Anti-whaling activists unveiled on Tuesday their latest weapon against Japanese whalers in the frigid Southern Ocean, a $2 million ship funded by the producer of The Simpsons television series and purchased in secret from the Japanese government.
The 56-metre (184 ft) ‘Sam Simon’, which docked in the southern Australian port of Hobart, brings the hardline anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s fleet to four, just one vessel smaller than Japan’s whaling fleet.
“We have four ships, one helicopter, drones and more than 120 volunteer crew from around the world ready to defend majestic whales from the illegal operations of the Japanese whaling fleet,” said Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson.
Japan asked Germany to arrest Paul Watson, the founder of environmental group the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, days before he skipped bail and apparently fled the country.
The Japanese embassy in Berlin confirmed in a statement to The Associated Press on Thursday that it submitted its request to German authorities July 19.Three days later Watson — who was out on €250,000 $320,000 bail in Germany pending a separate extradition request from Costa Rica — last reported to authorities.
Three anti-whaling demonstrators have been injured after Japanese crew members threw grappling hooks and bamboo poles at them in a high seas clash, activist group Sea Shepherd said Wednesday.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which annually shadows and harasses the Japanese whaling fleet, said two activists were struck in the shoulder with iron hooks and one was hit twice in the face with a long bamboo pole.
The Yushin Maru No. 2 is tailing the Steve Irwin anti-whaling ship in the Southern Ocean and the incident happened about 300 nautical miles north of Mawson Peninsula in Antarctica, according to Sea Shepherd.
It’s that time of year again: whaling season. And for the past 25 years, whaling season has been accompanied by anti-whaling season.
The latest? A boat – part of the whaling fleet’s nemesis, the Sea Shepherd marine conservation group – was chasing the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean when a large wave hit the “Brigitte Bardot,” disabling it. Anti-whaling activists: 0, rogue wave: 1
The ship is being towed to safety today after being stranded off the coast of Australia. Though the conservation group is down a ship, the rogue wave did succeed in putting a spotlight on Japan’s annual whaling season and the activist effort to put an end to it.
Japan is spending 2.3 billion yen $29 million from its supplementary budget for tsunami reconstruction to fund the countrys annual whaling hunt in the Antarctic Ocean, a fisheries official confirmed Thursday.
Tatsuya Nakaoku, a Fisheries Agency official in charge of whaling, defended the move, saying the funding helps support Japans whaling industry as a whole, including some whaling towns along the devastated northeastern coast. One ship on the hunt is based in Ishinomaki, a town hit badly by the March 11 tsunami, he said.
The budget request was made to beef up security and maintain the "stable operation" of Japans research whaling, he said, which has faced increasingly aggressive interference from boats with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
Prominent anti-whaling activist Pete Bethune believes the abrupt halt to Japan’s annual Antarctic hunt this week may signal an end to its whaling operations in southern waters.
Japan cited high-seas harassment by the US-based environmentalist group Sea Shepherd when it called its whaling fleet home early after killing 172 whales this season, about a fifth of its target.
Bethune, who spent five months detained by Japanese authorities last year, told AFP he doubted the Japanese would return.
"I believe this may be the last year in Antarctica," said the 45-year-old New Zealander, the captain of the Sea Shepherd speedboat Ady Gil which sank in icy waters following a collision with a Japanese whaler last year.
Bethune said Japan is a signatory to international maritime regulations governing vessels operating in Antarctica and will be bound by strict, new regulations on fuel types and hull construction, which take effect in August.
"I believe the Japanese may use these as a face-saving excuse to withdraw from Antarctica," he told AFP.
Conservationists were cautiously celebrating today after Japan announced it was suspending its annual whale hunt, claiming its fleet’s safety had been compromised by antiwhaling activists in the Antarctic.It isn’t clear if the order to stop whaling amounts to the beginning of the end of Japan’s annual mission to the freezing waters of the Southern Ocean. But it is the strongest sign yet that international criticism, direct action, and weak consumption of whale meat at home are having an impact.The official line, supported almost without dissent in the Japanese media, is that the actions of the whaling fleet’s nemesis, the Sea Shepherd marine conservation group, have put the crew’s safety at risk.
Speaking to reporters in Tokyo, fisheries agency official Tatsuya Nakaoku said the fleet’s mother ship, the Nisshin Maru, had been "harassed" by the Sea Shepherd vessel the Bob Barker.The Japanese ship is now reported to be 2,000 nautical miles east of the hunting zone and heading towards Chilean waters in the Antarctic Ocean.Sea Shepherd, meanwhile, says this winter’s campaign has been its best yet. The fleet is thought to have caught only a small number of whales – between 30 and 100 by one estimate – since it arrived in the whaling grounds at the end of December.
Militant anti-whalers Saturday said they had clashed with Japanese harpoonists in the Southern Ocean, chasing them through ice packs, throwing stink bombs at them and being hit with water cannon.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s vessels have been seeking to disrupt the Japanese whalers on their annual hunt in Antarctic waters since mid-December but had not been able to sight the Japanese fleet until Friday.
The society’s president, Paul Watson, said that now they had made contact with the whalers, they would attempt to prevent any of the giant sea creatures from being slaughtered.
"It’s got its water cannons turned onto us right now so we’re manoeuvring through ice and trying to outmanoeuvre them so it’s a little dicey," Watson told ABC Radio.
Locky MacLean, the captain of the Sea Shepherd’s ‘Gojira’ vessel, said the society’s three boats had been "dancing dangerously through the ice packs locked in confrontation with the three harpoon ships".
"It was both deadly and beautiful," he said in a statement on the society’s website. "Deadly because of the ice and the hostility of the whalers and beautiful because of the ice, and the fact that these three killer ships are not killing whales while clashing with us."