When the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship Steve Irwin arrived in Hobart, Tasmania on February 20 from confronting the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean, a party of Australian Federal Police officers boarded the conservation vessel with a warrant.
The warrant authorized the confiscation of "all edited and raw video footage, all edited and raw audio recordings, all still photographs, producer's notes, interview transcripts, production meeting minutes, post production meeting minutes as well as the ship's log books, global positioning system records, automatic radar plotting aid, purchase records, receipts, financial transaction records, voyage information and navigational plotted charts."
Sea Shepherd founder Captain Paul Watson says much of material seized belongs to the Discovery Channel's Animal Planet producer and camera crew who were videoing the confrontations with the Japanese whaling fleet for the second season of the series "Whale Wars," which last year proved to be a popular offering for the American television channel.
The police have refused to give details about the search, saying only that it was done at the request of "Japanese authorities."
"The Animal Planet series 'Whale Wars' was very embarrassing to the Japanese government and the Japanese whaling industry in 2008," said Watson. "Japan does not wish to see the airing of the second season of Whale Wars and is putting as much diplomatic pressure on Australia as they possibly can to prevent further exposure of their illegal whaling operations in the Southern Ocean."
Kazuo Yamamura, the president of Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha, Limited, said, "A group of extremists is deliberately ramming vessels and trying to disable their propellers. The United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea establishes clear rules to prevent the high seas from being a lawless zone. Living up to these UNCLOS obligations represents a test for the governments of the Netherlands and Australia, which have so far hesitated to apply agreed international maritime rules to prevent these criminal acts."
"It's a very one-sided affair," Watson said. "The Japanese ships have not been boarded by the Australian Federal Police; they have not had their video and navigational data confiscated. They have not been questioned nor will they be, yet they violently attacked my ship and crew in the Southern Ocean."
"The truth is that we would not have to be in the Southern Ocean defending the whales if the governments of the world would simply enforce the international conservation treaties they once so proudly signed into law," said Watson. "Without enforcement there is no law - just ecological anarchy."
Watson intends to buy a second, faster vessel and prepare to return to the Southern Ocean to confront the Japanese again during the 2009-2010 whaling season.