Memo from our International Whales Campaign Coordinator

Dear friends,

We wanted to let you know, before we tell the press, that we will not be sending a ship to the whaling grounds in the Southern Ocean this year. Instead, we will be directing all of our efforts toward work IN JAPAN, where we believe whaling will be ended forever, and where two of our activists face prison for exposing corruption and scandal in the whaling industry.

Turning the political prosecution of these two activists in Japan against the whaling factions in Tokyo will become the central focus of a mass mobilisation campaign against the Japanese Government’s whale hunt in the Southern Ocean Whaling Sanctuary.

Want to be a part of that mobilisation? Are you ready to go to jail in Japan for your role in saving whales?

Because if the Japanese Government believes that criticising its “scientific whaling” programme is a crime, then you and I are as complicit as our two activists, Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki, who are being put on trial after exposing a corruption scandal in the whaling industry.

As far as I’m concerned, if the Japanese Government is going to start rounding up political prisoners for the crime of wanting to save the whales, they can start with me. And I suspect they are going to have to arrest a whole heap of us. 

Tell the Government of Japan that if defending whales is a crime, you too should be under arrest.

On May 15th 2008, Greenpeace Japan used undercover investigators and the testimony of informers to expose the smuggling of large amounts of prime cut whale meat from the whaling ship Nisshin Maru, disguised as personal baggage, and labelled “cardboard” or “salted stuff” and addressed to the private homes of crewmembers. Greenpeace activists Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki intercepted one box, and discovered it contained whale meat valued at up to US$3,000. It was one of four such boxes sent to the same address. They took it to the Tokyo public prosecutor as evidence of embezzlement.

Our public press conference drew national attention in Japan, and a promise by the public prosecutor to “fully investigate” the charges.

Instead, Junichi and Toru were arrested for stealing the box of whale meat, and the scandal investigation was dropped by the Tokyo public prosecutor’s office the same day; it was clear that the two events were connected, just as it is clear that both were politically motivated. Although Junichi and Toru had provided full cooperation to the police, it took some five weeks to make the arrests, and when they did, 40 officers raided the Greenpeace Japan office, with the media tipped off by police beforehand. The Greenpeace activists learned of their imminent arrest from the TV news the same day the embezzlement case was dropped.

On December 10th the world will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To coincide with that we’re taking a delegation of people to Japan to declare the arrest of Junichi and Toru an act of political censorship, and to tell the authorities that we, too, are complicit in working to save the whales. We’d like to take a lot of you along on that mission — in person and virtually. We’ll be in touch with more about that soon.

We know that the decision not to send a ship to the Southern Ocean, as we have nine times since 1989, will be disappointing to many.

As important as actions to protect individual whales are, we see our work to build domestic resistance to whaling in Japan as our most essential mission right now — we believe that by challenging the whaling interests on their own turf, and exposing the corruption and waste of the publicly funded whaling programme to the Japanese taxpayer, along with the deception that has been visited on the Japanese public in calling it a “scientific programme,” we will end whaling forever.

Over the past year, as a direct result of Greenpeace work in Japan, whaling has fallen under increasing scrutiny in the popular and business press in Japan, and the diplomatic efforts of Australia and the US have made it a subject of increasing irritation for the Japanese department of Foreign Affairs and the office of the Prime Minister.

We have already dealt a severe blow to the whalers this year by outlawing their supply ship, Oriental Bluebird, which they need to transport half their planned catch home. This was a result of work done not in the Southern Ocean, but in Panama, where the Oriental Bluebird was flagged.

Under international law Japan now should not use the Oriental Bluebird. So, from Panama, we may have cut their quota in half already.

We see the reaction of whaling interests as conforming perfectly to the way the most successful Greenpeace campaigns play out: ‘First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you. Then you win.’ We have not won yet, but whaling in Japan is now clearly moving toward the endgame — and we are moving our campaign to the place where we believe that endgame will be played out — in Tokyo.

Greenpeace has sailed to the Southern Ocean in defence of the whales nine times. In 2006 the cable from a harpoon fired over the heads of activists pulled one crew member into the freezing waters of the Antarctic. The whalers rammed our ships twice, hit one of our crew members with a metal pole and used high powered water cannon against us. Despite this, they came in 82 whales short of their quota. In 2007 the whaling season was cut short by a fire onboard the Nisshin Maru, and Greenpeace provided emergency assistance to the whalers. In 2008 the whalers ran from the Greenpeace ship Esperanza for 14 consecutive days, saving the lives of more than 100 whales.

This year, we believe that by concentrating all of our effort and resources on stopping whaling in Japan, we can do more than save individual whales, and actually end whaling in the Southern Ocean forever.

Thank you for your support, and we look forward to you joining us in telling the Japanese Government that if defending whales is a criminal act, there aren’t enough jail cells in Japan to hold us all.

We have lots more plans in the pipeline and will keep you informed and involved at this critical time for Junichi, Toru and the Whales.

For the whales,

Sara Holden


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