Navy joins whalers, says Watson

Written By miftah nugraha on Senin, 25 Februari 2013 | 19.55

A JAPANESE military vessel has met up with its whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean, say Sea Shepherd activists.

Sea Shepherd captain Paul Watson said a 220-foot icebreaker, operated by the Japanese navy, was spotted on Sea Shepherd radars approaching whaling ship Nisshin Maru and two Sea Shepherd boats, the Steve Irwin and Bob Barker, early this morning in Australia's Antarctic territory.

It has since sent a helicopter into the sky to monitor the Nisshin Maru, and a Korean-flagged oil tanker, the Sun Laurel, which is being tracked by the Sea Shepherd's Sam Simon eight miles away, he said.

"This morning the ice-breaker had a military helicopter over the Sun Laurel monitoring it," Mr Watson told News Limited from the Steve Irwin.

"They're heavily armed helicopters. They carry three of these big helicopters."

The apparent move comes after violent collisions in the Southern Ocean last week between the Nisshin Maru and the smaller Sea Shepherd and Sun Laurel vessels.

Sea Shepherd has been scathing of the Nisshin Maru's captain, which is says put lives at risk when he rammed the four other boats.

The Institute of Cetacean Research, representing the whalers, said the Sea Shepherd boats "provoked" the collisions.

Mr Watson said today's move was "intimidating" but activists would continue to stop the Japanese from refuelling and whaling.

"It is intimidating but we're going to hold our ground and make sure they don't kill any whales," Mr Watson said.

The Sea Shepherd believes the Nisshin Maru is trying to refuel with heavy fuel and is blocking that, maintaining that is illegal in the area they are sailing in.

"What we don't understand is what a Japanese military vessel is doing in the Australian Antarctic territory protecting a Japanese whaling fleet which is in contempt of the Australian Federal Court," he said.

The news led to calls from the Greens for Australia to send a Customs ship to cool down an escalating situation.

"They need to be sending down, as a matter of urgency, a Customs vessel to go down there to monitor, and keep track of what is going on and try to de-escalate the situation because the situation is building," Greens Marine spokeswoman Senator Rachel Siewert said.

"The government has had its eye off the ball all season on this.

"They should have had a vessel down there in the first place."

Mr Watson said he did not believe Australia would act.

"I think that Australia really should surrender the Australian Antarctic territory to Japan, because that's pretty much what they've done."

A spokeswoman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said Japan did not need to inform it if it planned to refuel by air outside of Australian waters.

The Australian and Japanese governments have been asked for comment.

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