Eco-terrorist group Sea Shepherd is being accused by one of its own captains of having deliberately sunk its own vessel in an effort to frame the Japanese and make for better TV.
Peter Bethune, the Sea Shepherd captain who was arrested and detained in Japan for 5 months after he illegally boarded a Japanese whaling ship on the high seas, has apparently become disillusioned with the organisation, which he subsequently left.
He now alleges that the organisation’s “morally bankrupt” founder Paul Watson ordered him to sink the Ady Gil in order to “garner sympathy with the public and to create better TV.” Watson himself is a wanted fugitive.
He claims the ship was not heavily damaged by the collision with the whalers – “It was definitely salvageable, it was still rock solid from the engine room back.” Western media widely portrayed the ship as having been “sunk” by the Japanese.
Bethune also criticises the scaremongering tactics so integral to the success of environmentalist groups: “I think an organisation that relies on public money and public generosity to survive has an obligation to be honest.”
Sea Shepherd for its part denies it ordered him to scuttle the vessel – although strangely the wording of the denial does not seem to deny that the ship was deliberately scuttled:
“No one ordered him to scuttle it. Pete Bethune was captain of the ‘Ady Gil’, all decisions on the ‘Ady Gil’ were his.”
Sea Shepherd claims it distanced itself from Bethune after the incident in order to ensure he received a light sentence. At the time of the incident it attempted to bring charges of piracy against Japan.
Bethune did at least receive a light sentence (although he was detained for 5 months) – a Tokyo court convicted him of obstructing commercial activities, trespass, vandalism and carrying a knife, imposing a 2 year suspended sentence.