Languages
Page last updated at 05:19 GMT, Friday, 6 February 2009

Activist ship and whalers collide

Footage of the ships colliding

The Sea Shepherd activists' anti-whaling ship, the Steve Irwin, has collided with Japan's Yushin Maru 2 harpoon vessel in Antarctic waters.

Japan condemned the collision as an "unforgiveable act of violence". The activists said it had been unavoidable.

Damage occurred to the ship's railing but no injuries have been reported.

The radical anti-whaling group has been pursuing the Japanese whalers since December and confrontations have increased in recent days.

Japan is allowed by the International Whaling Commission to harvest 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales this season for research purposes.

Activists say Japan kills the whales for commerce, not science.

Collision

Paul Watson, captain of the Steve Irwin, said his crew was trying to block the transfer of a dead whale from the harpoon vessel to the whalers' factory ship, the Nisshin Maru.


It is an act of violence and it is unforgiveable

Shigeki Takaya
Japanese fisheries ministry

"We were in the process of blocking the transfer from the Yushin Maru 2 when the Yushin Maru 1 moved directly in front of the bow to block us," Mr Watson said in a statement.

"I could not turn to starboard without hitting the Yushin Maru 1. I tried to back down but the movement of the Yushin Maru 2 made the collision unavoidable," he said.

"It is an act of violence and it is unforgiveable," said Shigeki Takaya, an assistant director of the Far Seas Fisheries Division at Japan's fisheries ministry.

"We will ask concerning countries, including Australia, to immediately stop them from carrying out such horrendous acts," he said.

Chiharu Tsuruoka, a Japanese foreign ministry official, noted that the Steve Irwin is a Dutch-registered ship.

"We have repeatedly asked the Dutch government to stop them from harassing us, but so far it's been so unsuccessful," Mr Tsuruoka said.

Chaos and friction

The incident caps several days of increasing friction between the activists and the whalers.

On 6 February, two protesters said they had been injured in the Antarctic after they clashed with Japanese whalers, but a whaling official said the ship's crew only used water cannon in self-defence.

Japanese whalers fire water cannon at conservationists

Japanese officials said the Sea Shepherd group had been throwing bottles of butyric acid, a product of rancid butter, at the Japanese ships.

Mr Watson said the Japanese had responded by blasting his crew with a water cannon, hunks of metal and a "military grade" noise weapon that can cause deafness and vomiting.

He said several of his crew have experienced headaches from the noise device.

"The situation down here is getting very, very chaotic and very aggressive," Mr Watson told the Associated Press news agency, speaking by satellite phone from the boat.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has been blamed for collisions with the Japanese Antarctic whaling fleet in recent years, as well as high-seas boardings and stink bomb attacks.

Whale meat on sale, Tokyo, Jan 09
Japan says it kills whales for research, but critics say the goal is consumption

Both the Australian and New Zealand governments oppose the Japanese whale hunt, but have called on whalers and anti-whalers to remain peaceful in the dangerous Southern Ocean.

Although Japan officially stopped whaling under a 1986 global moratorium, it continues to take hundreds of whales under a loophole allowing whaling for research purposes.

Much of the meat ends up on supermarket shelves and dinner tables.

Protesters set off from Australia in early December, chasing the whaling fleet for about 3,200 km (2,000 miles) before stopping two weeks ago in Tasmania to refuel.

The group found the whalers again on Sunday and resumed their pursuit.

Print Sponsor


SEE ALSO
Australia denies whaling 'deal'
27 Jan 09 |  Asia-Pacific
Japanese whaler reported missing
06 Jan 09 |  Asia-Pacific
US vows 'huge' marine protection
06 Jan 09 |  Science & Environment
'Stink' attack on Japan's whalers
27 Dec 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Japan sells Icelandic whale meat
05 Dec 08 |  Science & Environment
Japan approves whalemeat import
18 Nov 08 |  Science & Environment



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC iD

Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific