by John Hocevar

December 28, 2005

Hi All,

It sounds like Nathan and the crews of the Esperanza and the Arctic Sunrise are keeping the whaling fleet on the run.  This is the first time we’ve had enough speed to prevent the whalers from losing us, and it is having a dramatic impact on their ships’ ability to find and kill whales. 

The Japanese Government is NOT happy.  Check out their exchange of open letters with Greenpeace Japan:


28 December 2005
Hiroshi Hatanaka
The Institute of Cetacean Research
(CC: Fisheries Agency of Japan)

Dear Dr. Hatanaka,

Thank you for your reply to our original letter of 22nd December which outlined both our demand that you immediately recall the whaling fleet from the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and our commitment to peaceful protest.

We welcome your acknowledgement that "Greenpeace’s intention to highlight environmental degradation of the seas with the aim of protecting the marine environment is in itself laudable."

Whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is conducted using our (Japanese) tax money. However, Japanese citizens have not been informed by you about what is really happening in the waters around Antarctica. For instance, the fact that whaling is conducted in the Antarctic whale sanctuary, designated by the International Whaling Commission, and that your organization with a Japanese company, Kyodo Senpaku, are the only ones conducting whaling in the Sanctuary has not been well communicated. Also the hunting of 10 fin whale this season, an endangered species, and the more than doubling of the quota for minke whale to 935, have also not been well communicated to Japanese citizens and media.

Your arguments only focus on trying to justify your whaling. Yet the place you are conducting the whaling needs to be given more attention. Antarctica is globally recognized as an important environmental barometer of planetary health because of its crucial role in the ecosystem. This is widely recognized even by the Japanese government because of the threat to the ecosystem from climate change. The Southern Ocean demands exceptional measures to prevent further destruction of biodiversity. 

Your ships and ours are on the high seas and governed by international law and so your attempts to claim areas of the high seas for exclusive use are without foundation. This arrogance is just one more reason why you are subject to criticism by the international community.

Also, you have not communicated to the rest of the world the truth regarding the fact that most Japanese people rarely eat whale meat. Nor that Nissui a founder and one third owner of Kyodo Senpaku, which owns the whaling fleet, have told Greenpeace Japan that it has no desire to see a resumption of commercial whaling at this moment because of the low demand from the market place. The image of "Japanese people eating whale meat frequently" is misleading propaganda which you created, and this has to be corrected.

Our purpose of being in the Southern Ocean is to protect the sanctuary and defend the whales by communicating the information from the sanctuary in addition to the information expressed above.

As we have already communicated in the last letter to you, dated 22nd December, Greenpeace takes safety issues very seriously, not only for our crew but also for your crew and ships. We have never harmed any of your crew or ships, and will not do so in future. This was communicated, 21 December, by radio from the Bridge of the Greenpeace ship MY Esperanza to your captain on the Nissin Maru, when we first encountered the whaling fleet.

Further, Greenpeace Japan spoke by telephone to Mr. Yamamura, the CEO of Kyodo Senpaku on the morning of 22nd December, telling him that we are bound by the principles of peaceful non-violent direct action and that we did not intend to board any ships. As you might know, he kindly agreed to communicate this to the captains of the fleets.

Greenpeace crews are trained not to respond violently to violence. If you take a closer look at your videos and photos, your crews are the ones directing fire hoses at the faces of boat drivers and crew and of hitting one Greenpeace crew member with a heavy object.

Regarding your accusation of piracy and that Greenpeace "crewmembers disregard the international law of the sea and repeatedly engage in the illegal and dangerous hindrance of our research activities." Nothing could be further from the truth: not only is Kyodo Senpaku killing whales in breach of the IWC resolutions and the Southern Ocean Sanctuary, but they are operating in violation of the 1972 International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS). 

Greenpeace ships have a legal right to peaceful navigation and to bring the activities of the whaling vessels to the world’s attention.  This does not appear to be understood by the captains of the whaling fleet who have undertaken a number of dangerous manoeuvres apparently aimed at intimidating the crew of our ships.  Already, there have been serious violations by your crew that provide justification for concern in terms of safety and international maritime law.

For example, on 21 December the catcher Kyo Maru 1 approached the Esperanza from behind, on the port side. Because the Kyo Maru 1 was the overtaking vessel, she was required by Rule 13 to give way, but she did not and twice collided with the Esperanza, attempting to force her out of position. Nobody was harmed in this incident because our ship gave the way to Kyo Maru 1.

We urge you to require the whaling fleet to obey the COLREGS at all times. Our captains and crew are already committed to this.

