Early today, deep in Antarctic waters, a huge Japanese whaling ship rammed two Sea Shepherd boats that were attempting to block its access to a refueling vessel.
Sea Shepherders say the factory ship Nisshin Maru repeatedly rammed the Steve Irwin and then the Bob Barker, actually pushing the Bob Barker into a Korean refueling boat. Sea Shepherd says the whalers also threw concussion grenades at their crew.
Here’s video from Sea Shepherd with commentary from ITN News:
Sea Shepherd called on the Australian government for help. Australia strongly opposes whaling and filed suit in international court two years ago, challenging what Japan calls “scientific research.” (The whales all end up in butcher shops anyway.)
But it seems that Goliath, up against the two little David boats, has already backed down from its whaling operations. According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC):
After the day of clashes, Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research announced its work has stopped for the time being. It said the decision was made because it is too difficult to refuel.
Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson, who is aboard one of the boats, the Steve Irwin told the ABC he doesn’t think the whalers will resume their hunt this season.
“Not this season, the season is over in 18 days,” he said. “They couldn’t go up north and refuel again. It’s all over and done with I think for this year. I don’t think they have killed more than a dozen whales in total, we don’t know for sure, but they couldn’t have killed more than that.”
Even though Watson is aboard the Steve Irwin, he is no longer the captain. Watson stepped down from all his official positions with Sea Shepherd in order to comply with an injunction handed down by a Seattle court last November after a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ordered the organization to stay at least 1,500 feet from Japanese whaling vessels off Antarctica.
Last May, Watson was arrested in Germany following a request by Costa Rica authorities for him to be extradited on charges, dating back 10 years, of creating a threat of a ship wreck. Costa Rica is generally considered to be in the pocket of the Japanese whaling industry.
While under house arrest in Germany, Watson escaped, and was believed to have found sanctuary in Ecuador before boarding the Steve Irwinand remaining in international waters.
Before leaving Germany, he told the AFP:
They hope that by getting me out of the way, they’ll shut down our operations. They won’t. This is not about me. It is about our oceans and the ever-escalating threat of diminishment of the diversity of life in our seas. It is about the sharks, the whales, the seals, the sea turtles and the fish.
Fortunately, Sea Shepherd is now much bigger than myself… and if I am prevented from serving on the front lines upon the high seas I will serve as a symbol of resistance to the destruction of our oceans from inside a prison cell.
Last year, Sea Shepherd boats succeeded in driving the Japanese whaling fleet from the Southern Ocean altogether.
“They used water cannons, and they threw concussion grenades at us, and bamboo spears and grappling hooks,” Watson said. “And we hit them back with stink bombs and smoke bombs.”