Pete Bethune Blasts Sea Shepherd In Online Letter Of Resignation
The former captain of the Ady Gil, who was arrested (and later set free on a suspended sentence) after boarding a Japanese whaling vessel, has lashed out at the group — calling them “dishonest” and “morally bankrupt”.
“I am asking that from now on, SSCS determine to act in an honest way with its volunteers, supporters and media,” he writes on his Facebook page. “SSCS does not need to lie. Saving whales, dolphins, tuna and sharks are noble causes, and the public will embrace these as worthwhile. The story does not need to be manipulated and changed in order to get public support.”
Pete then goes on to list several “Concerns” — blowing the doors wide open on many issues we’ve discussed here on the site over the past year. Let’s jump right into each one.
Concern #1: The Deliberate Scuttling of the Ady Gil
Pete says: “After the ramming of the Ady Gil, Chuck said to me that Paul, the Admiral of the Sea Shepherd fleet, wanted me to scuttle the Ady Gil. He said there was no point in towing the boat all the way to the French base, and that it would be best if the boat was just sunk and we could get on with chasing the whalers. Later that day, Chuck and I went to the Ady Gil, and I performed the necessary tasks with Chuck observing. Ady Gil then gradually took on water, and later that night she was left to sink, while the Bob Barker moved on to pursue the fleet.”
“I felt horrid before, during and after the scuttling and I have felt terrible about it ever since. It broke me heart to sink a vessel that had been such a big part of my life, and I also felt we had betrayed SSCS sponsors, SSCS supporters, Ady Gil, and the public by lying about it. It was a totally dishonest thing to do and as a conservation group, the order is a total breach of ethics.”
“I sincerely regret my role in this. I apologise unreservedly to Ady Gil, and Sea Shepherd Volunteers and supporters, all of whom I have let down. It was the wrong thing to do, and while I was under orders to do so, I should have refused to carry out the instructions. I am resigning from Sea Shepherd forthwith.”
From what we can infer from this first point, the Ady Gil, in Pete’s eyes, was apparently quite salvageable. Watson, however, did not want to waste time dragging it back to port for repair — and one can assume that a sunk vessel would bring better PR than a crippled one. But in a response on Pete’s Facebook page to this point, Watson points out that the decision was mutual. “On camera on Whale Wars I asked Pete if we should scuttle the vessel because it could not be salvaged,” he says. “He agreed. We did so to avoid leaving it as a navigational hazard.”
Perhaps Pete felt pressured to do this? Either way, he’s miffed and disappointed in the decision — saying at the end of his letter that having “been party to the deliberate sinking of the Ady Gil, I do not deserve the support of other volunteers and supporters who deserve its members to act with honesty and integrity.”
Concern #2: The Bow and Arrow Issue
Pete Says: “When I met with Paul Watson in July 2009, he gave me permission to take a Bow and Arrow to Antarctica, with the idea of pasting a poison on the arrow tips (or fake poison), and firing them into dead whales while they were being transferred from harpoon vessel to processing ship. When I met Paul on the Steve Irwin in Antarctica, I confirmed all tactics, and he again said I had permission to use the bow and arrow if we came across a suitable situation.”
“After the Ady Gil was scuttled, crew of the Shonan Maru found four arrows in the water. SSCS issued a press release denying all knowledge of the arrows, suggesting instead that the whalers had planted them as false evidence. There was no need to say anything at all. The story was the Ady Gil had sunk…not that some arrows had been found. No one really cared about four arrows when the whalers had explosive harpoons and 12 gauge shotguns.”
“In issuing the press release, SSCS was lying to media. It was a mistake to ever deny the arrows, and the communications debacle since then has been a total disgrace. While I was imprisoned in Japan, senior Sea Shepherd people saw that the bow and arrow was to appear in the first episode of whale wars, and Lizard Productions refused to delete the scenes. SSCS wrongly felt they were in for a backlash about perceived violent tactics. They decided to expel me from SSCS. I have had this meeting verified by two sources. Chuck Swift falsely claimed in a press release that I took a banned weapon to Antarctica. Paul Watson then backs up Chuck by agreeing that he had no knowledge of the bow and arrow, and that yes I was expelled from SSCS.”
