Challenge to Japan to prosecute anti- whaling activists worldwide

Feature story - November 4, 2008
Despite the moratorium on commercial whaling, the Japanese government continues to send a fleet of ships to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary to kill over a thousand whales. Each season, the fleet departs for the Sanctuary and more whales needlessly die.

Greenpeace Japan Whales Campaigner holds up whale meat obtained by Greenpeace during an investigation.

This year, we are focussing our efforts to save whales right where the Japanese government feels it the most. We're heading to Japan. On December 10th the world will celebrate the anniversary of the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To coincide with this, we are creating a mass mobilisation of supporters willing to declare the arrests of Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki an act of political censorship and declare themselves complicit in the crime of criticising whaling.

TAKE ACTION! Declare your solidarity with Junichi and Toru's efforts to save the whales 


Lies and corruption

On May 15th 2008, we used undercover investigators and the testimony of informers to expose large amounts of whale meat being smuggled off the Nisshin Maru to the private homes of crew members. Junichi and Toru intercepted one of the boxes, containing whale meat valued at up to US$3,000, and took it to the Tokyo public prosecutor. Now, they are being prosecuted and are facing up to ten years in jail, for exposing an embezzlement scandal at the heart of the whaling programme.

Their arrest is a politically motivated attempt to quiet opposition to the whale hunt and has not gone unnoticed. Over the last few months, more than 250,000 of you have called on Japan's Prime Minister to drop the charges and release the activists.

And in the past week, the Japanese government has drawn criticism from the United Nations Human Rights Committee for "unreasonable restrictions placed on freedom of expression and on the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs." 

Starting on December 10th, and leading up to Junichi and Toru's trial, we will need your help again.  Let's make sure this trial passes judgment on the real criminals in the whaling industry, and not Junichi and Toru, whose crime is speaking the truth. 

End the Hunt

We have sailed to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in defence of the whales nine times. In 2006, a harpoon was fired over the heads of activists and the cable pulled one crew member into the freezing waters of the Antarctic. The whalers rammed our ships twice, hit one of our crew members with a metal pole and used high powered water cannons against us. Despite this, they were 82 whales short of their quota. In 2007, the whaling season was cut short by a fire onboard the Nisshin Maru, and we provided emergency assistance to the whalers. In 2008 the whalers ran from the Esperanza for 14 consecutive days, saving the lives of around 100 whales.

Now, we are fighting to end whaling harder than ever. As a direct result of our work in Japan, whaling is under increasing scrutiny in the Japanese media. The diplomatic efforts of Australia and the US have made it a subject of increasing irritation for the Japanese department of Foreign Affairs and the office of the Prime Minister. But the whale friendly nations need to make this issue more than an itch. They need to make it a pain.  

Recently, the whalers suffered a severe blow with the outlawing of their supply ship, Oriental Bluebird, as a result of our work in Panama, the state that previously flagged her. Japan needs the Oriental Bluebird to transport half their deadly catch home. Under international law, the ship should not go to the Southern Ocean, and no other nation should re-flag her.  If Japan has no supply ship, the number of whales they can take will be halved.

This year we will not send a ship to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. We see the reaction of whaling interests as conforming perfectly to the way the most successful Greenpeace campaigns play out: 'First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you. Then you win.'  We have not won yet, but whaling in Japan is now clearly moving toward the endgame -- and we are moving our campaign to the place where we believe that endgame will be played out -- in Tokyo. We can stop future whaling fleets before they even leave the port and we can end whaling in the Southern Ocean forever.

Stand up for justice

If the Japanese government is going to unfairly prosecute the two activists for exposing the scandal and corruption of the whaling industry, they will have to face everyone that supports an end to the whale hunt.  Join the fight to stop whaling -- in person and online.

Take Action

Declare your solidarity with Junichi and Toru's efforts to save whales.