Greenpeace holds events for whales and oceans activists

Feature story - June 8, 2010
Today, on World Oceans Day, Greenpeace held events in Vancouver and Montreal to call attention to the plight the world’s whales and to demand justice for whale defenders. Two Greenpeace activists in Japan face jail time for exposing large-scale corruption and embezzlement in Japan’s taxpayer-funded whaling program. Their final day in court was today where the prosecution requested they be sent to jail for 18 months — which, if imposed, would be the longest jail term for any Greenpeace activist in the organization’s history. The court is scheduled to deliver its verdict and sentence on September 6, 2010.

At the Vancouver event, Barbara Stowe, daughter of Greenpeace co-founder Irving Stowe, and co-founder Rex Weyler joined oceans campaigner Sarah King, Greenpeace activists, supporters and members of the Vancouver community in a march and rally.

The speakers talked about Greenpeace’s Save the Whales campaign and the role of civil disobedience and peaceful protest in changing attitudes and governance of our global oceans. They highlighted the case of the Tokyo Two, the pair of Greenpeace activists on trial in Japan. Greenpeace activists held banners and placards calling for justice for the Tokyo Two and for the whales.

In Montreal, some 60 volunteers and supporters gathered at the Place du Canada where a banner reading “Jailed for Defending the Whales? (Défendre les baleines: un crime?)” was unfurled. Photos of the Tokyo Two, Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki, were displayed and members of the public were invited to sign a banner showing support for the activists and their cause to be sent to Greenpeace Japan after the event.



Oceans coordinator Beth Hunter outlined the history of the whales campaign. Greenpeace Quebec director Eric Darier read a letter from the Tokyo Two and highlighted the need to defend peaceful dissent, which is essential to a free and open society.

Oceans Day statement on threats to whales and unfair treatment of Greenpeace whale activists

-- Sarah King, Greenpeace oceans campaigner

“The world’s whales are under growing threat. Oceans are overused and under-regulated. Whales have few safe havens. Destructive fishing methods remain the largest contributor to whale deaths worldwide, while being struck by ships, pollution and dwindling food supplies also threaten their future. Even the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is not protected. The sanctuary was created to protect 80 per cent of the world’s whales after years of commercial whaling decimated populations.

The Japanese whaling program is a major culprit in the threat to whales. Japan exploits a loophole in the international whaling convention to conduct what it calls ‘scientific research’ — commercial whaling in disguise. Each year, the Japanese hunt takes hundreds of minke whales and endangered fin whales. Iceland and Norway also continue commercial whaling despite a global ban that came into force over 20 years ago.

Greenpeace has been fighting for years to end whaling in the Southern Ocean. Greenpeace activists Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki have also exposed large-scale corruption and embezzlement in Japan’s taxpayer-funded whaling research program.

Junichi and Toru, known as the Tokyo Two, discovered that Japanese whalers have been smuggling prime cuts of whale meat for personal gain. Greenpeace called for a full investigation into this corruption. Instead of putting whaling on trial, Japan arrested the Tokyo Two, held them in jail for 23 days without charge and then put them on trial.

Now, on Ocean’s Day, Junichi and Toru faced their final day in court before a verdict is delivered in September. There is a real chance they will face jail time. This harsh punishment is politically motivated and highlights a disturbing reality faced by activists around the world as they stand up against the injustices facing our environment.

The United Nations Human Rights Council ruled that Japan violated the human rights of Junichi and Toru through this prosecution.”

Join Greenpeace in standing up against the unjust treatment of activists and support the Tokyo Two by sending a letter to Japan’s foreign minister.

Read the backgrounder: Timeline of Tokyo Two