Pete Bethune happy he can talk again

19:22, Jul 10 2010
Back home: Pete Bethune at Torbay with daughters Danielle and Alycia. Below, in Auckland with his wife, Sharyn.

Peter Bethune is making up for lost time. In a Japanese jail, where he spent the last four months, he was forbidden from talking.

"I'm just so wired now," he said yesterday, talking – a lot – to the Sunday Star-Times.

And there's plenty to tell.


He's "pissed off" at Sea Shepherd, the United States-based group that disowned him when he boarded a Japanese whaling boat.

He's relieved to receive a two-year suspended sentence, after pleading guilty to five charges relating to clashes with Japanese whalers in which he hurled rancid butter. And he will avoid jail provided he stays out of trouble with Japanese authorities for the next five years.

He's elated to be home and to spend time with his estranged wife Sharyn and teenage daughters Danielle and Alycia, but still found time to talk about his adventures.


In January he was skipper of the futuristic vessel, Ady Gil, which sank after colliding with Japanese whaling boat, the Shonan Maru II.

A month later Bethune boarded the Japanese ship to demand compensation. On his first attempt he fell into an Antarctic ocean that was -1C. Once he clambered aboard the whaler he was greeted by a shocked Japanese crew.

"The funny thing was they were really crapping themselves. I was pretty nervous, but within a few seconds I could see the look in their eyes. They were all like 'what do we do?'," Bethune said.

After some initial fears about life behind bars – "I was more worried about the physical stuff, getting beaten up or shagged by sumo wrestlers" – he has no complaints about his treatment in prison.

He hoped his action and subsequent media attention had raised awareness about wahling in Japan where "there is so little recognition of how it is deeply offensive".

He was surprised again when Sea Shepherd publicly disowned him. The protest group now says a statement saying it had kicked Bethune out of the organisation was part of a master plan to help keep the Kiwi out of jail. Sea Shepherd boss Paul Watson said he deliberately kept the truth from Bethune to make sure his angry reaction was authentic. Bethune was sceptical but he'll wait to hear what they say in a meeting tomorrow before commenting further. "I'm pissed off. There's a couple of things about it that I'm pretty pissed about. I need to sort a few things before I go shooting from the hip."

Yesterday at home, he was happy to be off a rollercoaster ride of emotions. He's promised he'll stay put for the next few years. It helps that under the terms of his suspended sentence he's also promised a Japanese court he wouldn't go near the whaling boats to protest at sea. "It did hurt to say that, but my priority was to get out of that prison," he said.

In jail he survived on a diet of boiled cabbage and rice, shedding 8kg, but never losing hope he would return home. His first taste of New Zealand food was chocolate chip cookie dough made by daughter Alycia.


Marriage: "It's not easy being married to me, it's more like being married without me."

His airport arrival yesterday: "Everything just seemed so loud and bright."

Wannabe activists: "Just get out there and do it. We need to stand up for ourselves."

Anti-whaling: "I'm really opposed to whaling. They could have locked me up for five years and it wouldn't change that."

Sunday Star Times