Tokyo - Animal rights activists said on Monday they were ending their harassment of Japanese whalers in the Antarctic for the season, warning that a person could get killed if the confrontation escalated. Japan has been stepping up international pressure to try to rein in the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which has vowed to physically stop the slaughter of the ocean giants.
Sea Shepherd said that its Steve Irwin ship, which engaged in a clash with the whalers last week, was heading back to Australia with only four days of fuel reserves left.
"Another four days is simply not worth getting someone killed," said Paul Watson, the Canadian captain of the ship.
"We have done everything we could with the resources available to us this year," he said in a statement.
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Sea Shepherd Returns From the Whale Wars
February 9th, 2009, 10:00 Hours (Sydney, Australia Time)
The Sea Shepherd ship the \i Steve Irwin\i0 and her crew have withdrawn from the Japanese whaling fleet to begin preparations to return with a faster and longer range ship.
"I have said always said that we would do everything we can short of hurting people to end illegal whaling in the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary," said Captain Paul Watson. "We have done everything we could with the resources available to us this year. We have shut down their illegal operations for over a month in total. We have cost them money and we have saved the lives of a good many whales. And although we are willing to take the risks required, even to our own lives, I am not prepared to do to the Japanese whalers what they do to the whales and the escalating violence by the whalers will result in some serious injuries and possibly fatalities if this confrontation continues to escalate." \par
Captain Watson said that he has been operating at a disadvantage against three harpoon boats that are superior in speed and maneuverability to the Steve Irwin .
"We need to block those deadly harpoons and we need to outrun these hunter killer ships and to do that I need a ship that is as fast as they are and I intend to get one and I intend to return next year," he said. "We will never stop intervening against their illegal whaling operations and we will never stop harassing them, blockading them and costing them money. I intend to be their on-going nightmare every year until they stop their horrific and unlawful slaughter of the great whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary."
This year the crew of the Steve Irwin pursued the Japanese fleet from December 18th until January 7th for over 2,000 miles, shutting down their operations for a month. The crew returned and relocated the fleet on February 1st and pursued them for another 9 days during which time the whalers were only able to kill five whales. A pursuit of the Yushin Maru No.2 by the Steve Irwin on December 20th caused ice damage to the prop of the whaling ship and forced them out of operation for a month and a half. The harpoon vessel was denied repairs in Indonesia much to the embarrassment of Japan.
Confrontations between the Steve Irwin and the whaling fleet have resulted in numerous close calls and two collisions causing minor damage. The whaling fleet this year deployed Long Range Acoustical Devices (LRAD's) and high powered water cannons against the Sea Shepherd crew. No whalers were injured. Three members of the Steve Irwin's crew were injured with one man requiring five stitches above his left eye after being hit by a blast from the LRAD and knocked over.
Captain Paul Watson is dismissive of Japanese accusations that Sea Shepherd deliberately rammed their whaling ships.
"The whalers and their hired PR flunkies can say whatever they want now but we have over 1,000 hours of video footage documenting every moment of the campaign. Our story will be told on a weekly series on Animal Planet with the show \i Whale Wars\i0 . People can watch and judge for themselves.. The camera is the most powerful weapon in the world and we intend to demonstrate that power."
On January 31st, the Japanese government dispatched a security vessel called the Taiyo Maru #38 from Fiji to intercept the Steve Irwin. The ship is believed to be carrying a special boarding unit and has orders to seize the ship and all video evidence, according to a source in Fiji. The ship is expected to arrive in the Ross Sea within days.
"We cannot allow this documentation to be captured by Japan," said Captain Watson.
The Steve Irwin will be returning to Australia and is expected to arrive within the next two weeks. The ship had only another four days of fuel reserves to remain with the fleet before being forced to return anyway.
"Another four days is simply not worth getting someone killed," said Captain Watson. "We are down here because we respect the sanctity of life. The whalers are down here to illegally destroy life. People can choose to side with life or with death, between the whalers and the whale defenders, and we have chosen to defend life, and for those who condemn us for what we are doing, all I can say is that we are not down here for them. We're down here for the whales."
