WOODSTOCK >> The founder of a radical conservation group made famous by the television show "Whale Wars" says a settlement over anti-whaling activities only prevents the group's U.S. organization from interfering with Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean.
This week, Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research and a whale ship operator announced they'd reached an agreement with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and its founder Paul Watson.
"What it means is Sea Shepherd USA cannot contribute money toward the Southern Ocean campaign, cannot be involved in the Southern Ocean campaign, and that's fine. We've got plenty of other campaigns to do," said Watson, who recently returned to the U.S. and is living in Vermont. But he said the settlement doesn't affect the group's other entities.
"Whether Sea Shepherd Australia or Sea Shepherd Global ... if they intend to return to the Southern Ocean that's their business, it's not ours and I can't control them," he said of the settlement filed on Tuesday.
The Institute of Cetacean Research, which studies whales, also is paying an undisclosed amount to the anti-whaling group on the condition the money will not be transferred to its affiliates elsewhere, including in Australia, one of the most active in attacking Japanese whalers during their hunts in the Antarctic.
Officials in Japan are hoping the funding restriction will somehow limit the extent of Sea Shepherd's activities in Australia.
Agriculture Minister Yuji Yamamoto on Thursday welcomed the agreement, saying, "I take it as a positive development that would contribute to the safety of the research whaling fleet." Yamamoto, however, said that Japanese whalers should continue to use caution and be aware that there are staunch opponents of whaling.
Sea Shepherd Global media director Heather Stimmler said all of its entities around the world — except those in the United States — will continue to oppose what it believes is illegal Japanese whaling in the Antarctic.
The International Whaling Commission imposed a commercial ban on whaling in 1986, but Japan has continued to kill whales under an exemption for what the country says is research.
Interpol lists Watson as being wanted in Japan on charges of conspiracy to trespass on a whaling ship and interference with business, and in Costa Rica on a charge of interfering with a shark finning operation.
Watson was arrested in Germany but then fled to France when he heard that he would be extradited to Japan.
In his home office in landlocked Vermont, surrounded by artifacts from his journeys, the 65-year-old Watson said he will continue to coordinate with other Sea Shepherd entities. He's also writing several books and is involved in future television programs.