Radical environmental group Sea Shepherd claims that one of its ships was rammed aggressively by Japanese whaling ships on Sunday. The anti-whaling group claims that these attacks which happened in the Southern Ocean were coordinated and that their ship, the Bob Barker, was hit as it tried to monitor the Japanese whaling fleet’s operations.
“The Bob Barker was hit by the Japanese whaling fleet’s harpoon vessel, the Yushin Maru No. 2, as the harpoon vessel crossed in front of the bow of the Sea Shepherd ship,” the activist group said. The Bob Barker was attempting to prevent the loading of poached whales to the Japanese fleet’s factory ship, the Nisshin Maru, when it was allegedly struck by harpoon ships attempting to drive the activists away. “The assault is an attempt to deter the Sea Shepherd ships from their current position, blocking the slipway of the Nisshin Maru, preventing the whalers from loading whales poached from the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary,” Sea Shepherd added.
The Japanese Fisheries Agency has confirmed the collision, but said that it was the Yushin Maru No. 3 ship that hit the Bob Barker. “We have confirmed damages to the Yushin Maru No. 3’s stern and the outer shell,” a Japanese fisheries official said. “The activists also threw rope at the Yushin Maru No. 1. The rope is now tangled in the ship’s screw,” he added. The official also denied Sea Shepherd’s allegation that it was a coordinated attack by the Japanese fleet. “That is totally unthinkable. They may have taken it as an attack just after the Japanese ships sailing before their eyes. But in all reality, they were the ones who threw the rope at the ship.”
Australia will now get involved in the annual fracas between the Japanese fleet and Sea Shepherd, as it plans to investigate the claims made by the environmentalists. The country’s federal environment minister, Greg Hunt, has ordered an investigation into the claims, giving both parties warning shots. “This must be a message to both parties – whalers and protesters – these are dangerous waters, nobody can play any games with safety, nobody can play any games with international maritime law,” Hunt said. Hunt also revealed that the incident happened in New Zealand waters. “Everyone must abide by the law and of course if there is evidence that either party has breached international maritime law, we will raise it,” Hunt concluded. The commercial hunting of whales is banned in the Southern Ocean as it is a whale sanctuary, but Japan hunts whales annually under a “scientific research” clause in the moratorium.
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