Australian Federal Police have raided anti-whalingflagship the Steve Irwin, seizing records and videos that could helpJapan to prosecute the activist Sea Shepherd group.
Anarmed squad seized 157 of Discovery Channel's raw videos, andnavigational records from the ship in Hobart. The videos show the SeaShepherd's clashes with Japanese whalers and may be given to theJapanese Government. A federal agent said yesterday's raid resultedfrom a formal referral from Japanese authorities and that police wereundertaking preliminary inquiries into this summer's Southern Oceanconfrontation.
Australian National Universitylaw professor Don Rothwell said international legal obligations meantevidence of alleged maritime offences could be forwarded to Japan.
Shipscollided and objects were thrown between the vessels as theanti-whaling group tried to disrupt the Japanese fleet's operations inthe Ross Sea.
The Japanese Government-owned fleet'spresident, Kazuo Yamamura, said the clashes posed a test of whetherAustralia and the Netherlands, which registers the Steve Irwin, wouldallow the high seas to be a lawless zone, or impose internationalagreements.
"These maritime laws are not options," Mr Yamamura said. "If they are not applied, they are of little value."
Sea Shepherd leader Paul Watson said Discovery Channel's first Animal Planet series of Whale Warswas embarrassing to the Japanese Government, which did not want to seethe airing of a second season. "I wish the Australian Government wouldapply the same diplomatic pressure on Japan to end their illegalwhaling operations," he said.
The Federal Government claims it opposes Japan's continued whale hunt.
Greensleader Bob Brown called on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to explain theraid. "On the face of it, this is outrageous behaviour by theAustralian Government to secure favour from the Japanese authorities,"he said.
A spokeswoman for Home Affairs Minister Bob Debusrefused to comment, saying it was an "operational matter" in the handsof the federal police.
Mr Watson said he would welcome theissue being brought to court.
"We are not there protesting, we are downthere to stop a blatantly criminal activity - to stop whaling in awhale sanctuary," he said. "These actions have to go to courtsomewhere, so let's start it here."