Rally supports Sea Shepherd activists

The Japanese whaling ship Yushin Maru III in Australian territorial waters. Photo: Sea Shepherd

About 40 activists, many from conservation group Forest Rescue and anti-whaling campaigners Sea Shepherd, gathered outside the Japanese embassy in Perth on January 9. They were demanding the release of three Australian men detained on a Japanese whaling ship and for an end to the slaughter of whales.

The men had been held on board the Shonan Maru II since the early morning of January 8, when they boarded the vessel off Fremantle's coast to protest the presence of a whaling fleet in Australian waters.

Sea Shepherd's website said the men boarded to peacefully protest against whaling and embarrass the security vessel.

Outside the embassy the activists played whale sounds from the back of a solar-powered trailer, but embassy staff refused to address the protest.

Police gave one activist a move-on order and threatened to charge him with littering for sticking a picture of a whale being killed to the ground. Police had refused to take it into the embassy.

The Australian government has negotiated for the release of the three, who were still held on the ship by January 13.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said sending an Australian customs ship to pick them up was costly and the protesters should foot the bill. Sea Shepherd volunteered to send one of its ships to collect them.

The Shonan Maru II was said to be chasing Sea Shepherd ship the Bob Barker toward the Australian coast.

The Shonan Maru II was a security ship for a whaling fleet, which had moved from Antarctic waters into Australian territory, against Australian law. Sea Shepherd said a harpoon vessel, the Yushin Maru III, was four nautical miles off the coast of Macquarie Island, a world heritage site, on January 9.

Despite this, the Australian government has done little to stop Japanese whaling vessels working in Australian waters.

Last month, the British Guardian said Greenpeace Japan had alleged the Japanese government had pumped money from the national tsunami relief fund to aid the fleet, money that should have been used to help Japanese people rebuild their lives.

The Sea Shepherd website reported on January 13 the three men were safely transferred to the Australian vessel ACV Ocean Protector and would be taken back to Australia, but Sky News said they may yet “face Japanese courts”.