Concern #3: The False Expulsion from Sea Shepherd
Pete says: “Several people left Sea Shepherd in protest at my treatment, and many others threatened to never support SSCS again. SSCS then goes into damage control. It announces they had not really expelled me, but in fact had done it to assist in my sentencing. Note my lawyers believed the tactic did not really help my cause, as it portrayed me as dishonest – it implied for example I had taken a bow and arrow without the permission of Paul Watson. The lawyers repeatedly told me they had nothing to do with the expulsion, and they certainly would never have recommended it.
My legal team in fact only found out about the expulsion after it was announced to media. My legal team did include the expulsion in court evidence, reasoning it was now in the public domain, and the Judges would already be aware of it. But in no way did my legal team ever request, recommend or suggest that my expulsion would in any way assist with sentencing.”
“On getting out of prison, Paul Watson said to me I was not expelled, and I was welcome back on all future campaigns. Several other senior SSCS people however confirmed that the expulsion was because of the bow and arrow, but the increasing backlash against my treatment had made SSCS come up with a suitable guise – in this case, it was all part of the master strategy to help with sentencing.”
Concern #4: The Secret Agreement with Japanese Judges
Pete says, “In August while I was in LA I said to both Paul that I wished to go on the next Antarctica campaign. Paul said there were some reservations about my going to Japan, and he suggested that a deal had been done with the Japanese judiciary. After several conversations and subsequent emails, he confirmed we really owed the Japanese nothing, I could go on the next campaign, I could do my Pacific Yellowfin project, and SSCS would help to promote and sell my book. A few weeks later the number of books SSCS would purchase was agreed at 800. This order was placed on my authors account with the publishers.”
“Then in September, I was again told that SSCS had made a supposed secret agreement with Japanese Judges. This entailed my not participating in another Antarctica campaign, in exchange for a suspended sentence. This of course is in contrast with Paul and Laurens’ assurances on my release that I was still a bona fide member of SSCS and welcome on the next Antarctica campaign. It also contradicts the email sent from Paul following my release.
I have spoken to lawyers in Japan, a Japanese prosecutor, and several Japanese Journalists, and all have said it would be impossible for SSCS to reach any secret deal with the Judges. There is in fact no evidence to support this. No one knows who made the deal, which judges it was with, and what the specific terms were. It would represent interference in the judicial system.”
“If the head of the biggest Yakuza faction, incidentally some 3 cells down from mine in the Tokyo Detention Centre, and with many millions of dollars in assets at his disposal – well if he cannot make a deal with the Judiciary, what hope does an organisation like SSCS, routinely derided and despised in Japan as a terrorist organisation, have of cutting an illegal deal? The answer of course is none. There was no secret deal with the Judiciary. My legal team all along said a suspended sentence was inevitable, as long as I cooperated with the Prosecutor and acted humble and contrite in court…which I did. If I refused to say anything however, they said the trial would take years and cost millions. I was advised if I took the “nobody talks, everybody walks” approach, I would be detained for a much longer period. So under advice from the legal counsel, I did agree to things to expedite the trial. This included pleading guilty to four charges, and acknowledging that Paul Watson was the Admiral of the fleet and gave instructions to me.”
Concern #5: The Faked Shooting of Paul Watson
Pete says, “A number of crew on the Bob Barker and Steve Irwin were discussing the alleged shooting of Paul Watson. In the first series of Whale Wars, Paul Watson was supposedly shot by crew of the Nisshin M…aru. SSCS Crew present on that voyage argued strongly to me that the entire episode was faked. I was not on the campaign, so in fact I don’t know if it is in fact true or not. However given what I’ve witnessed in the last year, and my knowledge of the Japanese crew, I would bet $500,000 at odds of 10:1, that the event was staged. The shooting represents just another lie that does little for the credibility of SSCS. The organisation does not need to lie or be deceptive to sell its message. The public will support the cause of stopping whaling, however they will not support SSCS if they become aware of the many lies the organisation increasingly propagates through media.”
