An armed squad seized 157 of Discovery Channel's raw videos, and navigational records from the ship in Hobart. The videos show the Sea Shepherd's clashes with Japanese whalers and may be given to the Japanese Government. A federal agent said yesterday's raid resulted from a formal referral from Japanese authorities and that police were undertaking preliminary inquiries into this summer's Southern Ocean confrontation.
OK so AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty said the allegations against Sea Shepherd relate to endangering the Japanese ship, the Yushin Maru III.
"On the 17th of February the referral [came] from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade," he said.So once again the Fisheries Agency flexed and the Foreign Affairs people jumped.
"But it was, when I say referral, it was simply onforwarding to us the allegations made in Japan by the director-general of the Japanese fishing agency."
Japans strategy of letting the Fisheries Agency decide the nations foreign policy is surely a huge gamble?
Eighteen months ago the AFP investigated a complaint by Mr Watson against the Japanese authorities. In that case, the federal Director of Public Prosecutions decided not to prosecute.
"So in that sense we understand the legislation and the need to treat the legislation seriously and objectively for all parties," Mr Keelty said.
So the official complaint stemmed from the director-general of the Japanese fishing agency. Now the federal attorney-general would need to approve any prosecution arising from the raid on the Steve Irwin in Hobart! Or so says the Aussie Senate anyway. Obviously Animal Planet are not happy about the situation!
The television channel "has a team of lawyers working on it. That footage is extremely valuable to them. We are literally looking at $20 million worth of footage," Capt Watson said.
"I think the Japanese are far more scared of that footage than of us and the concern is, if it is kept as evidence, it will never see the light of day."
Now the Steve Irwin and Japanese whaling ships collided twice in recent months, and the activists have staged hit-an-run attacks on the fleet with rancid butter-filled bottles hurled from motorized runabouts, according to both sides.
The Steve Irwin was met by the AFP when it docked in Hobart on Friday afternoon (AEDT) and officers confiscated the ship's log book and video footage.
The footage taken by wildlife documentary group Animal Planet depicted some of the most dramatic whale-killing scenes ever seen, crew on the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship said.
The police, who had search warrants, kept the crew on board as they searched cabins.
Senator Brown has written to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd calling for an immediate explanation as to how the raid could be in the nation's interest.
"On the face of it, this is outrageous behaviour by the Australian government to secure favour from the Japanese authorities," he said.
"And if it wasn't, what on earth is the Australian Federal Police up to?
"It is an extraordinary raid, that defies the imagination."
Senator Brown said he could think of no other explanation for why the ship was raided other than to take footage from respected international media organisations to provide the Japanese with prosecution evidence.
"If this action was taken at the behest of the Japanese authorities it will outrage many Australians.
"The Australian Federal Police can expect detailed questioning from the Greens at Senate Estimates this coming week."
Does all of this remind anyone else of this recent history?
INTERNATIONAL TRIBUNAL FOR THE LAW OF THE SEA
Southern Bluefin Tuna (New Zealand v. Japan; Australia v. Japan) 1999
Professor Crawford represented Australia in 1999 in a joint action with New Zealand against Japan over its huge so-called experimental catch of southern bluefin tuna in a case with parallels to the "scientific" whaling program Canberra brands a sham.