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.
The arrest of Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson in Frankfurt on Sunday is unlikely to lead to his arrest by Japan for a combination of reasons, one being that Tokyo does not have an extradition treaty with Berlin, according to Toru Chochi, a Japan Coast Guard official.
Also, the type of notice Interpol issued does not guarantee Watsons extradition but only means that member countries, including Japan, are to share information on him, Chochi said.
German police arrested Watson and he is likely to be extradited to Costa Rica at a later date. Costa Rican police accuse him of obstruction of shark-finning operations as well as attempted murder during a confrontation with shark fishermen in 2002.
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."