January 3, 2011

US Considered Action Against Anti-Whaling Activists

The latest diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks on Monday show that officials from Japan and the U.S. had discussed the possibility of taking action against a team of anti-whaling conservationists, various media outlets are reporting.

The leaked documents show that Monica Medina, the American representative to the International Whaling Commission (IWC), participated in talks with Katsuhiro Machida, the director-general of Japan's Fisheries Agency, and other officials in November 2009.

Among the topics discussed during the meeting was the possibility of revoking the tax-exempt status of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS), a Friday Harbor, Washington-based marine ecology group.

According to AFP reports, the cables say that Medina "said she believes the USG (United States government) can demonstrate the group does not deserve tax exempt status based on their aggressive and harmful actions."

Furthermore, the documents show that Machida "appreciates" the inquiry into the SSCS's tax exempt status, and said that action against the group would be a "major element" in achieving success at the then-upcoming IWC negotiations, according to the French news agency.

Paul Watson, the founder of the anti-whaling group that has been featured in the Animal Planet television show "Whale Wars," told the Associated Press (AP) that this was not the first time that the Japanese government had attempted to pressure other countries to take action against SSCS.

He added that the group has had their tax-exempt status since 1981, and that they "have done nothing different since then to cause the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) to change that."

"The countries had been debating a draft deal to suspend a 24-year moratorium on commercial whaling for 10 years in return for Japan agreeing to gradual cuts in the number of whales killed," the AFP reported, saying that Japanese whalers use a "loophole" in a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling which allows the animals to be hunted for "lethal research."

"Militant activists, especially the Sea Shepherd, have harassed whalers in recent years, moving their ships and inflatable boats between the harpoon vessels and the sea mammals," the wire service reporters added. "On Saturday, Sea Shepherd said it had clashed with Japanese harpoonists in the Southern Ocean, chasing them through ice packs [and] throwing stink bombs at them."


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