Media battle in the Southern Seas

It is a hot battle in one of the world’s coldest places, but the real heat is not in the confrontation between Japanese whalers and environmentalists or even the warm cetacean blood spilt for supposed research. The crucial heat is in the three-way struggle to harpoon public opinion.

Greenpeace, the world’s largest and highest-profile environmental organisation, is pursuing the Japanese in the Southern Ocean with much more than its two ships, a helicopter and crew of 60.

In its wake is the smaller but even more controversial Sea Shepherd Conservation Society under command of its mercurial leader, Canadian born Captain Paul Watson. He told The Age he happily accepts the mantle of modern-day pirate and boasts of responsibility for sinking nine “illegal” whaling ships since 1979.

In the public opinion war Greenpeace’s real rainbow warriors are not the activists in inflatable speedboats who place themselves between harpoons and whales and cop the blasts of the Japanese water cannon