Three crew members of a Japanese whaling vessel suffered face and eye injuries from acid fired by anti-whaling protesters during their latest clash in the Antarctic Ocean, their Japanese employers said Friday.
The Sea Shepherd protesters said they shot butyric acid, produced from stinking rancid butter, which they often aim at the whalers to try to disrupt the annual Japanese hunt. The activists maintain that butyric acid is nontoxic.
The injuries Thursday were the first to Japanese whalers this year during confrontations with Sea Shepherd, although there have been two ship collisions that each side blamed on the other.
Japanese Fisheries Minister Hirotaka Akamatsu lashed out at the activists on Friday, telling reporters: “I am full of rage. I could not believe they did such a thing.”
Glenn Inwood, spokesman for Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research, which sponsors the hunt, said the injuries were not serious, but he cautioned that butyric acid can cause temporary blindness.
The injuries occurred during a several-hour confrontation between two Sea Shepherd boats – the Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker – and four Japanese vessels.
Locky Maclean, first mate on the Steve Irwin, told The Associated Press that the Nisshin Maru, a whale processing ship, started the altercation when it turned its water cannons on the activists’ vessels.
Read More: The Canadian Press