The sinking of the anti-whaling trimaran Ady Gill in the Southern Ocean, after colliding with a Japanese whaler, has caused a global outcry but also sparked a public relations war that has highlighted divisions within the anti-whaling movement.
The Ady Gill was abandoned and sank after losing its bow in the collision. The crew were all rescued.
The high-tech trimaran was owned by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS), which describes itself as “an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organisation”.
“Our mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world’s oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species,” SSCS says on its Web site (www.seashepherd.org). “Sea Shepherd uses innovative direct-action tactics to investigate, document, and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities on the high seas.”
It’s these “direct-action tactics” that have raised eyebrows not only among governments that oppose whaling, but also among conservation groups.
The Institute Of Cetacean Research, owner of the whaling vessel involved in the recent incident, claims the Ady Gill was attacking the whaler.
“The Sea Shepherd activists have been escalating the viciousness of their sabotage including hurling projectiles containing hazardous butyric acid and firing line-launch rockets against Japan’s research vessels,” the Institute said in a release on its Web site (www.icrwhale.org). It claimed the whaler’s crew had recovered part of the Ady Gill, as well as “various drifting objects including several bowgun arrows”.
“Bowgun arrows are weapons with the ability to produce casualties if used against a person or persons,” The Institute said.
In response, Sea Shepherd said the whaler had deliberately rammed the Ady Gill, and laid a complaint of attempted murder with the New Zealand Police (New Zealanders were among its crew).
New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said the incident was being investigated, while accusing the Sea Shepherd protestors of “deliberately breaking the law”.
Sea Shepherd founder, Canadian Paul Watson, is a former member of Greenpeace who was expelled from that organisation in 1977 for his “divisive” tactics. Greenpeace claims Watson has attacked it regularly since then, and has asserted its commitment to non-violent protest. A summary of its views on Watson is at tinyurl.com/y99qvfb
“We passionately want to stop whaling, and will do so peacefully,” Greenpeace says. “That’s why we won’t help Sea Shepherd.”