The Whale Wars war of words continues: Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson has issued a long statement countering allegations made by former Sea Shepherd Captain Pete Bethune earlier in the week, wherein Bethune says Watson ordered the sinking of the Ady Gil to "garner sympathy" and to make good television. Here's Watson's full statement:WATCH VIDEO - Whale Wars: A Life Destroyed
Captain Pete Bethune of the Ady Gil made news this week when he "confessed" to sinking his ship the Ady Gil under my orders. He said he was apologizing to the world for such an awful thing to do.
It caught us by surprise primarily because we all knew that Pete attempted to scuttle the Ady Gil. In fact over a million people saw and heard Pete Bethune make the decision to abandon the Ady Gil on the television show "Whale Wars."
He was not ordered to sink it. In fact after towing the Ady Gil for 36 hours and breaking two tow ropes as the vessel became increasingly heavier as it filled with water, Captain Chuck Swift on the Bob Barker called me on the Steve Irwin. I was two hundred miles away from the two other vessels at the time. Chuck told me the Ady Gil could not be salvaged and asked me what he should do.
On camera, I say, "it's Pete's boat, it's Pete' call."
On camera, Pete Bethune says that the boat cannot be salvaged and that his decision was to abandon it.
Abandoning it would have left it as a navigational hazard. It was Pete who went to the vessel to attempt to scuttle it and Maritime Safety Australia was made aware of this. I am not criticizing Pete's decision. It was the correct decision to make. What I am saying is that neither Captain Chuck Swift nor I ordered Pete to scuttle the vessel.
In fact the Ady Gil was not even our property. It was owned by Ady Gil and Pete Bethune was the captain answerable to Ady Gil and not to Sea Shepherd for the operation of the vessel Ady Gil.
I could not legally or morally order Pete Bethune to scuttle a vessel that we did not own and Pete Bethune's responsibility was to make all decisions relative to the Ady Gil.
So why has Pete Bethune decided to make such an accusation to the media and the public that I ordered him to sink the Ady Gil?
The answer is obvious. I fired him the day before for providing false testimony to the Japanese police. He threatened to make this allegation to me if I did not reinstate him. I refused. In fact I sent the threats to the media before he released them.
Disgruntled, angry and out for revenge, Pete Bethune decided that he could damage Sea Shepherd by making such an allegation.
Perhaps it did do some damage but the alternative was to surrender to his attempt at extortion and that was not going to happen.
What is amazing is that he would make such a statement when he is recorded on film making that decision and I am recorded on film saying that the fate of the Ady Gil was Pete's decision - not mine. Over a million people saw us and heard us make these statements.
Furthermore all the deck officers of the Bob Barker, Steve Irwin and Ady Gil are in agreement that no such order was given to Pete Bethune.
What Pete Bethune did in attempting to scuttle the Ady Gil was the only course of action he could have taken. The ship could not be salvaged and Pete says so on camera. The attempt to scuttle the vessel was unsuccessful and when the Bob Barker left the area, the Ady Gil was still afloat but still slowly sinking. In fact the Shonan Maru # 2 reported seeing the Ady Gil still afloat hours later.
So not only is Pete's claim to have been ordered to sink the vessel false, the vessel was not even sunk when he left it. Pete should have attached a beacon and EPIRB to the wreck before leaving but did not do so.
There is actually no evidence that the Ady Gil ever sank at all. It was a carbon fibre and foam construct and although filled with water and unsalvageable it could very well still be floating although primarily submerged. So Pete cannot even claim that the boat was actually sunk.
Australian Maritime Safety however was given the facts and the position of the wreck and they agreed that there was no choice to abandon the vessel.
So what is this story about?
To put it bluntly it was the seizing of an opportunity to make a scandal out of nothing, based on the words of a man who had been fired from Sea Shepherd the day before.
The abandonment of the vessel and the failed attempt to scuttle it was a responsible decision and made known to the proper authorities at the time. What was not justified is the deliberate destruction of the vessel by the Japanese ship Shonan Maru #2.
But why let the facts get in the way of a "good" story.
Statements, reports and video of Pete Bethune making this decision can be found at www.seashepherd.org.
And with that, I'm letting this story or non-story rest, letting the he said-he said rest.
The fact of the matter is that Japan's whaling activities are in all likelihood done in violation of the international ban against whaling (the scientific objection being pretty much ludicrous...); there's more and more evidence that cetaceans should probably be granted non-human person status, making killing them doubly wrong; and debate about whether Sea Shepherd's actions (which have proven quite effective in cutting the number of whales killed) are or are not permissible and are or are not truly in the spirit of non-violence which Watson and Sea Shepherd have publicly espoused will no doubt go on.
And that doesn't even go into the questionable areas of reality television inasmuch as did having a television production crew aboard ship--a far, far different thing than having actual journalists or documentarians aboard, make no mistake about; Whale Wars is positioned as entertainment--influence actions towards the more dramatic and more risky.
Those aspects of the situation are probably better for everyone to focus on. Let's not lose sight of the real issue here: Whaling and how to stop it.
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More on Sea Shepherd:
Sea Shepherd's Captain Pete Bethune Given Suspended Sentence by Japanese Authorities
Pete Bethune Says Sea Shepherd Deliberately Sunk Own Ship to 'Garner Sympathy'
Sea Shepherd Harassment Cuts Japanese Whale Catch in Half