7 Oct 2010

Sea Shepherd under fire from former patron

9:31 pm on 7 October 2010

The anti-whaling Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is under further attack - this time from its former patron.

American businessman Ady Gil donated $1 million towards a powerboat that bore his name and says New Zealand protester Pete Bethune was pushed into agreeing to sink the vessel after it was damaged in a collision with a Japanese whaling boat in the Southern Ocean in January.

Earlier this year, Mr Bethune spent five months in Japanese custody awaiting trial on charges related to illegally boarding a whaling ship in February. He received a suspended sentence and is back in New Zealand.

Mr Gil says Sea Shepherd group head Paul Watson uses publicity stunts to attract funding for organisation and that has soured their relationship.

Mr Gil says he has lost respect for Captain Watson and no longer believes he is an honest and trustworthy man. He called on Sea Shepherd to replace the boat with another that carries his name.

Mr Bethune says he was quitting Sea Shepherd because of its "constant lies", but the group says he was expelled.

Mr Bethune also accused Sea Shepherd of deliberately scuttling the Ady Gil for publicity. He told Morning Report on Thursday it was definitely salvageable but he was taken aside by Captain Paul Watson and told to scuttle it.

Mr Bethune says the public and volunteers who support Sea Shepherd deserve better. He says he is embarrassed about some aspects of his behaviour during his time with the organisation and has apologised to Mr Gil.

Sea Shepherd's Paul Watson rejected Mr Bethune's accusations on Thursday, saying he was fired and did not quit.

Captain Watson told Morning Report it was Mr Bethune's decision to let the ship go because it could not be towed.

He says Mr Bethune gave false evidence to Japanese authorities that he was ordered onto the whaling ship and that Mr Bethune begged to be allowed to confront the whalers.

Japanese institute responds

Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research says both sides have lied.

However, spokesperson Glenn Inwood says believes Mr Bethune is correct when he says Captain Watson knew about weapons on board the boat and deliberately misled the public about the intentional scuttling of the Ady Gil.

Mr Inwood said the comments show the public cannot trust anything that Sea Shepherd says.