ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) - An anti-whaling activist from New Zealand was being held in custody on a Japanese whaling vessel Tuesday after secretly boarding it the day before as part of a protest, the whalers said.
Diplomats in New Zealand and Tokyo have been meeting to discuss
what to do with Peter Bethune, who jumped aboard the Shonan Maru 2
from a Jet Ski on Monday with the stated goal of making a citizen's
arrest of the ship's captain and handing over a $3 million bill for
the destruction of his protest ship last month.
The brazen boarding was the latest escalation by the U.S.-based
Sea Shepherd activist group meant to hamper the whaling activities
of the Japanese.
Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research, which sponsors the whale
hunt, called Bethune's actions "a form of piracy" and said the
activist was being restrained and may have to stay aboard the ship
until it returns to Japan.
It said Bethune used a knife to cut the vessel's protective net
to enable his boarding and that he told whalers he then threw the
knife into the sea. The crew treated him for a cut on his thumb he
received while boarding, the institute said.
"It's a crime under maritime law to board another country's
flagged vessel on the high seas illegally," institute spokesman
Glenn Inwood told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio. "If he is
taken back to Japan, it would be my personal view that ... he
should face charges in Japan."
Japanese Fisheries Minister Hirotaka Akamatsu told reporters he
wants the activist handed over to Japan's Coast Guard for
investigation. Under Japanese law, intruding on a Japanese vessel
without legitimate reasons can bring a prison term up to three
years or a fine up to 100,000 yen (US$1,100).
New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McClully said it seemed
Bethune's intention to be detained aboard the whaling ship, but
that the country nevertheless had an obligation to try to help him
and was seeking cooperation from Japanese diplomats.
McCully met with Japan's ambassador Tuesday, and New Zealand's
top diplomat in Japan met senior officials there Monday.
Sea Shepherd said Bethune wanted to demand the cost of replacing
the Ady Gil, an activist ship he captained that was destroyed in a
collision with the Shonan Maru 2 last month, and demand the
surrender of the whaling ship's captain on attempted murder
The Ady Gil sank after the collision, though there were only
Japan has six whaling ships in Antarctic waters under its
scientific whaling program, an allowed exception to the
International Whaling Commission's 1986 ban on commercial whaling.
It hunts hundreds of mostly minke whales, which are not an
endangered species. Whale meat not used for study is sold for
consumption in Japan, which critics say is the real reason for the
The Sea Shepherd sends vessels to confront the fleet each year,
trying to block the whalers from firing harpoons and dangling ropes
in the water to try to snarl the Japanese ships' propellers.The
whalers have responded by firing water cannons and sonar devices
meant to disorient the activists.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)