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Sea Shepherd leader Paul Watson on activist Peter Bethune: We would 'welcome him back'

Peter Bethune

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — An anti-whaling group banned one of its members for carrying a weapon onboard ship as a strategy to help him avoid prison in Japan, and he's free to rejoin its protests, the group's leader said Thursday.

A Tokyo court on Wednesday convicted New Zealander Peter Bethune of assault and obstructing Japanese whaling ships in the Antarctic Ocean earlier this year, but suspended the two-year prison sentence.

Bethune, 45, climbed onto the whaling ship Shonan Maru 2 in February from a Jet Ski to confront its captain over a collision the previous month that sank the Sea Shepherd protest vessel Bethune skippered.

During the trial, Sea Shepherd announced it would not let Bethune join further protests because it found he had loaded a bow and arrows onto his vessel before it set sail -- even though he didn't intend to use them against the Japanese whaling ships.

Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson said Thursday that ban "was really just a legal strategy" as "the Japanese judges would [have been] hesitant to release Pete ... if they knew he was going to be [back] down in the southern ocean."

"We spent half a million dollars and put every bit of thought we could into getting him out of prison and that was a strategy," he told New Zealand's National Radio.

BethuneSketch "He's a hero to the conservation movement and we'd certainly welcome him back," he said. Bethune said earlier he was not planning to take part in anti-whaling protests in the coming Antarctic summer season.

Sea Shepherd has been protesting Japan's whaling in Antarctic waters for years, and often has engaged in scuffles with Japanese whalers. It claims the research whaling program, an allowed exception to an international whaling ban, is a cover for commercial hunting.

Glenn Inwood, New Zealand spokesman for Japan's Tokyo-based Institute of Cetacean Research, said Bethune's conviction showed "Sea Shepherd is a criminal organization."

Watson vowed that the group would return to Antarctica this season to continue its campaign against the Japanese whalers. Inwood said the whalers also planned to return.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key called on both sides to keep "cool heads" while the international community struggles to come up with a compromise acceptable to whaling and non-whaling nations.

International Whaling Commission puts decision on whaling moratorium on hold another year
Researchers say their Antarctic expedition proves whales don't need to be killed for study

-- Associated Press

Top photo: Protesters opposed to the activities of Sea Shepherd hold placards calling for strict penalties against Bethune before the announcement of a verdict in his case outside Tokyo District Court on July 7. Credit: Yuriko Nakao / Reuters

Bottom photo: In this courtroom sketch, Sea Shepherd activist Peter Bethune sits at a courtroom of the Tokyo District Court on May 27. Credit: Kyodo News, Tennen Katsuyama / Associated Press

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I find the sea sheaperd completely hilarious. These guys have a passion that I guess I can respect , but , does this mean people who are against "the killing of not yet developed children" can go and throw butric acid at abortion clinics.? slim chance. people who think whales are more important than people should be sent to an island and left there until they have to eat the stupid animals for themselves . they all need to get a life and stop worshiping the animals,

I wonder how Bethune would do suing for civil damages. Whether you agree w/ Sea Shepard or not, the footage of the Whaler ramming the Ady Gil is pretty damning.

Good for you Sea Shepards for having the courage of your convictions! For the whalers to allow themselves 50 of an extremely endangered species (in a whale sanctuary at that) is an abomination. To delibately sink a vessel with people on board is a crime in my opinion. You know the dangers of hypothermia and to try to kill those people shows what you are to the world. What laws dictate acceptable behavior in a sanctuary? Why are any kills acceptable in such a place? What can an average citizen such as I do to stop such suffering and death? Whales are intelligent and important to the Earth even if their language is not yet understood. They may be smarter than their human counterparts and deserve to live as they were meant to do in the oceans of the world. In Florida, if they are beached, many caring people rush to the shore to try to save them and return them to their natural homes. Why should anyone be allowed to kill them for profit when we are only beginning to learn about them and their value to the planet?

Cooper, i find your comparison completely hilarious.

Lets delve a little further into your comparison to find where it is flawed.

Sea Shepherd vs Whalers
Commercial Whaling: Illegal

Anti-Abortionists vs Abortion Clinics
Abortion: Legal (States where Abortion is Legal typically won't have official places where one may get an abortion)

Sea Shepherds are anti-whaling and are going after Whalers who are doing it illegally. ICRWhale might be doing it for research which is legal, but the company they hired to actually do the whaling, Kyodo Senpaku, is doing it for commercial profit which is illegal on their part.

Abortion Clinics (again, obviously only in states where Abortion is legal) are giving abortions legally without question.

Thank you.
It's not about "worshiping animals", Cooper W.
Evidently you have no sense of what passion and compassion are about
... much less, what is right or wrong; or, what the proper information is.
You've made such a feeble attempt @ comparing apples and oranges.
Get a life yourself !? It sure sounds like you need it.

It's pretty brave to harpoon an innocent and unsuspecting being
from a multi-ton large vessel, instilling unbelievable pain and suffering
... only to be dissected for the greed of obnoxious humans
... blatantly lying under the guise of "tissue sampling" on "Research vessels"?!?!

I believe in what the Sea Shepherd campaign and all those involved are doing!!!
The sacrifices they (and their families) have made for their
passions and compassion is incredibly honorable!
They are doing what they can provide a voice and protection for
very precious and vital beings in this World ...
Their bravery, drive, motivation and convictions is immeasurable.

The ICR is pathetic !!!!! What a bunch of bureaucratic B.S. !!
Really ... a Japan-based "office"?! Now, there's an objective angle ???
Yes, Crystal. A picture paints a thousand words!!!
I'm grateful that no one was killed.
Obviously, only ignorant idiots would see what happened as anything
other than an egregiously heinous act ...

@ Crystal...not only are Minke whales not EXTREMELY endangered, they are not even close to being endangered...don't believe everything Watson says, it is bound to be a lie...


Alot of you have a great deal of homework to do. We don't want you whale-huggers posting untruths and sounding stupid...

Sagey, maybe you should research a little more specifically on why Japan gets targeted more than any other country by people who are against whaling.

Canada: "a small number of whales"
Iceland: "Its annual quota is 30 minke whales"
United States: "Whaling carried out by nine indigenous Alaskan communities takes around 50 bowhead whales per year"
Russia: "up to 140 gray whales"
Greenland: "Greenlandic Inuit whalers catch around 175 whales per year, making them the third largest hunt in the world after Norway and Japan, though their take is small compared to Japan's or Norway's, who averaged around 590 and 730 whales in 1998-2007."

Sagey, with all of those listed, lets move on to the top two whaling countries.

Norway: "487 to 592 whales"
Japan: "over 1000 whales"

Oh, look at that.... Norway and Japan, the two countries mainly targeted by anti-whaling activists, are almost 4x and 10x larger than the 3rd largest whaling country. Japan being the largest by a long shot.

Hooray for paul watson and all the volentuurs for trying to stop the sensless killing of whales.as a south african i say it makes me proud to watch ur show and see the good man captain paul watson is.keep up the good work.my family and i love u and all volenteers aboard the sea sheperd(steve irwin)


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