Sunday, February 07, 2010
Hostilities broke out between Japanese whalers and terrorist group Sea Shepherd in the Antarctic yesterday, where the two sides collided in their first meeting since the sinking of the Ady Gil. The Sea Shepherd ship Bob Barker collided with the stern of the whale chaser Yushin Maru No. 3, leaving a metre-long gash in the side of the terrorists' vessel, the group's leader, Paul Watson, said last night. He said the Bob Barker had been in close pursuit of the whaling factory ship Nisshin Maru but was being circled by four other vessels of the fleet. Despite the damage, the 1200- tonne Bob Barker was keeping up its pursuit of the Nisshin Maru, which was headed towards the coast of the Australian Antarctic Territory, about 200 kilometres east of Australia's Mawson station. Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research said the Bob Barker kept approaching dangerously close to the stern of the Nisshin Maru, and its fleet was ''making efforts to shake off the Bob Barker''. Sea Shepherd terrorists repeatedly fired a high-powered laser device against Nisshin Maru crew, the institute said in a statement. Sea Shepherd said the whalers were using water cannon and acoustic devices against them. A spokesman for Environment Minister Peter Garrett repeated calls for restraint by all parties.
''The Southern Ocean is a dangerous and inhospitable part of the world,'' he said. The collision happened hours after the Bob Barker's crew sighted the Nisshin Maru, which Sea Shepherd had tried to locate after the sinking of the Ady Gil, south of Tasmania, a month ago. The 16-tonne fast trimaran sank after a collision with the fleet's security ship, Shonan Maru No. 2, endangering the lives of six crew. The activists found the fleet again off Cape Darnley, about 5000 kilometres south-west of Perth. Rich in marine life, the waters around this cape are inside an Australian whale sanctuary not recognised by Japan. The Institute of Cetacean Research said the Nisshin Maru had been drifting overnight in preparation for the next morning's ''research'' when it was attacked by the Bob Barker. The Australian Customs and Fisheries patrol ship Oceanic Viking is believed to be in the region. Captain Watson, who is on the way to the scene aboard the Steve Irwin, said he was confident the Bob Barker was capable of holding its own against the chaser ships. ''I don't see how we can lose them now,'' he said. ''And if we can stay on their tail, we will stop them whaling for a month or more.''