Friday, February 06, 2009
Militant environmental group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society confirmed its flagship vessel the Steve Irwin crashed into the stern of the Japanese whaler Yushin Maru No. 2 at 8 a.m. Friday as the group tried to interrupt the transfer of a dead whale up the slipway of the Japanese ship. ‘‘We were in the process of blocking the transfer from the Yushin Maru No. 2 when the Yushin Maru No. 1 moved directly in front of the bow to block us,’’ said Sea Shepherd master Capt. Paul Watson. ‘‘I could not turn to starboard without hitting the Yushin Maru No. 1. I tried to back down, but the movement of the Yushin Maru No. 2 made the collision unavoidable,’’ Watson told Kyodo News by satellite phone. There have been no reports of injuries from the Friday incident, but Minoru Morimoto, director general of the Tokyo-based ICR, said that Sea Shepherd crew members on Thursday used specially designed propeller entangling devices to attempt to disable whaling vessels before throwing bottles of acid at the Japanese fleet. Morimoto described the attacks as ‘‘criminal’’ and called on the members of the International Whaling Commission to condemn ‘‘these acts of violence.’’ On the Thursday confrontation, Watson, the American founder of the Sea Shepherd group, said his crewmembers had been forced to take ‘‘evasive action’’ at around noon Sydney time Thursday after Japanese harpooners turned on two small boats that were attempting to interfere with a whale kill. Watson said the ‘‘increasingly aggressive Japanese’’ fleet was endangering the lives of his crew members, but he also confirmed the group had attempted to disable whalers’ propellers.He also said they threw rancid butter, which is ‘‘less acidic than beer,’’ at the whaling fleet. One crew member from the Steve Irwin required five stitches after being hurt while disorientated by Japanese long-range acoustic devices, he said. Earlier in the week, the U.S.-based Sea Shepherd accused Japanese whalers of deploying high-pressure water cannons, solid lead balls and military-grade acoustic weapons against the anti-whaling group. ‘‘We’re costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars each day, so they’re becoming very frustrated,’’ Watson told Kyodo News. He said Japanese whaling activities in the Southern Ocean were no different than elephant poaching in Africa, saying the world would be outraged if the Japanese were ‘‘black and poor.’’ ‘‘What Japan is doing is shameful and illegal,’’ Watson claimed. According to him, the whalers used seven harpoons to kill a single whale Thursday. ‘‘This is a barbaric act, imagine using seven spears to kill an elephant in the Serengeti,’’ Watson said. The Japanese whaling fleet reportedly plans to kill some 1,000 whales in the Southern Ocean this season, working under a regulation in IWC agreements that allows lethal research. Opponents of the research claim Japan uses the IWC provision to mask what amounts to commercial whaling. But the Japanese side disagrees and says lethal methods are needed to determine whale life cycles and migration patterns, make accurate estimates of the state of whale populations in the Southern Ocean and gather other scientific data.