That the Sea Shepherd’s and Japanese whalers are skirmishing again — a recent tête-à-tête included the sling shotting of stink bombs (by the Shepherds) and false attempts to ram (by the Japanese) — the bigger news was the Wikileaks release of conversations between representatives of the U.S. government and their Japanese counterparts about how to shutdown the increasingly popular conservation group.
On the eve of a meeting of the International Whaling Commission in November 2009, a U.S. representative, Monica Medina, apparently broached the idea with senior officials from Japan’s Fisheries Agency of the possibility of revoking Sea Shepherd’s tax-exempt status.
On what basis? According to the leaked cable, first published on Wikileaks website and then in the Spanish daily El Pais, it was because the group “does not deserve tax exempt status based on their aggressive and harmful actions.”
In the past the Japanese have suggested if the Shepherd’s would stop chasing them, they might actually slow down their annual whale hunts. The group’s charismatic leader Paul Watson, for one, doesn’t trust them. “This is not about politics, it’s about economics,” he has said. “They will stop until they realize it is bad business, not because some government tells them to.”
In the cables both governments labeled the conservation group’s annual anti-whaling campaign an “irritant” in international relations.
Contacted by the AP aboard his ship Steve Irwin in the Southern Ocean, you could almost hear the glee in Watson’s reaction to the leaked cables, saying the secret talks proved Sea Shepherd was having an effect.
“We have had our tax status since 1981, and we have done nothing different since then to cause the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) to change that,” he said by telephone.
Meanwhile the daily cold war continues off the coast of Antarctica. For the past week the Sea Shepherd ships have been pursuing the Japanese factory ship the Nisshin Maru ever since finding the whaling fleet on December 31st. The pursuit has now covered a thousand miles.
If things continue like this – lots of harassment and engagement, few whales taken, no loss of life or ships and lots of media coverage — the Shepherd’s and Watson will be satisfied. As will the “Whale Wars” camera crews onboard documenting a fourth season.
This season’s campaign motto? “Operation No Compromise.” Watson’s goal is to cause enough distractions to force the whalers to give up and go home. For good.
Read more from Jon Bowermaster’s Adventures here.
[Flickr image via gsz]