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Japanese Whalers Clash With Protestors In Antarctic Waters

January 2, 2011

Militant anti-whalers said on Saturday that they had clashed with Japanese harpoonists in the Southern Ocean, chasing after them through ice packs.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s vessels have been seeking to disrupt the Japanese whalers on their annual hunt in Antarctic waters, but had not been able to find the Japanese fleet until Friday.

Paul Watson, the society’s president, said that they made contact with the whalers and would attempt to prevent any of the whales from being slaughtered.

“It’s got its water cannons turned onto us right now so we’re maneuvering through ice and trying to outmaneuver them so it’s a little dicey,” Watson told ABC Radio.

Locky MacLean, captain of the Sea Shepherd’s “Gojira” vessel, said in a statement on the society’s website that the group’s three boats had been “dancing dangerously through the ice packs locked in confrontation with the three harpoon ships”.

“It was both deadly and beautiful,” he said. “Deadly because of the ice and the hostility of the whalers and beautiful because of the ice, and the fact that these three killer ships are not killing whales while clashing with us.”

According to the Kyodo news agency, Japan’s fisheries agency said that Sea Shepherd used a small boat to throw ropes and bottles at whaling vessels.

“The repeated obstructive behavior against legitimate research activities is extremely dangerous action that threatens the vessels and the lives and property of their crew members,” the fisheries agency was quoted as saying.

The activists said the clashes involved several high speed chases and near collisions among jagged ice floes, and alleged that the whalers turned water cannons and hoses on their crew.

“Sea Shepherd responded with some rather unpleasant foul-smelling substances,” they said in a statement.

The conservationists said they know that the Japanese fleet is 1,700 nautical miles southeast of New Zealand.  They said they would continue to harass them to prevent them from killing whales during the southern hemisphere summer.

“Our objective is to save the maximum number of whales and to maximize the financial losses of the whalers at the same time,” Watson said in the statement.

Australia has taken legal action against Japan to prevent it from hunting whales by exploiting a loophole in a 1986 global moratorium, which allows whaling for research purposes.

Image Caption: The crew of the Yushin Maru #3 using their water cannons against Sea Shepherd’s Delta team in the Zodiac boat. Credit: Gary Stokes/Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

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