Japan ex-whalers tell Aussie TV of rampant meat embezzlement

SYDNEY (Kyodo) Two Japanese former whalers allege that crew members and the semiofficial Institute of Cetacean Research engage in large-scale whale meat theft and that whistle-blowers face deadly retaliation, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported Tuesday.

The two whistle-blowers spoke on the ABC program “Foreign Correspondent” about hundreds of kilograms of whale meat being stolen for either personal consumption or to sell to restaurants.

One man, known as “Mr. Whale,” said he worked on the whaler Nisshin Maru and claims crew members have made a lot of money reselling the meat.

“First, when the ship returns to Japan and arrives in the port, a transport truck is waiting,” he said. “The crewmen will then pack the whale meat they stole into a cardboard box. One person carried off 500 to 600 kg.”

He also said whistle-blowers could be killed by crew mates for speaking out about the theft.

A man calling himself “T-san” supported the claims, adding he has also seen an employee of the institute, which is responsible for the research whaling program, steal whale meat.

“It happened on the container on the bridge,” T-san said. “I had to check the temperature every day, and when I went in there, there was a staff member from the Institute of Cetacean Research packing something.

“When I yelled, ‘What are you doing?’ he . . . tried to hide the package by spreading his arms out,” he said. “It was red meat from the tail. That is the highest quality whale meat.”

Greenpeace Japan activists Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki are on trial in Japan charged with theft and trespassing after they intercepted 23 kg of whale meat in April 2008 at a parcel delivery outlet and tried to expose what they claimed was theft of whale meat.

The activists, known as the “Tokyo Two,” say they were attempting to make public the whale meat “embezzlement” by Nisshin Maru crew members.

Activist expelled

SYDNEY (Kyodo) The antiwhaling group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has banned activist Peter Bethune from participating in future campaigns after it was revealed that he took a bow and arrows aboard his vessel, the Ady Gil, The New Zealand Herald reported Tuesday.

Bethune is on trial in the Tokyo District Court, charged with trespassing aboard a Japanese whaling ship, forcible obstruction of business, destruction of property, violations of weapons law and intentionally causing harm to a crewman, the latter offense being the only one he has not admitted.

“The bow and arrows revealed to be on the Sea Shepherd vessel Ady Gil, and in the possession of Capt. Bethune on that ship, are absolutely not in line with Sea Shepherd’s policy,” Chuck Swift, the deputy chief executive officer of the antiwhaling group, said in a statement over the weekend.

Swift called Bethune’s action “unacceptable” and said the behavior did not conform to the group’s “aggressive and nonviolent” stance.

“Even though we know Capt. Bethune’s objectives were sincere, that the bow and arrows were never used in Sea Shepherd actions and that he certainly never intended to use the bow and arrows against any person, his decision to bring them on a Sea Shepherd campaign is unacceptable,” Swift said.

When Japan’s semiofficial Institute of Cetacean Research posted photos of the arrows floating in the water after the whaling vessel Shonan Maru No. 2 collided with the Ady Gil in January, Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson initially dismissed the allegations.

Swift said the conservation group will continue to support Bethune during his trial in Tokyo. Bethune denies intentionally causing harm by throwing a container of butyric acid, which allegedly injured a Shonan Maru No. 2 crew member.