Saturday, February 10, 2007

Japan Calls Anti-Whaling Activists 'Terrorists' After Whalers Attacked

Members of a marine mammal conservation group who attacked Japanese whalers off Antarctica, injuring two of them, are "terrorists," Japan's Fisheries Agency said. Two activists from the Sea Shepherd protest ship went missing during the confrontation with Japanese whaling craft Nisshin Maru early Friday, but were rescued safely — with members of the Japanese whaling expedition assisting in the rescue efforts in the icy waters of the Ross Sea. The protesters then resumed their pursuit of the Japanese vessel, and dumped foul-smelling butyric acid onto the whaling ship's deck, injuring two Japanese crew members, according to Takahide Naruko, the chief of the Far Seas Fisheries Division of the Fisheries Agency. The two crew members suffered facial injuries when the bottle of acid smashed on deck, sending shards of glass in all directions, he said. One was hit by an empty container of acid and the other had acid squirted in his eye, he said. "They're terrorists," Hideki Moronuki, the assistant director of the agency's whaling department, said of the anti-whaling activists.
Nisshin Maru
"They must stop these dangerous acts immediately." Bill Hogarth, U.S. Commissioner to the International Whaling Commission, also criticized the activists. "I'm disappointed Sea Shepherd took an action that risked lives," Hogarth said in a press release. "The United States is extremely concerned that encounters like this could escalate into more violent interactions between the vessels." The United States still opposes Japan's research whale hunts, he said, but the way to resolve the dispute is through the IWC process, he added. The Nisshin Maru left Japan in November for a six-month whaling expedition in the Antarctic as part of a scientific whaling program conducted within the rules of the IWC. Tokyo maintains that whaling is a national tradition and a vital part of its food culture, and is pushing for a limited resumption of hunts, arguing that whale stocks have sufficiently recovered since 1986 when a global moratorium on commercial whaling was introduced. Sea Shepherd "successfully delivered" six liters of butyric acid to the ship's flensing deck, where whales are cut up, halting the crew's work, the group said on its Web site.

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