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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sea Shepherd at the Heart of a Japanese Scandal

Fires Across The HarborFires Across The Harbor
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It appears that the Sea Shepherd campaign to stop illegal Japanese whaling operations in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is having a serious political impact in addition to the massive profit losses by the whaling industry.  Last week, the Japanese media reported that the whalers lost $20.5 million dollars USD last season because of Sea Shepherd interventions. This story was also reported in The New York Times and in the current edition of Newsweek.

This week, The Yomiuri Shimbun is reporting that the allocation of monies from the Great East Japan Earthquake Relief Fund towards non-disaster-related expenses is finally causing a political scandal in Japan.

A year ago when Captain Paul Watson publicly exposed the fact that some $30 million dollars had been allocated from the Tsunami Disaster Relief Fund specifically to oppose the operations of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, he was accused of lying by the Japanese government, despite a release from the Japanese Fishery Agency that the allocation had indeed been made. Other defenders of the whalers stated that the funds were allocated from taxes and not from the relief monies.  At the time, the Japanese media did not express much interest in the allocation. A year later, the Japanese media now seems to view this as a scandal, and indeed it is. The Japanese government has seriously abused the goodwill of people around the world by spending funds meant for victims of the Earthquake and the Tsunami on projects completely unrelated to the disaster.

As The Yomiuri Shimbun reports:

"Fiscal allocations for the reconstruction of areas devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake have been used for projects not directly related to disaster-stricken areas. This diversion of funds cannot be ignored."

"Under pressure from the Liberal Democratic Party at the House of Representatives Committee on Audit and Oversight of Administration, the Finance Ministry and other ministries listed projects under way. Many of the projects are suspected of not being essential to reconstruction. The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry earmarked the cost for dealing with Sea Shepherd, an anti-whaling organization, as part of its reconstruction budget. Its reasoning is that unless anti-whaling protests can be halted, it will affect the reconstruction of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, which has whale processing facilities."  The Yomiuri Shimbun described this as Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada's "lame excuse."

Otsuchi, JapanOtsuchi, Japan
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It appears that the allocation to oppose Sea Shepherd was one of the most blatantly disconnected misuses of the funds. The $30 million has been earmarked towards a public relations campaign against Sea Shepherd, to a lawsuit filed in the United States seeking an injunction against Sea Shepherd, to pressuring Costa Rica to resurrect a decade-old, previously dismissed charge against Captain Paul Watson and also pressuring Interpol to issue a ‘Red List’ notice for Captain Watson. Funds were also allocated to provide for a security ship to accompany the whaling fleet.

The Japanese government was embarrassed when Australian anti-whalers successfully boarded this security ship off the coast of Australia in addition to Sea Shepherd cutting the whale kill quota by 74%. Fueling anger over this scandal is the report that the Japanese government is gouging the Japanese taxpayers under the pretext of using tax hikes as a major resource to carry out reconstruction. Towards the end, the residential tax and income tax will be increased over 10 and 25-year periods, respectively, according to the newspaper.  Despite the scandal, the Japanese government will once again be allocating funds to subsidize the whaling fleet and to oppose Sea Shepherd ships and crew. They are also spending large sums in their attempts to track down Captain Paul Watson. It appears that the Japanese government is under the impression that if they can eliminate Captain Watson, they will be able to remove Sea Shepherd's opposition to their unlawful whaling activities.

Critics both within and outside of Japan, angered by the misuse of funds, are wondering just how much more of this Disaster Relief Fund money will be wasted in the defense of a bankrupt whaling industry posing as a research project that has not produced a single peer-reviewed international scientific paper in the quarter of a century that it has been in operation. The whaler's factory ship, Nisshin Maru, is now in drydock in Hiroshima being upgraded at enormous public expense. Meanwhile, four Sea Shepherd ships are waiting in the South Pacific to once again intervene against this scandal-ridden industry that only continues to exist as a glorified welfare project funded by individuals who thought their donations were going to help people, not to slaughter whales.

Otsuchi, JapanOtsuchi, Japan
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Cove Guardians path out of Otsuchi, JapanCove Guardians path out of Otsuchi, Japan
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