Detained Activists Planted Bugs on Japanese Harpoon Ship


Last month, two members of the radical anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) boarded a Japanese whaling ship.

The SSCS ship Robert Hunter before its transformation into the Steve Irwin. Photo by Alpha

The story became an international incident when the two men were held on board by the whalers for several days, sparking allegations of terrorism from both whalers and activists and creating a diplomatic incident between Australia and Japan.

The protesters say they originally boarded the ship to deliver a letter to the whalers demanding an immediate end to Japanese whaling activities. But new statements from the SSCS’ Captain Paul Watson show that they did a lot more than that during their time aboard the harpoon ship Yushin Maru 2.

Watson said that the two detained crew members, Benjamin Potts of Australia and Giles Lane of the UK, were able to use their time aboard the ship to plant tracking devices. Watson said the two were not locked up during their entire period on the ship, and were able to move about the ship and hide tracking devices. He also suggested that it wasn’t just the Yushin Maru 2 that was being electronically tracked by the activist group.

Watson said: “It’s not just the Yushin Maru, which they’re probably ripping to pieces right now. We were able to do more than one. We’re pretty much able to track the entire fleet.” Watson hinted that homing devices were on most of the ships, including some that were applied before the ships even left Japan. It’s questionable if this is entirely true, as the SSCS struggled to find the Japanese whaling fleet. The fleet’s location was first discovered by Greenpeace, who refused to share the information with the SSCS ship because they disagreed with the group’s occasionally violent tactics.

While the SSCS may not have had tracking devices on the ships since they left port, they certainly seem to now. The group was forced to return to Australia several weeks ago to refuel and take on new crew members. It was suggested they’d be unable to relocate the Japanese fleet after a long layoff, but the SSCS ship Steve Irwin located the fleet three days ago in Antarctic waters that Australia claims as a whale sanctuary.

While the group has been unable to stop the whaling altogether, despite unorthodox and downright dangerous tactics at time, they have had some success in keeping the Japanese from whaling since they relocated the fleet. Watson said: “This is the third day now they have not killed any whales. After next month they will not be able to continue and I’m pretty confident they have not taken more than 400 whales so far this year.”

SSCS members believe they’ve helped prevent the Japanese from being able to reach their quota this year. Watson said: “They are not going to make their quota this year. We are more than half way through the season and they are running.”

The Japanese whaling fleet isn’t the only one being tracked. A Japanese trawler, the Fukuyoshi Maru No.68, is now shadowing the Steve Irwin. The SSCS believes the ship is carrying Japanese coast guard officers. Australia, the biggest international opponent of the whale hunt, has warned the group to tone down their activities, particularly while they are being observed. Though the SSCS stands behind its decision to board the Japanese ship, the move was of questionable legality at best. The Japanese have called it an act of piracy, and legal action is forthcoming from both sides.

Info from Reuters

If you want to find out all the latest news on science and the environment, why not subcribe to our RSS feed? We’ll even throw in a free album.