You could’ve seen this one coming a mile away—the high seas tensions between Japanese whalers and the environmental groups that harass them degenerated into downright naval warfare this week. A Japanese whaling ship collided with a environmental group’s boat in waters near Antarctica yesterday, sparking finger-pointing, international bickering, and even more bad blood.
The collision late yesterday damaged the Ady Gil, a powerboat that is part of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society protest against the Japan’s annual whaling expedition to the Southern Ocean. Six crew members were rescued by another protest vessel and the boat may sink, Sea Shepherd said in a statement [Business Week]. The governments of Australia and New Zealand say they plan to investigate the crash; the Ady Gil is registered in New Zealand, which opposes the Japanese whaling.
Unsurprisingly, each sides blamed the other. The Japanese boat released a video shot from its deck. The video shows a frothy wake coming from the stern of the Ady Gil, although it is unclear whether the trimaran (the Ady Gil) was moving. The Shonan Maru 2 was directing a water cannon at the Ady Gil before and during the collision, which is clearly seen on the video, and the bow of the Ady Gil was sheared off [The New York Times]. However, the Sea Shepherd people released their own video which shows the whalers veering to intercept. Take a look:
Sea Shepherd boats routinely dog the Japanese whaling vessels, which operate under a loophole in the international moratorium on whaling that allows a certain amount of whale killings for research purposes. DISCOVER has documented complaints by American scientists that killing whales isn’t necessary for the research Japanese scientists are conducting, and also the stealthy killings of other cetaceans, like bottlenose dolphins. The International Whaling Commission continues to try to figure out how to amend its rules to contain Japan’s whaling efforts, thus far without success.
No one on board the Ady Gil died this time around, but one activist reported cracked ribs. The vessel’s six crew members were rescued from the stricken craft by the crew of the Bob Barker, a former Norwegian whaler recently purchased and refitted with a $5-million donation from Bob Barker, who hosted the TV game show “The Price Is Right” for 35 years [Los Angeles Times]. In the aftermath of the close call, a détente seems far out of reach. Sea Shepherd spokesman Paul Watson said the incident had turned the confrontations into a “real whale war” [BBC News].
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