Conclusion: What I Am Requesting
Pete says, “What really concerns me most is the apparent moral bankruptcy of senior SSCS personnel. They routinely conspire and lie over serious matters, with little regard for people like myself who they malign and bulldoze along the way. They misrepresent themselves to the public who are generous enough to support them, and to media who they rely on to promote their cause.”
“The short time I have been associated with SSCS, and the sheer number of lies I’ve witnessed, makes me realise there is a large and increasing number of skeletons hidden in the SSCS closet. It is time for this closet to be closed (or opened fully) and for the organisation to move on. I am asking that from now on, SSCS determine to act in an honest way with its volunteers, supporters and media. SSCS does not need to lie. Saving whales, dolphins, tuna and sharks are noble causes, and the public will embrace these as worthwhile. The story does not need to be manipulated and changed in order to get public support. Secondly, volunteers like myself should be treated honestly and with respect. If an agreement is made with a volunteer, then it should be honoured. This process of agreeing to things, only to renege a month or two later is simply unacceptable for a volunteer organisation. Since returning home I have been contacted by numerous volunteers all unhappy at how SSCS has treated them. The sheer number of complaints suggests that SSCS routinely treats Volunteers with contempt.”
“As of today, I am resigning from Sea Shepherd. Having been party to the deliberate sinking of the Ady Gil, I do not deserve the support of other volunteers and supporters who deserve its members to act with honesty and integrity. I am also tired of the management team that I now perceive as morally bankrupt.”
“My biggest disappointment is I truly love the many Sea Shepherd volunteers and supporters who have made such a massive impact, especially in shining the spotlight on Japanese whaling. I hope that from here, the organisation can regroup and move forward with resolve and purpose, and with a new modus operandi that has it dealing honestly with volunteers, supporters and media. There is no one else currently in Antarctica stopping whaling, and so Sea Shepherd has a vital role to play. They also have an obligation however to be true to the people that provide labour, funding and resource for the organisation to survive.”
This is a lot to digest — and much more will be playing out online over the next couple days as this war of words heats up. Already Watson has fired back saying,
“Perhaps it might explain things Pete if you let everyone know that we discovered that you gave testimony to the Japanese police that accused me of ordering you onto the Shonan Maru #2. They told you they wanted me, not you, and you swore a statement against me in return for leniency.
“And when I confronted you on this, …you sent me a message that was plain and simply – blackmail. You said that unless we gave in to your demands, you were prepared to release falsified information about Sea Shepherd and you implied you would cooperate further unless you got your way. I will post these threats tomorrow. Sea Shepherd has nothing to hide. Blackmail and cooperation with the Japanese prosecutors to frame me! This is hardly honourable stuff Pete.”
“You’re not the victim here Pete. You agreed to cooperate with the Japanese. That is the reason you cannot return to the Southern Ocean with us.”
We’ve got lots to discuss — so let’s get started down below.
UPDATE #1: Ady Gil has thrown in his two cents regarding Pete’s claims above — and he supports the man 100%. From his Facebook page:
“Pete is a positive man. He asked me not to say bad things about SSCS, even when Paul asked him NOT to go to my “Bow and Arrow” party, the one I specially arranged for Pete and invited everybody, including Paul himself. This is not Pete’s retaliation against Sea Shepherd. For a man like Pete to come so strongly forward, he had to be pushed very hard. He does not ever talk bad about people. I hope they do not push me to do the same….my list is just as long.”
UPDATE #2: Sea Shepherd have publicly broken all ties with Bethune. “We cannot allow him to return as a Sea Shepherd crewmember and continue to ignore our rules of engagement, and that means, among other things, no weapons and no derogatory references to the Japanese people.”