Monday, January 3, 2011

WikiLeaks: 'Whale Wars' and Sea Shepherd face new battle

Sea Shepherd on the attack from a Zodiak in a previous
season. Photos from SeaShepherd.org.
If you love whales or you're a conservationist or animal rights activist, you might not like what WikiLeaks just made public, exposing confidential talks between the U.S. and Japanese governments over "Whale Wars."

U.S. diplomatic cables from November 2009 reveal that the Japanese government was (and presumably still is) pressuring the U.S. to weaken the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's efforts to harass the Japanese whaling fleet in exchange for a reduced whale quota.

The U.S. would weaken Sea Shepherd by revoking its tax-exempt status, and a cable reveals that the U.S. government told Japan that it believes it can succeed in doing so.

Yahoo!-associated GrindTV Outdoor was among the first media outlets to report the release of these details by WikiLeaks. GrindTV attempted to confirm with NOAA the validity of the documents and whether the U.S. is still considering taking action against Sea Shepherd, but a spokesman said the agency "does not comment on materials, including classified documents, which may have been leaked."

From a confidential cable labeled  09TOKYO2588 by WikiLeaks and made public Monday (though it's dated Jan. 1):  
Regarding the SSCS [Sea Shepherd], she [Monica Medina, the U.S. representative to the International Whaling Commission] said she believes the USG can demonstrate the group does not deserve tax exempt status based on their aggressive and harmful actions.
A Japanese whaling boat
In an earlier confidential cable labeled 09TOKYO2529, also released by WikiLeaks on Monday, Japan let the U.S. know that dealing with Sea Shepherd needs to be a priority in order for the IWC negotiations for whale-quota reductions to move forward:
[Shuji] Yamada [Japan's Vice-Minister for International Affairs] inquired about an investigation into the tax status of the U.S.-based NGO Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and repeated Japan's request for the U.S. to take action against the organization, which he said created a very dangerous situation on the seas. The DCM [an embassy diplomat] replied that the U.S. places the highest priority on the safety of vessels and human life at sea, and added that if any violations of U.S. law are discovered, we will take appropriate enforcement action. [Fisheries Agency Counselor Joji] Morishita went on to say it would be easier for Japan to make progress in the IWC negotiations if the U.S. were to take action against the Sea Shepherd.
The founder of Sea Shepherd is Paul Watson, whose efforts to prevent the whaling fleet from killing whales spurred the popular reality-TV series called "Whale Wars," which airs on Animal Planet. Watson seemed to shrug off the WikiLeaks report.

From the Associated Press: 
Paul Watson and his crew

Paul Watson [...] said Japan has previously pressured foreign governments to take action against the group, such as revoking the registration of its ships. He said the organization had last been audited about two years ago, which is before the exchanges detailed in the cables.

"We have had our tax status since 1981, and we have done nothing different since then to cause the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) to change that," he told The Associated Press by telephone from his ship.
Watson and his anti-whaling fleet are currently in the Southern Ocean trying to do everything they can to prevent the Japanese whaling fleet from killing whales under the guise of research. Sea Shepherd added a new boat called Godzilla to the fleet this season. Read more about that here.

The Sea Shepherd fleet interrupts hunts by tossing stink bombs onto the Japanese vessels and positioning boats between the whalers and the whales. The intense confrontations make for interesting TV, but more importantly, it helps save hundreds of minke whales from getting harpooned.

The fourth season of "Whale Wars" will begin airing in June. This season's motto: Operation No Compromise.

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Other interesting posts on Outdoors 720:
A weird state law: You can’t fish with your what?
Whale Wars: Godzilla joins fight against Japanese whalers
Congress bans shark finning

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