Anti-whaling activists claim Japan’s whaling season in the Antarctic is over, and it’s the result of their disruptions in the Southern Ocean.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has accused Japanese whaling ship the Nisshin Maru of ramming its vessels as the protesters tried to prevent the whaler from refuelling.
The Japanese government-backed Institute of Cetacean Research has since announced that it’s stopped work for the time being because it’s too difficult to refuel.
Kerri Worthington reports.
The stand-off in the Southern Ocean may be over for now after a dramatic day between the Sea Shepherd fleet and the Japanese whalers they’ve been stalking.
“Keep away from Nisshin Maru. This is Japanese coast guard official onboard Nisshin Maru. I warn you, stop all your disruptive actions immediately. Keep away from Nisshin Maru.”
The environmental campaigners say the Nisshin Maru rammed its vessels in their worst confrontation in the Southern Ocean in three years.
Sea Shepherd claims the Japanese factory boat had deliberately collided with the Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker — allegations denied by Japan.
But captain of the Bob Barker , Peter Hammarstedt, says the Japanese whaler’s actions were the most dangerous and reckless he’s ever seen.
“Had the Nisshin Maru pushed us any further, there was a risk of the vessel rolling over. What that would have meant is that we would have quite literally sunk. So we were in a position where we could have had to potentially abandon ship in what is the most remote and frigid waters down here in the Southern Ocean.”
However Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research has suggested it was the activists’ boats that rammed the Japanese ship.
The Institute has called the Sea Shepherd campaign unforgivable and akin to terrorism that threatens human life at sea.
Sea Shepherd is calling on Australia’s government to dispatch the navy to the Southern Ocean to intervene.
Former Australian Greens leader, now Sea Shepherd director, Bob Brown says he believes the captain of the Japanese whaling ship has breached international law.
Mr Brown has told Sky News whales are protected under the Antarctic Treaty, and a policing force is needed to enforce that protection.
“And Australia needs to be moving to establish an international policing force if it won’t do it itself to protect those laws and to protect those values which have been agreed to by the community of nations over decades. As it is we’ve got a buccaneer country, the Japanese government, trespassing all over those laws, treading them into the ground as we saw yesterday for some commercial advantage, even though they’re running this whaling operation at a massive loss and there’s five tonnes of whale meat in storehouse in Tokyo that they can’t sell.”
But the Federal Government has ruled out sending a navy ship to keep watch in Antarctic waters
Defence Minister Stephen Smith says the government has in the past sent a ship to collect video and photographic evidence of whaling hunts to build a case before the International Court of Justice.
And Environment minister Tony Burke told the ABC governments should settle conflicts through the courts.
“When people say that we should have the navy and we should be asserting territorial waters in that Antarctic region, can I just urge people to pause for thought at the implications of that. Part of the Antarctic Treaty system is that countries will not assert their territorial claims against each other. That treaty system is the underpinning of making sure we don’t have mining in the Antarctic. And regardless of how offensive Japan’s behaviour is in the Southern Ocean at the moment, it would be an extraordinary action for Australia to start the process of blowing up the Antarctic Treaty system.”
But Mr Burke says the Maritime Safety Authority is investigating the latest incident.
And he’s warned that claims Japan’s 2013 whaling season is over are premature.
“Japan is going from one side of our planet to the other to chase species that are meant to be protected, magnificent species that the rest of the world has put a moratorium on the commercial slaughter of. If they’ve stopped for a few months and are still intending to come back, then I really don’t think there’s a lot to celebrate yet.”
However, Bob Barker captain Peter Hammarstedt says this could be the Sea Shepherd’s most successful campaign in Antarctic, having prevented the Japanese from taking 95 per cent of their quota.
“It’ll be the third year in a row that we’ve bankrupted the Japanese whaling fleet. We would have prevented hundreds and hundreds of whales from being slaughtered. Certainly these poachers, or thugs, are motivated by profit only and what we’re able to do is take away that profit motive by putting our ships in the way and risking our lives to protect these animals. So I think we could be very well on our way to stopping whaling here once and for all.”