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The Sea Shepherd, Austral Fisheries, Japanese Whaling Connection

By Captain Paul Watson

Sea Shepherd Australia Board Member

Founder of Sea Shepherd (1977)

What is Sea Shepherd Australia’s Relationship With Austral Fisheries?

On October 19th, 2022, I sent some questions to the Board of Directors of Sea Shepherd Australia.

I am still a director of Sea Shepherd Australia although I have been blocked from accessing the Sea Shepherd Australia Facebook page. I can’t comment nor can I even view what others post. The last Board meeting I attended, I was warned to not say anything publicly about Sea Shepherd Australia after I responded to unfounded accusations and insinuations about myself that Sea Shepherd CEO Jeff Hansen gave to a meeting of some 200 staff and volunteers.

The problem the Australian Board has with me is that I believe in transparency. Sea Shepherd supporters have a right to know what Sea Shepherd Australia is doing.

I am not the only person being blocked and numerous comments asking unwanted questions are being deleted.

The questions I was asking concerned Sea Shepherd Australia’s relationship with the Austral Fisheries Company.

Volunteers, staff, and supporters have been asking me questions about Austral Fisheries, questions that I can’t answer even though I am a Sea Shepherd Australia Director.

I can’t answer because I was never briefed about the connection.

I sent the Board the questions that I wanted answers to.

The result: No answers, no explanation, not even the courtesy of a reply except from Tony Smith who said he knew nothing about any relationship with Austral Fisheries.

Here is what I sent to the Australian Board

To the Board of Sea Shepherd Australia,

I received this message (below) yesterday (October 18th) and it is concerning.

The attachment shows the link between Austral Fisheries and the Japanese fishing company Maruha Nichiro a company that is linked to the ownership of the pirate whaler Sierra that I rammed and disabled in 1979.

A link between Sea Shepherd Australia and Austral Fisheries has the potential to be damaging to Sea Shepherd Australia.

I urgently need the answers to the following questions

1. Was Austral Fisheries and its CEO Dave Carter involved with securing tax status for Sea Shepherd Australia?

2. Is it true as alleged that complaints by Sea Shepherd supporters have been ignored?

3. Was the vessel Alan Kay purchased from Austral Fisheries?

4. Did Austral Fisheries give Sea Shepherd Australia a discount on the purchase?

5. Did Austral Fisheries donate the fuel that was on the Alan Kay at the time of purchase?

6. Why has Jeff Hansen cooperated with Austral Fisheries in doing interviews and podcasts on “sustainable Fisheries”?

7. Has Austral Fisheries given donations to Sea Shepherd Australia independent of the purchase of the Alan Kay?

8. Does Sea Shepherd Australia condone the exploitation of marine life by Austral Fisheries?

9. Does Sea Shepherd specifically condone the Austral Fisheries exploitation of Antarctic toothfish?

10. Does Sea Shepherd Australia hold the position that the fishing of Antarctic toothfish is sustainable.

11. Are the members of the Board for Sea Shepherd Australia aware of these concerns?

12. What exactly is the relationship between Austral Fisheries and Sea Shepherd Australia? According to CEO magazine, Sea Shepherd Australia is already partnered with Austral Fisheries. (See exhibit A below)

13. Would Sea Shepherd Australia oppose commercial fishing by Austral Fisheries?

14. Is Sea Shepherd Australia comfortable with working with a company (Austral Fisheries) that is linked to the Japanese fishing and whaling industry?

15. What is the personal relationship between Jeff Hansen and Dave Carter?

I heard the podcast with Jeff Hansen and Dave Carter supporting sustainable fishing and I did hear about a donation to Sea Shepherd Australia from a court settlement involving the death of an Austral Fisheries employee but I don’t recall any discussion with the Board about purchasing a ship from Austral Fisheries.

My concern is that this information unless properly explained with full transparency could become an embarrassing scandal for Sea Shepherd Australia.

I would suggest that the Board issue a statement to clarify the situation and to specifically state that Sea Shepherd does not support any form of industrialized exploitation of marine life and specifically does not recognize that there is a sustainable toothfish fishery anywhere on the planet. We’re talking about a recognized endangered species

In light of complaints and inquiries by supporters being ignored by Sea Shepherd Australia, I trust that as a director that my concerns will not be ignored and that as a Director I am entitled to ask these questions and hopefully will be provided with answers.

Almost a month later and no answers. My inquiries were completely ignored.

In 2015, while Chasing the Thunder, an Austral fisheries vessel enroute to Australia from Europe briefly joined up with the Sea Shepherd ships Sam Simon and Bob Barker. After a brief photo-op, the Austral Fisheries ship carried on and Captain Peter Hammarstedt publicly thanked Austral Fisheries for their support. What they were thanked for is a mystery because Austral Fisheries contributed nothing to the campaign aside from a photo op beneficial to Austral Fisheries. Sea Shepherd acknowledged the legitimacy of Austral Fisheries claiming there was a common interest when there was not. The Sea Shepherd interest was to save the Antarctic Toothfish. Austral Fisheries simply wanted to eliminate their competition. It does not matter to the endangered toothfish if they are being killed legally or illegally.

This position by Captain Hammerstedt contradicts this article by Alex Cornelissen:

The official position of Sea Shepherd has always been 100% opposition to commercial fishing.

