Sea Shepherd, Japanese Whalers Clash For Third Time This Season

Brett Smith for – Your Universe Online
In what appears to be the result of escalating violence, the anti-whaling activist group Sea Shepherd has claimed that Japanese whalers attacked one of their vessels during a recent clash in the Southern Ocean.
According to the environmentalist group, the Japanese ships Yushin Maru and Yushin Maru 3 dragged steel cables across the bow of its vessel the Bob Barker 11 times on Sunday in an attempt to disable the craft. When the Bob Barker released two small boats to cut the steel cables, a bamboo spear was thrown at Sea Shepherd crew members, the anti-whaling group claimed.
The clash is the latest episode in the ongoing saga between the environmentalist group and Japanese ships. The Japanese claim they are simply pursuing the whales for scientific purposes, while the Sea Shepherd has asserted that the Japanese ships are simply exploiting a loophole in international treaties to conduct whaling operations.
Sunday’s clash was the third since the Japanese ships started operation earlier this year. No one was injured during the most recent incident.
“Each time we have located the Nisshin Maru (factory ship), the Sea Shepherd fleet has been attacked by the whalers in night-time ambushes,” the Bob Barker’s captain Peter Hammarstedt said, according to the AFP.
According to the Sea Shepherd, the Bob Barker’s helicopter spotted the Nisshin Maru early Sunday with a Minke whale onboard while “slabs of whale meat were also photographed on the deck, along with the severed head of a recently butchered whale.”
Last week, Hammarstedt wrote an open letter to Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt complaining about a lack of action from Australia after the earlier assaults in the Southern Ocean. Hammarstedt said the letter went unanswered.
“They knew this attack was imminent, and yet they did nothing. Hunt’s broken promises to monitor the whaling operations are evident in the broken bodies of the whales killed today,” he said.
The Australian minister had initially called for a government ship to monitor the ships during the annual hunting season, but instead chose to conduct aerial surveillance – a move the Sea Shepherd called “pretty cowardly” and an appeasement to Japan during free trade negotiations.
Hunt’s office told the AFP that a response to Hammarstedt’s letter had been sent to Sea Shepherd and defended the use of aerial surveillance.
“For operational reasons, the use of a plane has been determined as the most effective means of monitoring activities in the Southern Ocean. The aircraft will be able to monitor activities over a large area,” a spokesman said.
Confrontations between the two groups appear to be escalating as a ship from each side crashed into each other during a clash in early February.
In a statement to the Associated Press, Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR), which sponsors the annual whale operations, said that protestors aboard two inflatable boats from the Bob Barker had dropped ropes in front of the bow of Yushin Maru, which became tangled in the ship’s propeller. ICR said it was the Bob Barker that then came too close to the Yushin Maru No. 3 and struck its stern, damaging the whaling ship’s hull and railing.

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