Anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd says it has successfully put a stop to Japanese whaling operations in the Southern Ocean, with no more than 10 whales killed this season.
Sea Shepherd’s founder Paul Watson told Firstline the Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR) called off its operations after yesterday’s collisions between the two groups’ ships.
Glenn Inwood, the ICR’s New Zealand spokesman, would not comment on Watson’s claims, saying he had not received any instructions from his client.
The conservation group says two of its vessels, the Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker, were rammed “multiple times” by Japan’s Nisshin Maru in an area north of Australia’s Casey Research Station in Antarctica.
Watson says the Sea Shepherd vessels were trying to stop the Nisshin Maru from refuelling, saying it is illegal to do so in that area.
“That worked for about two days and then they got frustrated and the Nisshin Maru moved in,” he says.
“It struck the Steve Irwin twice and pushed it away.”
He says the Japanese vessel then hit its own fuel tanker, the Sun Laurel before turning and “squeezing the Bob Barker against the Sun Laurel, hitting it multiple times and almost rolling it over”.
The Bob Barker took on water for 20 minutes, flooding the engine room. The ship’s mast was toppled and it lost its radar system.
Watson also alleges the Japanese crew threw stun grenades at the Sea Shepherd ships, but says no one was hurt.
He dismissed criticisms that Sea Shepherd was deliberately putting its ships and crew in danger.
“We were taking positions to blockade their approach – it was up to them not to initiate a ramming situation. They also hit our vessel the Sam Simon a little earlier, so in one hour they managed to hit three of hour ships plus hit their own tanker. For any vessel to negligently ram into a tanker, especially in these waters, is quite irresponsible and reckless. They should’ve just stayed their ground.”
Sea Shepherd’s Australian director Bob Brown had yesterday asked the Australian government to send naval ships to Antarctic waters to intervene in what he called a “gross breach of international law by the Japanese”, but Watson says he doesn’t believe that’s necessary now that the Japanese have called off their whaling operations.
Watson, who is on board the Steve Irwin, says Sea Shepherd vessels are now pursuing the Nisshin Maru in an easterly direction, but is unsure exactly where the ship is heading.
He says Sea Shepherd is determined to stick with the Japanese until the official end of the whaling season in about a month.