Feb. 6: Sea Shepherd's ship, the M/Y Steve Irwin collides with the stern of Japanese harpoon whaling ship, the Yushin Maru No. 2.
SYDNEY — A group of radical anti-whaling activists said they were pelted with bloody chunks of whale meat and blubber after their boat collided Friday with a Japanese whaling vessel in a dramatic Antarctic Ocean clash Japan condemned as "unforgivable. "
It was the second battle this week between the whalers and their foes. No one was injured, but the skirmishes mark the resumption of potentially life-threatening run-ins in a contentious fight that has become an annual fixture in the remote, icy and dangerous waters at the bottom of the world.
"The situation down here is getting very, very chaotic and very aggressive," activist Paul Watson, captain of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's vessel, told The Press on Friday by satellite phone.
The clashes come as diplomatic efforts to resolve the controversy surrounding Japan's scientific whaling program appear to have stalled.
Click here for photos.
Japan — which has described the protesters as terrorists — plans to harvest up to 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales this season. Under International Whaling Commission rules, the mammals may be killed for research. Opponents say the Japanese research expeditions are simply a cover for commercial whaling, which was banned in 1986.
Watson said Friday's fracas began as his crew tried to maneuver their boat into a position that would have prevented the Japanese from dragging a whale on board their whaling vessel. Another Japanese ship shot in front of Watson's boat, causing a collision, Watson said.
"We can see the blood pouring out by the barrel," Watson said from his boat — named after the late Australian conservationist and TV personality Steve Irwin — as he watched the Japanese haul another whale onto their vessel. Earlier in the day, he said, the Japanese hurled pieces of blubber and whale meat at the Steve Irwin.
Japan blamed Sea Shepherd for the crash, characterizing the incident as a "deliberate ramming."
Shigeki Takaya, a Fisheries Agency spokesman for whaling in Japan, accused the conservationists of "appalling and unforgivable" acts.
Ships Collide in Whaling Clash
"We will ask concerned countries, including Australia, to immediately stop them from carrying out such horrendous acts," Takaya said.
Protesters aboard the Steve Irwin set off from Australia in early December for the Antarctic Ocean, chasing the whaling fleet for about 2,000 miles before stopping two weeks ago in Tasmania to refuel. The group found the whalers again on Sunday and resumed their pursuit.
During the initial chase, Watson's crew pelted the Japanese with bottles of butyric acid, produced from rancid butter. In one December clash, Japan accused the Sea Shepherd crew of ramming one of its vessels, causing minor damage to the ship. Watson said the Steve Irwin only lightly brushed the whaling vessel.
This week, tensions escalated after Watson said two members of his crew were slightly injured when the Japanese blasted them with a water cannon and hurled heavy hunks of metal. Watson accused the Japanese of using a "military grade" noise weapon that can cause deafness and vomiting.
Despite the recent drama, this whaling season has been relatively peaceful compared to previous years.
In January 2008, two Sea Shepherd activists jumped onto a Japanese ship and spent several days in detention on board.
In March 2008, Watson said he was shot at during a confrontation with the whalers, and was saved by his bulletproof vest. Japan denied shots were fired.
That incident came just a few days after Japan said several of its whalers were lightly injured after being hit by containers of rotten butter. Japan responded by shooting back "sound balls" similar to stun grenades.
Sea Shepherd and the whalers still blame each other for a 2007 collision that left the Robert Hunter — since renamed the Steve Irwin — with a 3-foot gash in its stern.
That year, Japan's whaling hunt ended early after a fire broke out aboard the mother ship, killing one crew member and forcing the fleet to limp back to port. It was not clear what caused the blaze.
Watson, who regularly vows to do anything short of deliberately hurting people to stop whalers, said Friday that he and his crew have no plans to turn back — and will continue to chase the whalers until their fuel supplies run out.
Death in the Ross Sea - Whale Killed by the Japanese Whalers
Update from Operation Musashi in the Ross Sea
February 6th, 2009
0600 Hours (Sydney Time)
1100 Hours (PST) (February 5th)
75 Degrees 43 Minutes South and 166 Degrees 20 Minutes West
The Japanese whalers managed to kill one whale this morning. To the Sea Shepherd crew this murder of this defenceless whale is as tragic as if they had lost one of their own.
The three harpoon boats had spread out over the night in an arc of fifteen miles. One of them returned to the Nisshin Maru with a whale in tow and quickly transferred it to the flensing deck. Within minutes, thick red blood could be seen pouring from the scupper holes on both sides of the ship into the sea.
The Sea Shepherd crew managed to deliver two bottles of rotten butter acid onto the decks to discourage the workers and to taint the whale meat. The whalers tossed chunks of bloody blubber back at the Sea Shepherd crew.
The Sea Shepherd crew were then forced to retreat by an assault from the Long Range Acoustic Weapon (LRAD) on the Nisshin Maru.
"We lost one today," said Captain Watson. "My crew is sad and they are angry. We did not see the kill but we saw the corpse and we saw the blood. It is difficult to cover the movements of three hunter killer boats and to stay on the tail of this floating abattoir but we are doing the best we can with the resources we have."
This is the sixth straight day that the Steve Irwin has been in pursuit of the Japanese whaling fleet as it heads further and further into Southern waters.
Captain Paul Watson may have to deploy his small boats at longer range to cover the movements of the harpoon ships.
"It is dangerous to send these boats over ten miles from the ship, but we cannot continue to stop them unless we do," said Captain Watson.
Blood pours out of the scuppers of Japanese factory whaling ship the
Nisshin Maru after a minke whale was newly caught in Antarctica's Ross Sea.
Photo by Adam Lau/Sea Shepherd
Seabirds gather around chunks of whale meat discarded from
Japanese factory whaling ship the Nisshin Maru.
Photo by Adam Lau/Sea Shepherd
February 4th, 2009
To Interview Captain Paul Watson on board the Steve Irwin
SAT Phone: (00) 870 764 685 972
(From the U.S. dial 011, from Australia 0011)
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society -International Headquarters – U.S.
Phone: +1-360-370-5650 * Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact: Kristine Vasic, Media Relations Director
Sea Shepherd Australia
Melbourne Office: + 61 3 9445-0323
Photos, video, and additional information: http://media.seashepherd.org
The Battle for the Whales Turns Ugly in the Ross Sea
On board the Steve Irwin --The Ross Sea, 5 February, 2009, 1700 Hours Sydney Time
With the fifth day that the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin has shut down all whaling activities by the Japanese fleet, the frustration of the whalers violently erupted. A Fin whale was spotted at 1211 Hours. The Steve Irwin launched two fast inflatable boats to head off any attempt to harpoon the whale. The helicopter was launched to film the blocking action. All three harpoon vessels, the Yushin Maru #1, Yushin Maru #2 and Yushin Maru #3 attacked the Steve Irwin in dangerous passes to foul the Steve Irwin’s propeller.
At 1220 the Yushin Maru #1 was a quarter mile away on the port side and heading directly towards the Steve Irwin. A 2nd harpoon vessel the Yushin Maru #2 was moving in a full speed from the Starboard side. The Yushin Maru # 3 approached rapidly from the stern. At 1230, the Nisshin Maru aimed the Long Range Acoustical Device (LRAD) at helicopter pilot Chris Aultman of California and Animal Planet cameraman Ashley Dunn of Tasmania.
"At first it was just a loud noise," said Aultman. "Then they turned up the volume and we could feel it in our legs and chest."
Aultman retreated out of range of the device but was shocked they used it.
"It was extremely irresponsible for the whalers to aim that devise at the helicopter," said Captain Paul Watson. "They were doing nothing but filming and presented absolutely no threat to the ships. They demonstrated absolutely no regard for human life."
At this point the harpoon vessels turned on their LRAD and aimed it at the small boats and the Steve Irwin. This sonic attack was followed by the Nisshin Maru turning into the Steve Irwin and attempting to actually ram the Sea Shepherd vessel at full speed. Captain Paul Watson ordered the small boats to act like fighter planes in a dog fight. "You’ve got to keep those hunter killer boats off our bow. If they cripple us down here we will be helpless," he said.