Of course, what we are documenting in the Southern Ocean is not something you want the world to see. However, it is hypocritical to call Greenpeace a violent organization or threaten our Japanese activists with "indictment and criminal prosecution" given the facts of what actually happened.  

Finally, you expressed concern about the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. As we said in our letter of 22nd December, Greenpeace is an independent environmental organisation and is not cooperating with Sea Shepherd.

We wish you and your crews in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary a peaceful New Year and urge you to make it the year in which whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary finally comes to an end.

Junichi Sato
Campaigns Director
Greenpeace Japan

27 December 2005
Mr. Junichi Sato
Campaigns Director
Greenpeace Japan
Greenpeace’s intention to highlight environmental degradation of the  seas with the aim of protecting the marine environment is in itself  laudable. However, your organization’s actual behavior is nothing but  an opinionated display of self-righteousness.
  Contrary to your organization’s mission statement to carry out  "non-violent protest", your boats pursue our research vessels; your  crewmembers disregard the international law of the sea and repeatedly  engage in the illegal and dangerous hindrance of our research  activities in the Antarctic. I strongly request Greenpeace stops  pursuing our research vessels immediately and refrains from coming any  closer in future.
Since December 21, in spite of repeated warnings and requests to move  away, your activists continue to approach the Nisshin-Maru and our  other vessels. Your organization continues to put in danger the lives  of your crews by trying to board our vessels. In short, these actions  amount to piracy. While such actions put at risk the lives of your  activists, which is your choice, it also puts at risk the lives of our  crews as well.
I draw your attention to the fact that the crews of your Zodiac boats  are coming in front of the harpoon. Though we pay prudent attention to  ensure their safety, the explosive grenade harpoon, as well as the  high-caliber rifle used as a secondary killing method, renders the  situation an extremely dangerous one. There is also the risk of your  crews’ entanglement in the harpoon rope and, needless to say, once the  harpoon has hit the whale, the area surrounding the vessel becomes  very hazardous. The carelessness of your obstructive activities has  the potential of provoking a serious accident. Once again, I strongly  suggest that you immediately stop these stunts.
As you may be aware, an accident has already occurred. At the time of  passing a whale carcass from a sampling/sighting vessel to the  Nisshin-Maru, the crew of one of your Zodiac boats ignored our  warnings, became entangled in the wire and capsized. Your boats and  your obstructive activities are creating a situation where, sooner or  later, an accident involving serious injury or worse may happen. If  any other such accident happens as a result of your illegal  disturbance, Greenpeace will be to blame: it is your organisation that  is creating this risky situation. Any accident involving your  activists will be your exclusive responsibility.
  The captains of the Nisshin-Maru research fleet, which is registered  in and operated under the laws of Japan, have the duty of ensuring the  safety of our crew and vessels. Any trespassing onto these vessels by  any member of your organization shall be dealt with in accordance with  Japanese law. The data of Japanese Greenpeace activists engaged in the  obstruction of Japan’s whale research program will be submitted to the  authorities as evidence for indictment and criminal prosecution. Furthermore, any escalation of Greenpeace’s violent activities would  correspond to piracy as defined by Article 101 of the United Nations’ Law of the Sea.
Your websites show that Greenpeace is now co-operating closely with  the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to further your activities in  the Antarctic. The Sea Shepherd boat, the "Farley Mowat", has already  foolhardily tried to approach the Nisshin-Maru and deployed a mooring  line with the intent of entwining her propeller. These are extremely  dangerous actions. It is widely known that Sea Shepherd has engaged in  criminal and violent activity in the past, such as setting fire to and  sinking whaling vessels in Iceland and Norway and fishing vessels in  Spain and other countries.  
Sea Shepherd is a terrorist organization ? their members use threats  of violence, sabotage and an open disregard for human life in  furthering their cause. From your recent activity and acknowledgement  on your websites, I can only conclude that Greenpeace is colluding and  co-operating with Sea Shepherd; that you have recognized Sea Shepherd  and are proclaiming to the international community that Greenpeace  itself is kindred to the same violent and eco-terrorist approaches  that Sea Shepherd is well-known to undertake.
Hiroshi Hatanaka
The Institute of Cetacean Research
For more information, contact:
Far Seas Fisheries Division, Fisheries Agency, Ministry of 
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Tel: +81 3 3502 2443

John Hocevar

By John Hocevar

An accomplished campaigner, explorer, and marine biologist, John has helped win several major victories for marine conservation since becoming the director of Greenpeace's oceans campaign in 2004.

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