In a press release yesterday Watson announced that he would be stepping down as the President of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in the United States and as President of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Australia.
Watson added that he has also resigned his position of Executive Director of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society USA and would cede captaincy of the SSS Steve Irwin to Captain Siddharth Chakravarty for the extent of the campaign. In stepping down as campaign leader for Operation Zero Tolerance
, Watson said he will stay aboard the ship to document Sea Shepherd's 9th campaign in the Southern Ocean.
The move came following a December 17 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Washington which mandated that Sea Shepherd U.S. not physically confront any vessel or any person on any vessel operating under Japan's Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR) in the Southern Ocean. The ruling also stated that the defendants remain at least 500 yards from the plaintiff's when navigating on the open seas.
In a personal statement
issued Jan. 7, Watson said that since he founded the organization 35 years ago:
I have strived to act non-violently and within the boundaries of the law.
And although the conservation group has broken some bureaucratic regulations Watson explained:
We did so to challenge the validity of these regulations, which were in contradiction to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In all other respects we have always operated within the boundaries of the law, both international and national.
Never having been convicted of a felony crime, Watson said, "the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in the United States and myself as a U.S. citizen, must comply with the order by the 9th Circuit court of the United States."
Simultaneously with Watson's statement, at a Hobart press conference
, the Australian Chapter of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, announced it will now be heading up Operation Zero Tolerance
Control of the anti-whaling organization will go to Bob Brown, the former Senator and leader of the Australian Greens party. Having joined the Board of Directors for SSCS Australia recently, Brown will co-direct the anti-whalers 9th campaign with the Director of Sea Shepherd Australia, Jeff Hansen. Meanwhile SSCS board member Marnie Gaede, will assume the role of President of Sea Shepherd United States.
"These changes are being adopted in order for Sea Shepherd to continue its vital mission of defending at-risk whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary," SSCS said. Brown added that he was "honored to serve the great whales of the Southern Ocean and Sea Shepherd in this way."
Ian Campbell, the former Federal Environment Minister of Australia also spoke out at the press conference and said that "Sea Shepherd Australia has one mission this summer, and that is 'Zero Tolerance' of blood in the Southern Ocean. If its vessels have to get within 450 meters of a killer ship to save a whale, then that is what will be done."
Campbell also challenged the ICR directly. "If the Japanese say they won't go within 450 meters of a whale, Sea Shepherd Australia will do the same," he said.
Watson meanwhile, said that he "will hold no paid position with Sea Shepherd anywhere Sea Shepherd is registered and operates as a non-profit organization in any nation."
Äccording to Japan Daily Press.com
, Hansen explained that "because Watson was specifically named in the court ruling, it limited the activists' in their fight against whaling. The Captain's resignation therefore Hansen added, was "proof of his selflessness."
Watson himself concluded:
As a United States citizen, I will respect and comply with the ruling of the United States 9th District Court and will not violate the temporary injunction granted to the Institute for Cetacean Research. I will participate as an observer within the boundaries established by the 9th Circuit Court of the United States.
After a delayed departure
, the Japanese whaling fleet isn't expected to reach the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary for another two weeks. Waiting for them this time will be not three, but four Sea Shepherd ships. The Steve Irwin
, the Bob Barker
, and the Brigitte Bardot
will be joined by new Sea Shepherd vessel, the SSS Sam Simon
-- a ship recently purchased from Japan, and formerly part of the Japanese whaling fleet.