Japan May Resort to Gunboat Diplomacy in Antarctic WatersAccording to a report in the Western Australian, it looks like things will get very hot down in Antarctic waters this year.
The newspaper reported that the Japanese Coastguard may be sending a Coast Guard gunboat down to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary to defend their pirate whalers in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
This will be a gross violation of the Antarctic Treaty. This will most likely not deter Japan. The Japanese whaling fleet has been in violation of numerous international conservation laws over the last twenty years by targeting endangered species in an established whale sanctuary in violation of a global moratorium on commercial whaling.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is not overly concerned about this threat.
Sea Shepherd has gone head to head with many different navies in the past and survived without injuries or being apprehended.
Sea Shepherd is not intimidated by the Japanese Coast Guard.
The more drama, the better. The more action, the better. The more controversy, the better. The more this becomes an international incident; the better it is for the whales.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is no stranger to high seas showdowns. A few of the more dramatic past engagements are:
1979 - Portugal: We came under fire from a Portuguese naval vessel after we rammed and disabled the pirate whaler Sierra in the Portuguese harbour of Leixoes.
1981- Soviet Siberia: We came under fire and threats from the Soviet frigate Iceberg and two helicopter gunships after we landed in Soviet Siberia to get evidence of illegal whaling operations. The captain of the frigate radioed the Sea Shepherd II and said "Stop your ship and prepare to be boarded by the Soviet Union." I replied "we don't have room for the Soviet Union." We called their bluff and made U.S. waters without being apprehended.
1986 Faeroes: We were fired upon by the Faeroese Coast guard vessel Oliver Hagli. The Coast Guard tried to board the ship but were repelled by Sea Shepherd II cannons firing chocolate and banana cream pie.
1991 - Caribbean: The Sea Shepherd ship Sea Shepherd II clashed with the Spanish Navy in the Caribbean. In a game of chicken a Spanish destroyer and the Sea Shepherd II approached each other at full speed bow to bow. The destroyer pulled away and the Sea Shepherd II broke through the blockade.
1994 - Norway: The Norwegian warship Andenes fires on the Sea Shepherd ship Whales Forever and drops four depth charges under the hull. The Andenes then rammed and smashed the bow of the Whales Forever. The pursuit lasted 500 miles but the Whales Forever safely reached the Scottish Shetland Islands.
In 1994, in response to criticism from a Canadian naval officer that Sea Shepherd did not have the experience to operate a submarine, Captain Paul Watson replied. "Sea Shepherd has boarded more ships at sea, rammed more ships, sunk more ships and blockaded more harbours that the Canadian Navy has since World War II so I don't think they are in any position to pass judgment on our experience."
The Japanese Coastguard is equipped with several classes of ship, the largest of which can carry two helicopters and is armed with 35mm and 20mm cannons.
The Coastguard also commands an SAS-style counter terrorist unit that specializes in seaborne assaults and hijackings.
Sea Shepherd is prepared to non-violently defend the Steve Irwin with non-lethal and non-injurious tactics if the Japanese gunboat attacks.
In the same issue of the Western Australian, Mr. Steve Shallhorn of Greenpeace Australia condemned Sea Shepherd for being "violent" and said that Greenpeace will continue to not cooperate with Sea Shepherd.
Captain Watson responded that Shallhorn's accusation is not only libelous but also puts the lives of Sea Shepherd crew at risk.
"We have never injured anyone. The Dalai Lama is a supporter of Sea Shepherd and he would not support us if we were violent," said Captain Watson. "The more Greenpeace repeats this lie the more dangerous they make things for us. If Greenpeace condemns us for being violent than the whalers may have cause to justify violence towards us."
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship Steve Irwin will be departing from Brisbane, Australia at the end of November for the fifth voyage to Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.