February 6, 2009

Activist Ship Collides With Japanese Whalers

A ship carrying members of an anti-whaling protest group collided with a Japanese whaling vessel in Antarctic waters on Friday.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society claimed the collision was unavoidable as the Japanese whaling ship, Yushin Maru No. 2 attempted to block the path of the ship.

"We told them to not continue their illegal whaling operations and that we would be blocking the stern slipway of the factory ship," said Paul Watson, captain of the Steve Irwin ship. "They decided to test our resolve and apparently expected us to retreat when they charged in ahead of us to make the transfer."

Activists were attempting to prevent Yushin Maru No.2's transfer of two dead whales into the slipway, "when the Yushin Maru No.1 moved directly in front of the bow to block" the ship, said Watson.

"I could not turn to starboard without hitting the Yushin Maru No.1. I tried to back down but the movement of the Yushin Maru No.2 made the collision unavoidable."

In a statement on Sea Shepherd's Web site, Watson alleges that the Steve Irwin came under attack from "a barrage of metal objects, blasts from the water cannons, and the disorientation caused by the LRAD acoustic weapons that the whalers were using on the conservationists."

"I was dazed by the sonic blasts being used on us at close range." said Watson. "I have to admit it was difficult to concentrate with that devise being focused on us."

"I've never felt anything quite like it," said Emily Hunter from Toronto, Canada. "It penetrates the body and you can feel your muscles vibrating. It made me dizzy and left me somewhat dazed."

Shigeki Takaya, an assistant director of the Far Seas Fisheries Division at Japan's fisheries ministry, categorized the collision as "an act of violence."

"It is unforgivable," said Takaya.

"While no one was injured, the circumstances could have been much worse, even fatal," ICR head Minoru Morimoto said.

"This is a very dangerous activity and our country is doing legitimate research based on the rules of the IWC (International Whaling Commission)," said Toshinori Uoya, a Fisheries Agency official, adding that Sea Shepherd's activity "is illegal and it puts in danger the lives of the crew members and damages our property. It is unforgivable."

Sea Shepherd's confrontational tactics have been widely criticized both by pro-whaling groups and fellow environmentalists, according to Reuters.

"They are obviously frustrated at the money they are losing and they have been ordered to do whatever needs to be done in order to prevent us from preventing them killing whales," said Watson.

The two whales were transferred after the Steve Irwin shut down the operations of the fleet for twelve hours, according to the written statement on Sea Shepherd's Web site.

"We are trying to make this as difficult as possible for them to continue their illegal activities, "said activist Molly Kendall from Adelaide, South Australia.

"It is difficult to see them murdering these whales and we are determined to do everything we possibly can to stop this horrific slaughter."


Image Caption: Sea Shepherd's M/Y Steve Irwin (foreground) collides with Japanese harpoon whaling ship the Yushin Maru No. 3. Sea Shepherd attempted to block the harpoon ship from offloading a newly caught minke whale to factory ship, the Nisshin Maru (background).  Photo by Adam Lau/Sea Shepherd Conservation Society


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