The following is a guest post from Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in response to an interview we posted late last week with Ady Gil and Pete Bethune.
That was a very interesting Ecorazzi interview with Pete Bethune and Ady Gil.
Just over a year ago, neither man seemed to have much interest in a cause that I have been prominently involved in for nearly four decades.
Suddenly Pete Bethune comes out with a book that merely drops the “s” from Peter Heller’s excellent book The Whale Warriors published in 2007. The hundreds of dedicated and courageous Sea Shepherd volunteers suddenly are trivialized by a man who was paid to skipper the Ady Gil and whose cowboy antics were not productive to the success of the campaign in any meaningful way.
Last year 74 men and women crewed with Sea Shepherd to the Southern Ocean and this year eighty-eight volunteers are presently on the three Sea Shepherd vessels Steve Irwin, Bob Barker and Gojira. Pete Bethune is not unique in boarding a Japanese vessel, Ben Potts and Giles Lane did it before him in 2008, nor is he unique in being arrested. He is unique in betraying his crewmates.
Bethune would have the whale warriors become irrelevant as he pushes himself front and center as the world’s most famous “whale warrior” or so it is portrayed by his promotional material.
The Ady Gil was lost because Pete Bethune had his crew on the aft deck mocking the whalers and not paying attention to their movements. Any naval inquiry into a captain who lost his ship in that way would have resulted in a court martial.
Bethune brought prohibited weapons onboard the Ady Gil against Sea Shepherd policy and despite what he says, without my knowledge. The decision to board the Shonan Maru #2 was his and his alone. Sea Shepherd supported the decision and assisted him in carrying out that decision but I am also on camera in Whale Wars advising him to not do it and to return to New Zealand to address the ramming of the Ady Gil. But we respected his courage in wanting to do the boarding and there were certainly strategical advantages to doing so. But I warned Pete that anything we do in the Southern Ocean is not illegal but once onboard a Japanese vessel, he would be subject to Japanese law. He replied as witnessed by my officers, that he was prepared for the consequences including going to prison.
Yet his courage faltered once he was subjected to interrogation and there he not only sang like the proverbial canary, he falsely accused me of “ordering” him to board the Shonan Maru #2 thereby giving the Japanese authorities a reason to place me under investigation for conspiracy and to place me on the Interpol Blue list.
Despite this, we paid a half a million dollars for his defense and he was released with a suspended sentence and a promise given to not return to the Southern Ocean.
Returning from Japan he was extremely ungrateful and demanding, and his demand to participate in the present campaign was refused. He retaliated by stating he would make accusations against Sea Shepherd and I, if he was not permitted to be involved.
I refused and he made the ridiculous accusation that I ordered him to scuttle the Ady Gil after it had been cut in half and after the Bob Barker had towed in for 36 hours. I of course did no such thing. In fact, on camera during an episode of Whale Wars, I clearly say that “It’s Pete’s boat, it’s Pete’s decision.”
Despite misinformation, Ady Gil never donated one million dollars to Sea Shepherd. He gave us a check for a million dollars but it was never cashed because along with the check were demands that we could not agree to as a charitable organization and thus the check was returned.
Ady purchased the Earthrace for one million dollars. Ady then chartered the vessel to Sea Shepherd for $1. Pete Bethune unfortunately had the power to choose his own crew and they are the men seen whining on the Whale Wars episodes because Pete told them they would only be away from home for a couple of weeks. The only Sea Shepherd crewmember onboard was Laurens DeGroot and he reported that he was worried that Pete was too much of a cowboy.
Ady Gil and Sea Shepherd did have a contract that stated that if the Ady Gil was lost, Sea Shepherd would name a second vessel after him. However when the one million dollars was not actually donated to Sea Shepherd this voided the contract and Sea Shepherd is under no legal obligation to name any vessel after Ady Gil. We did not name the first vessel Ady Gil. He gave his own name to his own boat.
Ady sent a letter to Sea Shepherd and I in November 2010 threatening a lawsuit if we did not name our new interceptor vessel the Ady Gil II. He gave us a deadline to respond. We notified his lawyer that the “contract” was no longer binding due to the donation not having been received. We have heard nothing since.
Pete Bethune also has no legal contract to be paid a half a million dollars. We paid that amount for his legal defense but we are not under any obligation to pay him for a vessel we never owned. He was paid $10,000 during the time he was incarcerated and the funds were sent to his wife.
Despite what Ady Gil stated in the interview, I told him that I had no intention of naming a boat after him and that we were not legally obligated to do so. I am not sure who he claims insulted him, but this interview is the first I have heard of him having been insulted by a director. I released his letter of intent to sue when he denied he had sent such a letter.
To sum up: The Ady Gil was not a Sea Shepherd boat. I did not order Pete Bethune to scuttle his own boat and anyone who has seen Whale Wars can see the truth about his claims. Sea Shepherd never received a one million dollar donation from Ady Gil and Sea Shepherd has no contractual obligation to name a boat after Ady Gil.
What we have now however is Ady Gil and Pete Bethune setting up two organizations of their own, the Ady Gil World Conservation Organization and Pete Bethune’s Earthrace Conservation Organization.
This is all well and good, but what is interesting is that their “projects” are all projects presently undertaken by Sea Shepherd. Pete Bethune is preparing a campaign to oppose the slaughter of pilot whales in the Faeroes. Ady Gil is financing anti-Sea Shepherd activists to go to Taiji to publicly criticize Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians in the field. In short they are not only duplicating Sea Shepherd’s efforts but they are working to undermine those efforts.
This is not activism, it is obstructionism and it is being done for reasons of personal revenge because both men feel they have been hard done by Sea Shepherd.
Ironically it was not I who lost Ady Gils boat. Pete Bethune lost it. The official New Zealand Martime Safety Investigation stated that Pete Bethune was 50% negligent with regard to the incident. Yes, the Shonan Maru#2 deliberately rammed the Ady Gil but Bethune should not have left himself open to attack.
Ady Gil and Pete Bethune lost their own boat and they demanded that Sea Shepherd replace it, and we refused. That is the reason for their mutual animosity.
Without Sea Shepherd’s support, Pete would still be in prison. Ady Gil did not pay Bethune’s legal fees. Sea Shepherd did. As Ady said in the interview “no good deed goes unpunished.”
As for me, I have only one grievance. Pete Bethune turned me over to the Japanese authorities with his testimony that falsely accused me of ordering him to board the Shonan Maru #2. Pete admits this testimony but justifies it as necessary to his staying out of prison. That is all well and good for Pete Bethune, but such behavior is considered to be very ill advised, even craven, in many circles, especially in prison, and certainly provides me with sufficient reason to deny any further involvement with him.
In short, we paid Pete Bethune’s considerably expensive legal defense costs and refused to allow him to return to the Southern Ocean. And for that he accused me and Sea Shepherd of being morally bankrupt.
I don’t begrudge Ady Gil or Pete Bethune the opportunity to start their own organizations, but I do find it irritating that their approach to conservation campaigns is to piggy back on Sea Shepherd’s on-going campaigns in the Faeroes, Taiji, Japan and the Southern Ocean and to chastise our tactics and strategies when they both have zero experience in the field of marine wildlife conservation and it is for this reason that I feel justified in questioning their motivations.