Tokyo (AFP) – Fugitive eco-activist Paul Watson said Monday he hoped anti-dolphin hunting comments like those by US ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, would put pressure on Tokyo to halt the practice.
Watson, speaking by telephone with fellow activists streaming live footage from the dolphin-hunting village of Taiji, said high-profile interventions were a good thing.
“Hopefully this would put additional pressure to convince the Japanese government that this really has no place in the 21st century,” he said.
His comments come after Kennedy, the only surviving child of assassinated US President John F Kennedy, tweeted on January 17: “Deeply concerned by inhumaneness of drive hunt dolphin killing. USG (US Government) opposes drive hunt fisheries.”
Every year the fishermen of Taiji corral hundreds of dolphins in a secluded bay, select a few dozen for sale to aquariums and marine parks and slaughter the rest for meat.
Watson, who is the founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, is now in the United States where he arrived last year saying he wanted to challenge a court injunction.
“It’s a difficult, frustrating and traumatising experience for all the people involved,” Watson told the activists in Taiji. “I wish I could be there with you. I am not allowed into Japan.”
Japanese authorities are seeking his extradition and describe methods used by Watson’s Sea Shepherd group against whaling ships — for example blocking the boats’ propellers — as “terrorist” acts.
Watson was arrested in May last year in Frankfurt on a warrant from Costa Rica, where he is wanted on charges stemming from a high-seas confrontation over shark finning in 2002.
The Canadian-born activist fled from Germany but arrived in California on October 28, more than a year later.
Activists from the militant environmental group have streamed live footage of the dolphin capture in Taiji, which drew worldwide attention in 2010 when it became the subject of the Academy Award-winning documentary “The Cove”.
Sea Shepherd says around 250 dolphins have been corralled in the cove so far, and that some have been removed, but it is not clear if any have been killed so far.