An ill crewman from a Japanese whaling vessel is being treated under guard at a Wellington hospital after being rescued from his ship by helicopter, a New Zealand government spokesman said yesterday.
Conservation minister Chris Carter said the sailor was being kept under tight security because of concerns for his safety in light of anti-whaling protests.
"There are people who feel very passionately -- I'm one of them I guess -- against Japanese whaling. New Zealand's taken a very strong stand on it," Carter told National Radio yesterday.
Carter said New Zealand had responded to a direct request from the Japanese government to provide assistance to the man, who is reportedly now in stable condition. The nature of his illness has not been disclosed.
New Zealand staunchly opposes Japanese whaling, but Carter said it had a humanitarian obligation to help when a life was at risk.
The whaling vessel was not allowed to enter New Zealand's territorial waters last week. The ship was met outside New Zealand's 19km exclusion zone by a rescue helicopter.
"There were issues around the sensitivity and security and secrecy of his arrival so it required some dialogue with the Japanese Embassy, but in the end they asked and we agreed," he said.
Carter's ministry recently released footage taken by a New Zealand Air Force surveillance aircraft of the Japanese fleet harpooning and processing whales in the Southern Ocean.
It refused to release the coordinates at which the fleet was filmed to Greenpeace and other environmental groups, who plan to intercept the whaling vessels and hamper their operation.
Japan plans to harvest more than 900 whales in the Southern Ocean this season as part of what it calls a scientific whaling operation.
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