30 July 2012
The long awaited case brought by marine activist, Pete Bethune, against the Sea Shepherd organisation (SSCS) and its founder, Paul Watson, begins arbitration today (Monday 30 July) in Annapolis, Maryland, USA.
Bethune has instigated the arbitration case to force SSCS to pay up the $1/2 million it owes him for the initial purchase of his boat, the Ady Gil. The boat was rammed by a Japanese whaler while taking part in a Sea Shepherd campaign in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in 2010.
Sea Shepherd, which has tried numerous times to delay this case, has left open the possibility that Paul Watson will be a witness in court despite him having just skipped bail from Germany where he was being held following an extradition order issued by the Costa Rican authorities.
Prior to the start of the case, Bethune said: “I am extremely sad that I have been forced to bring this case to court against an organisation that I loved and a man that I had great respect for.
“I sacrificed a year of my life to Paul and the SSCS, including five months locked up in a maximum security prison in Japan resulting from actions I took under the captaincy of Paul. He then expelled me from SSCS whilst I was in jail and their treatment of me publicly and privately since then has been a disgrace. The Japanese at least treated me with dignity and respect. Sea Shepherd in contrast has treated me like a used condom, throwing me away once I’d served its purpose.”
Bethune, who founded his own marine conservation organisation, Earthrace Conservation, after being released from prison in Japan, next plans to tackle illegal fishing off the coast of Africa. “Not only has the court case taken up a lot of my time, but the financial difficulties I have faced because of the money SSCS owes to me have also been a huge concern. Earthrace Conservation is being run on a shoe-string but still somehow managing to succeed in our campaigns thanks to our volunteers and my family and friends.
“At least in court, the case will be decided based on merit, rather than lies and half truths. I am looking forward to seeing an end to it all and being able to concentrate on the mountainous challenges to our marine environment rather than my mountainous debts.”
• Case is scheduled from 30 July – 1 August. Ruling is expected towards the end of August
• ‘Ady Gil’ was sold to Sea Shepherd for $1.5 million; Ady Gil paid $1 million and SSCS confirmed in over 20 emails that the remaining $500,000 would be paid to Bethune in 2010
• SSCS is arguing in the arbitration that Bethune failed to adhere to maritime Law and in so doing allowed his vessel to be rammed, risking both the vessel and crew
• It always maintains that no money is owed to Bethune because of legal defence fees incurred by Bethune’s imprisonment in Japan; and damaging comments supposedly made by Bethune in Japanese court against Paul Watson;
• Bethune maintains the SSCS defence ignores the fact that it refused to refuel the Ady Gil, which had only two inches of fuel left, leaving the vessel at the mercy of the Shonan Maru, the whaling ship that rammed it;
• Bethune also counters SSCS allegations by maintaining that he was ordered by Mr Watson and SSCS personnel to deploy prop foulers, shine lasers in the eyes of Japanese crew, fire butyric acid at the Japanese whaling vessels, all breaches of maritime law.