Shepherd to give him everything he wanted. Bethune’s allegations are bogus, and Sea Shepherd has no problem refuting them.
It is understandable that Bethune is bitter over Sea Shepherd’s decision to break ties with him, but Captain Watson had no choice. Bethune was allegedly in communication with the office of the Japanese prosecutor only a few weeks ago and did not let anyone know until now. We have no idea what information was being exchanged or whether any of it was true, but we do know that the transcript of Pete’s statement is the basis for the case being built up against Captain Watson, and that is enough to necessitate breaking all ties with Bethune moving forward.
Captain Watson has devoted his life to defending whales, dolphins, and the diversity of life in our seas. During that time, he has never injured a single person, nor has any crewmember sustained a serious injury or been lost. He has also never been convicted of a felony crime, nor have he or Sea Shepherd ever been sued in court by the criminal operations we oppose.
Unfortunately, the government of Japan has now decided to escalate its defense of its illegal whaling operations. Japan is seeking any legal foothold it can get to silence Captain Watson, and Bethune has given them that foothold with his false testimony.
Sea Shepherd is not a covert organization. Everything we do, we do openly. We are careful to work within the law to uphold the law, and in relation to our activities in the Southern Ocean, we have not been charged by the Japanese government for any crime.
Bethune was aware that by boarding the Shonan Maru #2 he would risk arrest by the Japanese authorities. He boarded the vessel with the full understanding that the boarding decision was his own and that he was not following any orders or requests by the Captain or officers of any Sea Shepherd vessel. By giving the Japanese Coast Guard and police a signed statement claiming that Captain Watson had specifically ordered him to board the Shonan Maru #2, Bethune improperly implicated Captain Watson in his action.
Bethune committed a courageous act by boarding the Shonan Maru #2 to confront the captain who had destroyed his ship, the Ady Gil. We appreciate that he brought attention to illegal Japanese whaling in Japan and throughout the world. We appreciate that he was under considerable stress and pressure while in Japanese custody. However, we cannot accept that he gave false testimony to the Japanese authorities that resulted in the placement of Captain Watson on the Interpol Blue List and (according to the police in Taiji) resulted in an arrest warrant for Captain Watson.
It is for this reason that Sea Shepherd must take the necessary step of permanently cutting all ties with Pete Bethune.
The entire situation is regrettable. Sea Shepherd did not wish to make a public drama of this, but it was a choice between our going public or giving in to Bethune’s demands. We will not be extorted or told how to conduct our campaigns or who will participate.
In response to Bethune’s threats, Captain Watson contacted The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia and turned over the correspondence and Sea Shepherd’s position on the matter. Reporter Andrew Darby, in researching the story, contacted Pete Bethune. We gave Darby his number, and Bethune had his say. Darby’s phone call, however, alerted Bethune that we were calling his bluff, and he then promptly began to release his false accusations on Facebook.
Pete Bethune has his own fan base and for those who believe that he is the Whale Warrior he claims to be, all we can say is, by all means, do support him. It was not Sea Shepherd’s wish to denigrate him; we wished merely to disassociate ourselves from him and to do so quietly.
If people wish to support Bethune and fund him to go to the Southern Ocean to intervene against the Japanese whaling fleet, we can only say, the more interventions by anyone, the better. He is free to do what he wants to do within his own rules.
But we cannot allow him to return as a Sea Shepherd crewmember and continue to ignore our rules of engagement, and that means, among other things, no weapons and no derogatory references to the Japanese people.
We also cannot abide Bethune’s betrayal, his cooperation with the Japanese authorities. If people think he was justified in making false statements to gain leniency, they are free to think so, but when Pete referred to us as being morally bankrupt, I can’t think of anything that falls under that definition more accurately than selling out your comrades with false testimony and then attempting to use false information for your own gain.
Sea Shepherd is in the final stages of preparations to return to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. We intend to impact the whaling operations more so than last season, where we succeeded in cutting the whaling fleet’s self-imposed kill quota by over 50%. Every year we get stronger and gain additional resources. This year, we will return stronger than ever, and Captain Watson is confident that we will have a highly effective campaign.