Over the weekend, three Australian ocean activists scaled up side of an armed Japanese 'whaling security' vessel in the Southern Ocean to demand the ship return home -- but instead, they were detained and face possible criminal charges abroad. The trio, members of the environmentalist group Forest Rescue, were reacting to a new tactic of whalers to trail anti-whaling activists Sea Shepherd at sea with their own security ships. While public calls for the generally anti-whaling Australian government to work towards the activists' release resound, the nation's Attorney-General says that they will likely face the consequences in Japan.
From The Australian:
The West Australian men from the Forest Rescue environmental group boarded the Shonan Maru II in waters off the coast of Bunbury overnight on Saturday.
The daring mission was aimed at forcing the vessel to stop tailing the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's anti-whaling flagship, the Steve Irwin.
The men could be taken to Japan to face criminal charges over their actions.
In the last several years, anti-whaling groups based in Australia have taken an aggressive stance in opposition to the hunting of whales by Japanese vessels in the waters of the Southern Ocean, with occasionally overt conflict resulting. Not long ago, a boat belonging to the organization Sea Shepherd was rammed by a Japanese whaling ship. Since then, the whalers have resorted to conducting their operations with armed escorts, like the Shonan Maru II.
A representative for the whalers, who says that the men are unharmed, has suggested the boarding took place in international waters, laying groundwork for the prosecution of the Australian activists in the vessel's home port of Japan. Sea Shepherd has countered by saying that the incident in fact took place in Australia's territory.
"It disturbs me that the Attorney-General says it was outside Australian zone, Captain Watson told The Australian Online from the Steve Irwin, about 100 nautical miles south of Australia," said Sea Shepherd's Paul Watson. "Both vessels have GPS and I expect that she will be very embarrassed when the truth comes out."
According to Japan's Kyodo news service, as reported by the Daily Telegraph, the Japanese government has announced that it has no intention of charging the activists in court because they boarded the whaling escort vessel non-violently. Officials from Australia are currently working with Japanese authorities to arrange the activists' return.