Exhibit A

Here is one of the reasons for concern. This from CEO Magazine

“As part of their advocacy for sustainable oceans, Austral Fisheries has partnered with Sea Shepherd to remove the seas of illegal fishing.”

“We share a common interest in bringing more climate action into the public policy debate and trying to do something together about marine ocean plastics,” David (Carter) says.

Exhibit B

Here we have a YouTube Video:

David Carter shares benefits of unique collaboration between Austral Fisheries and Sea Shepherd.

Exhibit C

Austral Fisheries Attends Sea Shepherd Premiere:

Exhibit D

From the Out of the Blue podcast

Join us for a conversation that delves deep into the world of sustainable fishing, helmed by award-winning journalist and broadcaster Meri Fatin. Out of the Blue sees a conversation between two pioneers in the sustainable fishing industry: David Carter - CEO of Austral Fisheries, a revolutionary carbon neutral fishery practice - and Jeff Hansen, Managing Director of Sea Shepherd Australia, who was instrumental in successful anti-whaling campaigns on the Southern Ocean. Both David and Jeff share similar visions for the future of sustainable fishing. They met over a joint concern about the poaching of Patagonian Tooth Fish - known as 'white gold' - and joined forces to stop Thunder, a notorious illegal fishing boat. The talk will delve into the pair's unlikely partnership, sharing stories of eliminating poachers, achieving carbon neutrality and life on the high seas. It will also look to the future of the fishing industry and what we, as consumers, can do to make a difference. Tickets include refreshments

It states that Jeff Hansen and David Carter share a vision for sustainable Fisheries, and both are pioneers for sustainable fisheries.

How can Jeff Hansen be a pioneer of sustainable fisheries when Sea Shepherd is against all fishing?

Exhibit F

What is the Relationship Between Austral Fisheries and Illegal Japanese Whaling Operations.

Austral Fisheries is 50% owned by the Japanese Maruha Nichiro Company. The partnership was established between Maruha Nichiro and Austral Fisheries in 2013.

2007 - Maruha Nichiro Holdings is born

Maruha Corp, with its superior capacity in procuring seafood products, and Nichiro, whose strength lies in the development and sales of processed foods, joined forces in a merger to seek growth in the world's food market.

Maruha Corp was originally called Taiyo Gyogyo KK (Taiyo Fishery Co.) They ran a large fleet of whaling vessels as well as a fishing fleet.

The Shunyo-maru, later became a combined catcher/factory whaling ship, the MV Tonna, and was owned by Andrew M. Behr who also owned the whaling ship, Sierra. Behr and the Sierra were also linked to Japan's Taiyo Fisheries Co. through a Canadian subsidiary (Taiyo Canada Ltd.) with whale products for the Japanese markets.

"Perhaps the most egregious whaling crimes were practiced by Japan’s Taiyo Fishery Co. It got into pirate whaling in 1968 in a joint venture with Norwegian whaling interests. A former Dutch catcher boat, the AM No. 4, was converted to a combination factory ship/ catcher boat by adding a huge freezer compartment and a stern slipway for hauling whales aboard for slaughter. Renamed the Sierra, the pirate whaling ship roamed the North and South Atlantic for a dozen years, flying flags of convenience such as Bahamas, Somalia and Cyprus.

Taiyo operated many more pirate whaling ships in the 1970s and 1980s, including the Cape Fisher, Susan, Teresa, Paulmy Star No. 3, and the Sea Bird. All flew flags of convenience and were based in non-IWC countries. Ownership was hidden behind dummy companies in offshore havens. All had Japanese crewmen in key positions. All of the whale meat was shipped to Taiyo in Japan.

The Taiyo Fishery Co. changed its name to Maruha a few years ago. Notorious even within Japanese industry, it probably did so in an attempt to help cover up its crimes against the whales.

Formed in the late 19th century, Maruha developed into one of Japan's major whaling companies, under its former name of Taiyo Gyogyo KK (Taiyo Fishery Co.), and also built up one of the country's largest fleets of trawlers. The worldwide moratorium on whaling forced the company to exit that industry, and the company has responded to increasing conservation pressures on the global fishing industry by reducing its own fishing fleet and relying instead on an international network of supply partnerships. Maruha also has established some 60 international subsidiaries.

The company re-entered whaling and fishing, boosting its operations with the 1955 acquisition of Nippon Kinkai Hogei, formed in a merger between three prominent Japanese whalers just a year earlier. The company also contributed to the rebuilding of Japan's whaling fleet, once again targeting the Antarctic region. By the beginning of the 1960s, Taiyo was one of the country's leading whalers, with its own fleet hunting whales in the Antarctic, supported by its own factory ship.

By the 1977 whaling season, however, the company fielded just four whalers. In support of the whaling fleet, though, Taiyo founded a new subsidiary, Nihon Hogei, which began processing and distributing whale meat to the Japanese market. By 1987, however, Taiyo had exited the whaling industry altogether, transferring the remains of Nihon Hogei to a new company, Kyodo Senpaku.

Taiyo changed its name to Maruha Corporation, and developed a new logo, in an effort to shake off its past as a whaling company and to emphasize its new focus as a major seafood importer and processor.


How strange, the very ship that I rammed and ended its career in 1979 was owned by a company that now owns 50% of Austral Fisheries, a company that now appears to be partnered with Sea Shepherd Australia.

Photo: The Austral Fisheries ship Atlas Cove with the Sea Shepherd ships Bob Barker and Sam Simon off the West Coast of Africa.

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