The small boats retaliated by threatening to foul the props of the harpoon vessel. Steve Roest of the United Kingdom was injured when he became disoriented, dizzy and was knocked down cutting open his head. Ship’s doctor David Miller from Perth sutured the wound with five stitches. Captain Paul Watson received rope burns when he fired a speed line in front of the Yushin Maru #1 to force them to retreat from an attempt to cross the bow with a fouling line.
The whalers jammed the Steve Irwin’s radios and navigational instruments and kept a steady bombardment of the Sea Shepherd crew with the LRAD’s. Captain Watson spent four hours undertaking zigzag and circular maneuvers to avoid the prop fouling.
"The attacks by the three ships became so aggressive we had to fire flares and speed lines over their head to force them to back off," said Captain Watson.
The small boats also retaliated with rotten butter bombs. The Steve Irwin retrieved both boats and the helicopter by going in tight circles with the three harpoon vessels circling on the outside blasting the crew with LRAD’s and towing fouling lines.
"It was very worrying for us," said Steve Irwin 1st Officer Peter Hammarstedt of Sweden. "Our helicopter was almost out of fuel and the whalers were forcing us to keep avoiding them making it difficult for the helicopter to land."
At 1700 Hours, the harpoon boats backed off and the Steve Irwin resumed the pursuit of the Nisshin Maru. The whaling fleet is once more running before the Steve Irwin heading due South deep into the Ross Sea.
"The crew are tired and a little dizzy from the LRAD’s," said Dr. Miller. "But everyone is in good spirits and Roest is resting comfortably. They whalers were very aggressive."
Monday, Feb. 2, 2009
Whalers fire water at activists
in Antarctic Ocean
By KRISTEN GELINEAU Press Writer
SYDNEY (AP) - Japanese whalers blasted water from a cannon at conservationists who hurled bottles of rancid butter and paint during a clash Monday in frigid Antarctic waters, officials said.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society also accused the whalers of throwing hunks of metal and golf balls at its members, lightly injuring two activists in the fracas. Japanese officials said only a water cannon was used.
The group - which routinely harasses the Japanese whaling fleet during its annual hunt in the Antarctic Ocean - sent a helicopter and two inflatable boats toward a Japanese harpoon ship early Monday in heavy seas about 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers) southeast of the Australian state of Tasmania, said Paul Watson, the group's leader.
Japan, which has described the Sea Shepherd protesters as terrorists, plans to harvest up to 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales this season. Under International Whaling Commission rules, the mammals may be killed for research but not for commercial purposes. Opponents say the Japanese research expeditions are simply a cover for commercial whaling, which was banned in 1986.
The whalers opened up on conservationists on one raft with a water cannon, knocking one man off his feet and leaving him with cuts and bruises, Watson told The Press by satellite phone.
Another protester was hit in the face with a large chunk of metal lobbed from a harpoon boat. He was wearing a shield on his helmet, but still suffered bruises, Watson said.
The Japanese also aimed a "military grade" noise weapon that can cause deafness and vomiting at the Sea Shepherd crew, Watson said. Some felt its vibrations but were too far away to be otherwise affected, he said.
Toshinori Uoya, a Fisheries Agency official in charge of whaling, said Sea Shepherd members initiated attacks on the whalers and the Japanese used water cannon in self defense.
"It's so aggravating to hear them making groundless accusations, " he said. "We acted only in self defense, to chase them away."
Uoya said activists on two rubber boats hurled bottles containing rancid butter and paint onto the main harpoon vessel, Nisshin Maru, and its two accompanying boats, Yushin Maru and No. 3 Yushin Maru. They also threw ropes in front of the fleet, trying to block their way.
He said the Japanese government lodged a protest with the governments of Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands - where the Sea Shepherd's vessel, Steve Irwin, is registered - and requested their cooperation to prevent violent protests.
Protesters aboard the ship, named after the late Australian conservationist and TV personality Steve Irwin, set off from Australia in early December for the remote and icy Antarctic Ocean, chasing the whaling fleet for about 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers) before stopping two weeks ago in Tasmania to refuel. The group found the whalers again on Sunday and resumed their pursuit.
"I will not allow them to kill a whale while we're here, and they know that," Watson said on Monday. "I'll literally rip their harpoon off their deck if I have to."
Press Writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.
On the Net:
Sea Shepherd: http://www.seashepherd.org/