Activists clash with whalers

Written By miftah nugraha on Rabu, 20 Februari 2013 | 19.55

Environmentalists have accused Japanese whalers of attempting to crash into their ship as they tried to prevent harpoonists from hauling a slaughtered whale on board. Picture: SEA SHEPHERD, AFP

ANTI-WHALING group Sea Shepherd says a Japanese whaling ship has rammed its two protest ships, and one has taken on water.

Sea Shepherd founder Captain Paul Watson, in a posting on his Facebook page this afternoon, claimed the Nisshin Maru had rammed both the Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker, "but both vessels continue to hold their positions. The Bob Barker is taking on water in their engine room."

They are in the Southern Ocean, north of the Australian Casey Research Station.

Speaking from aboard the Steve Irwin, Watson told 3 News the Bob Barker, with 38 crew aboard, was hit a number of times as they tried to stop the Nisshin Maru from refuelling, which he says is illegal in the Southern Ocean.

"(It) has lost power, toppled the main mast, smashed up the deck."

A mayday has been issued but the crew had managed to stop water from coming in, he said.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority is responsible for responding to maydays in that part of the ocean. The authority is in the process of responding.

Capt Watson said the Japanese ship had also struck the Korean-owned fuel tanker, the Sun Laurel.

The Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research could not be reached for immediate comment, but last week it said the Bob Barker had tried to sabotage Japanese research vessel Nisshin Maru and Yushin Maru No.2 as they tried to transfer a whale between the two ships.

Bob Brown, a Sea Shepherd director, said the Federal Government must send the navy to Antarctic waters to "restore international law".

"This is a gross breach of international law by the Japanese," Dr Brown told reporters in Melbourne today.

"I'm calling the Australian government to dispatch naval vessels now -- not just to film the slaughter of the whales by the Antarctic fleet but to restore international law.

"Tokyo is not in control of ... Australian waters."

Federal Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt said the incident should force the Government to "finally open its eyes" and "put a cop on the beat".

"We wrote three times in December to the Prime Minister warning of a risk of conflict and collision between whalers and protesters," Mr Hunt told reporters in Sydney.

"There should be a Customs vessel dispatched for search and rescue, for monitoring surveillance purposes in the Southern Ocean."

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke has previously dismissed the Coalition's proposal of having a boat in the Southern Ocean and has taken Japan to the International Court of Justice.

The confrontation comes the same month as the US Supreme Court upheld an injunction ordering Sea Shepherd to keep away from Japanese whaling ships in the Southern Ocean.

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