It’s not so surprising that the violent destruction of a $1.5 million boat would lead to an argument. But you would expect the argument to be between the owners of the boat and the vessel that rammed it.
Instead, members of the activist group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, the group at the center of the Animal Planet TV show Whale Wars, are arguing amongst themselves and are making their he said/he said argument public business.
The group’s expensive and high-tech speedboat, called the Ady Gil, was damaged in a collision with a Japanese whaling ship in early January. The boat, worth $1.5 million, was used to chase down and harass whaling ships. After the crash, the Sea Shepherd crew tried to tow the boat with another vessel for over 36 hours, failing twice, before the salvage effort was given up and the boat was scuttled (deliberately sunk).
After the crash the Ady Gil’s skipper, Pete Bethune, boarded the Japanese ship to confront the captain, but the whalers detained him and Bethune ended up in Japanese court, where he was found guilty of trespassing and assault. In the midst of the legal maneuvering Sea Shepherd’s founder, Paul Watson, fired Bethune, but later said it was a tactical move to get Bethune a reduced sentence. (He was finally given a two-year suspended sentence, and was deported from Japan.)
Last week the argument intensified when a statement by Bethune to Japanese authorities came to light, claiming that Watson had ordered him to board the Japanese ship; there are reports that information has allowed the Japanese authorities to issue a warrant for Watson’s arrest. The reaction to Bethune’s statement was swift and fierce. In an email to Bethune, Watson denied that he had ordered Bethune to board the ship, relieved him of his post at Sea Shepherd, and even blamed Bethune for the destruction of the ship:
We have put the best face possible on it but let’s be honest Pete, there is no excuse for not having your vessel under control in the vicinity of a hostile ship. The Shonan Maru #2 was able to destroy your ship because you allowed them to do so. You took no evasive action.
Check the video below for a view of the original crash:
In response to being fired (again), Bethune made statements to the press, saying that Watson and the rest of Sea Shepherd’s “morally bankrupt” leadership had ordered him to sink the Ady Gil. The Sydney Morning Herald explains Bethune’s accusation:
Mr Bethune, the Ady Gil’s skipper, said the Sea Shepherd founder, Paul Watson, ordered the sinking to “garner sympathy with the public and to create better TV” in the battle against Japan’s Antarctic whaling program. “It was definitely salvageable, it was still rock solid from the engine room back,” he told Radio New Zealand yesterday.
Watson denies the accusations, saying that the ship was under Bethune’s care when the decision was made to sink it. Again, from the Sydney Morning Herald:
Mr Watson told the New Zealand Press Association that he felt betrayed and denied all the allegations, which he said were made because Mr Bethune was angry at being sacked. “No one ordered him to scuttle it. Pete Bethune was captain of the Ady Gil; all decisions on the Ady Gil were his. And that’s all on camera.”
One thing’s for sure: This conflict could make for riveting television.
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