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Winston Tan/AP
The Steve Irwin

Anti-Whaling Group Claims Harassment by Australian Government

November 21, 2008 04:00 PM
by Rachel Balik
Sea Shepherd, an anti-whaling group, says it encountered hostility entering Australia, which has allegedly been pressured by Japan to crack down on anti-whaling activists.

Sea Shepherd Arrives in Australia

Paul Watson, president of the anti-whaling organization Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, says that for the first time, he has had trouble with immigration in Australia. Watson told The Age that he believed the treatment was a “passive-aggressive approach” to keep the activist organization out of Australia.

The new treatment coincides with a request from Japan at the APEC conference for Australia to tighten the reign on anti-whaling organizations. Watson, who is captain of Sea Shepherd’s anti-whaling ship, the Steve Irwin, said he was detained at the Sydney airport for questioning.

The Steve Irwin is scheduled to set sail from Brisbane at the end of November and arrive in the Antarctic in mid-December. A Sea Shepherd press release said that the organization is determined to do whatever it can on the water to cut into Japanese profits from whaling, as it believes that is the only way to discourage continued whaling.

The Japanese claim that the trips are research-based, but the research involves killing the whales. The Australian government is doing its part to investigate methods of non-lethal research the Japanese can employ when studying whales.

Background: Tension between Japan and anti-whaling groups

The Japanese whaling industry is continually confronted with opposition from environmental groups. In mid-November, Greenpeace, another environmental organization, launched a ship also intended to challenge Japanese whaling boats in the Antarctic. The Greenpeace ship successfully cut into Japanese whaling profits, pushing Japan to ask Australia to curtail the activities of the anti-whaling organizations.

In March, Sea Shepherd was able to intercept Japanese ships in Antarctica. At the time, reports predicted that the Japanese would catch about 300 fewer whales due to the activities of the Steve Irwin’s crew. Though Japan insists the trips are intended to capture whales for research, Sea Shepherd asserts that the research trips are merely a guise for a robust whaling industry.

In response to Sea Shepherd’s activities, Japan protested when Australia announced a plan to kill 400 kangaroos in order to protect grasslands, accusing the country of hypocrisy.

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