The Australian government’s Environment Minister Tony Burke has ordered a ship with Japan’s whaling fleet to immediately leave the country’s economic zone, warning that it is not welcome in Australia’s territorial waters. The Shonan Maru No. 2 entered Australian territory off the Macquarie Island in the Southern Ocean yesterday afternoon, presumably while being pursued by environmental activist group Sea Shepherd.
In a formal statement from Burke, he said that the Australian embassy in Tokyo had delivered their message to the Japanese government. Bob Brown, a former Australian political party leader and now in charge of Sea Shepherd’s campaign against Japanese whaling this year, says he believes the Shonan Maru’s crew are armed. It’s not clear how he came to that understanding, but Brown adds that the Shonan Maru began tailing the Bob Barker, a Sea Shepherd vessel that was originally following the Nisshin Maru, the whaling fleet’s factory ship. Brown says that while they lost sight of the factory vessel, the Shonan Maru has followed the Bob Barker into the Australian exclusive economic zone.
The current Sea Shepherd leader, filling in for well-known founder Paul Watson, adds that the Tokyo government has ignored Australia’s call to not enter the economic zone. The whaling ship has stayed out of the country’s territorial waters, but not honored the same request for the economic zone, which extends beyond clearly defined borders. While the Australian government has made no mention of Sea Shepherd’s actions when protesting the whaling ship’s presence, Brown believes the Japanese vessel’s entrance is an offense to his nation, and one that the government will deal with promptly.[via ABC News]