The MY Esperanza in the Southern Ocean. The Greenpeace vessel was on its way to offer assistance to the Japanese Whaling fleet's factory ship Nisshin Mauru after it caught fire. Greenpeace offered to tow the factory ship out of the Whale Sanctuary and the pristine Antarctic Environment.
Our aim in bringing the Esperanza to Japan is to create an open
public discussion about whaling. Ninety-two percent of Japanese
people do not know the details of their government's whaling
programme in the Southern Ocean, and this must change. Most
countries that have hunted whales in the past have already held
this debate, and moved on from whaling to whale watching and
We have invited representatives of the Fisheries Agency of
Japan, the Institute for Cetacean Research, Kyodo Senpaku (the
company which owns the whaling fleet) - as well as the Japanese
public - to visit our ship and start talking about the issue. We
want to hear their views, as well as explain why we believe that
there is no place for killing whales within an internationally
agreed whale sanctuary in Antarctic waters.
Everything was going smoothly until shortly before the ship was
due to arrive. Following an uninvited visit from representatives of
the All Japan Seamen's Union (AJSU), our shipping agent withdrew
their services from Greenpeace - making it near impossible to have
all the paperwork completed and accepted in order to come into port
in Tokyo. Media reports also say that the Seamen's Union has
demanded that the Minister of Foreign Affairs deny us entry.
The AJSU claims our actions to protect the Southern Ocean Whale
Sanctuary are illegal and endanger their crews. They also claim we
work with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. These claims are
simply not true. Their false charges of violence are particularly
offensive following this year's whaling season in which we
responded to no less than three distress calls, two of which were
from vessels in the whaling fleet.
Greenpeace is committed to the principle of non-violent direct
action, and this guides all of our campaigns. Even in those seasons
that we have directly intervened to save whales from the harpoon,
we have done so using entirely peaceful tactics. In more than a
decade of expeditions to disrupt the Antarctic whale hunt, we have
never placed the whalers at risk in any way - their crews know
In contrast, we have
had our ship rammed, been physically assaulted and our
put at risk by the whalers.
This past whaling season was different. Instead of protests we
found ourselves offering aid. A deadly fire on the Nisshin Maru,
the whalers' factory ship, left it without engine power. As one of
the nearest ships to the whaling fleet, we steamed hundreds of
miles at full speed to offer what aid we could.
The reason we responded immediately to their distress call was
not because she is a whaling ship, it was not despite the fact she
is a whaling ship; we simply responded because the crew had issued
a mayday call, their ship was on fire and people were in
As soon as we arrived at the scene, we established contact with
their expedition leader, Mr. Nishiwaki, making it clear that we
were there to offer our unconditional assistance. Mr. Nishiwaki
responded by asking us to standby in the area, saying that they may
require our help to navigate through the ice if they had to tow the
Nisshin Maru. For the following week we stayed with the Nisshin
Maru, disabled in the Southern Ocean - one of the most hostile and
unpredictable waters on earth - continuing to offer assistance, and
providing information on the ice conditions at Mr. Nishiwaki's
I have no doubt that the crew onboard the whaling vessels know
very well that we offered our assistance in good faith, through
genuine concern for the safety of fellow sailors and the
environment. At all times we acted lawfully, responsibly, and in
accordance with the New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre, who
were responsible for the mayday response. However, their bosses
continued to play politics in Tokyo, labelling us terrorists even
as we stood by to assist their ships and. Since returning to Japan,
Mr. Nishiwaki himself seems to have erased his memory of recent
events, denying that they accepted any assistance from Greenpeace,
and even calling for the Japanese Government to sue Greenpeace.
footage is here, of our Japanese campaigner, Sakyo Noda, who
was in daily contact with the whaling fleet. Their expedition
leader acknowledged our offer of assistance, asked us to provide
information on ice conditions, and requested that we stand by in
case they required further assistance. (watch)
Why they are really worried
They know we did not endanger the safety of their crew - in fact
we offered our help when they were in danger from a fire onboard
their ship. They know that we are not terrorists. But it does not
suit them for the public of Japan to know this. If the Government
of Japan, its agencies, and organisations like the Seamen's Union
have nothing to hide, and nothing to be ashamed of - they have no
reason to be worried about allowing our ship into Japan.
However, it is clear that they are very worried. most likely
they are worried about what will happen if those 92 percent of
people learn that their government is killing hundreds of whales in
Antarctic waters, in an area that countries around the world have
designated as a sanctuary for whales. That information would allow
people to come to their own conclusions about whether it is right
or not. They are worried about whether they can continue to label
Greenpeace as terrorists and portray our peaceful protest against
whaling as violent anti-Japanese behaviour, once people hear what
actually happened in the Southern Ocean.
Greenpeace believes that the people of Japan have the right to
this information, and to make up their own minds about these
issues. We are continuing to work to get the Esperanza into Tokyo,
so that we can provide this information directly to the public.
Thousands of people are running their own campaigns to end commercial whaling. Join one or start your own.
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