Anti-whaling organisation Sea Shepherd says two of their ships, the Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker, have been rammed by Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean.
Speaking from aboard the Steve Irwin, Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson told 3 News the Bob Barker was hit “multiple times”.
“[It] has lost power, toppled the main mast, smashed up the deck.”
Mr Watson says they were hit while trying to stop Japanese whaling vessel Nisshin Maru from refuelling – which he says is illegal in the Southern Ocean.
He alleges the Japanese crew threw stun grenades at the Sea Shepherd ships, but says no one was hurt.
“They’re frustrated we’ve prevented refuelling operations for two days.”
A mayday has been issued and the Bob Barker crew have managed to stop water from coming in.
Mr Watson says there are about 38 people on board.
He also says that in the process of hitting the Sea Shepherd vessels, the Japanese struck the Sun Laurel – a Korean-owned fuel tanker which Mr Watson claims the Nisshin Maru was using to refuel.
Mr Watson says the Sea Shepherd crew have been “passed a note in a bottle” by the Sun Laurel crew, “saying they are being held against their will”.
A third Sea Shepherd vessel in the area was not hit.
The group's Southern Ocean campaign is
being run by its Australian branch. An order issued by a United States court in December has
banned the US
branch from going within 500 yards (457m) of Japanese whaling vessels.
As a result of that order, Paul Watson
resigned from all his positions within the organisation. However, he remains at
sea as an observer.