Whale Wars: Sea Shepherd lodges piracy charge against Japanese whalers
Paul Watson and his Sea Shepherd Conservation Society allege piracy following the collision between the antiwhaling ship Ady Gil and Japan's Shonan Maru Number 2 earlier this week.
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"Under the long established international rules of maritime navigation, the smaller, more agile vessel is expected to remain clear of and not impede the operations or navigation of the larger, less nimble vessel," is how one former mariner put it.Skip to next paragraph
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In some cases, he wrote, "a smaller sailing vessel or a manpowered [rowed] vessel would have the right of way over a larger motorized vessel, except the rules are very clear that smaller vessels, even if they have the right of way by class, must make every effort to avoid putting themselves into situations in which a larger vessel has to yield to them, simply because of the basic hazard and risk of expecting that a larger vessel could see a smaller vessel in time to react. So, as we used to say in the Navy and in the Merchant Marine, the 'law of gross tonnage' trumps all," he wrote.
The Collision Regulations of the International Maritime Organization, issued in 1972 and still in force, would seem to back up the stance that more of the fault lies with the Gil, since it had spent days deliberately approaching and interfering with the operations of the Maru, by darting across its bow, aiming lasers designed to temporarily blind the Japanese mariners, and seeking to foul its propeller with cables. The video below, from just before Christmas, demonstrates some of this activity (warning: the video is accompanied by blaring techno music.)
The regulations say that "every vessel [is] directed to keep out of the way of another vessel shall, so far as possible, [and to] take early and substantial action to keep well clear." The regulations also say that a powered ship shall keep out of the way of "a vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver" and of a "vessel engaged in fishing."
Watson's group has long said these sorts of regulations don't apply to their efforts, because they deem the actions of the Japanese whalers to be illegal and say that they are vigilantes enforcing laws that vested authorities refuse to do.
Watson has made no secret of his penchant for high-profile actions in pursuit of a cause. "The more dramatic you can make it, the more contoversial it is, the more publicity you will get. If you've got film of it, all the better. The drama translates into exposure," he was quoted as saying in a book published in 1990.
The allegation of "piracy" against the Japanese is also not the first case of what appears to be a hyperbolic charge against the whalers by Sea Shepherd.
In a 2008 episode of Whale Wars, the Animal Planet reality TV show that chronicles the antiwhaling operations of Watson and his crew, Watson says: "one of the tactics we want to do is get the people onboard to be held hostage by Japanese whalers. Do we have any volunteers?" Two of Watson's crew then approach and illegally board the Maru from a speedboat. The men were detained by the Japanese whalers for a few days, then released unharmed. Watson alleged that the men had been taken "hostage." (video of the boarding below).