Whale war resumes in icy waters

SYDNEY:Anti-whaling activists and Japanese harpoonists have blamed each other for a collision between their ships in Antarctic waters, as the environmentalists warned today of more clashes to come.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has accused the harpoon ship Yushin Maru No. 3 of intentionally slamming into its vessel Bob Barker yesterday. The Japanese say they were rammed as they tried to avoid a collision.

“We expect that there will be further collisions because they are going to try and whale and we’re not going to move,” Paul Watson, head of the Sea Shepherd mission, said. Watson said the Bob Barker had spent the past month trying to find the Japanese hunting fleet in the remote seas of Antarctica and finally located it off Cape Denley in Australian Antarctic waters on Saturday.

The environmentalists immediately moved to position themselves about 200 metres from the stern of the Japanese factory ship the Nisshin Maru to prevent them from loading any dead whales onboard, he said.

“They were immediately surrounded by four of the harpoon vessels that were circling them and hitting them with water cannons and long-range acoustical devices or sonic weapons,” Watson said. “And then one of them, the Yushin Maru No. 3, came in really close and did an abrupt turn

and slammed its sternway into the sternside of our ship which opened up a one-metre by four-inch wide gash.”

Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research said the collision occurred as the Yushin Maru No. 3 tried to avoid the Bob Barker which it said had moved dangerously close to hurl projectiles containing foul-smelling butyric acid. “When the Yushin Maru No. 3 tried to avoid this, the Bob Baker collided against its stern,” it said in a statement.

The Bob Barker had also been repeatedly firing a “high-power green laser device against the Nisshin Maru crew” prior to the collision and later used a “large slingshot device” to shoot

acid-filled projectiles at another ship, the Shonan Maru No. 2,

it added.

No one was injured in the clash and neither ship sustained major damage.

The confrontation follows a January 6 collision between a hunting fleet vessel and Sea Shepherd’s Ady Gil which sank the activists’ futuristic trimaran. Japan hunts whales using a loophole in a 1986 international moratorium which allows “lethal research”.