Militant protesters opposed to Japanese whaling left for the Southern Ocean yesterday as New Zealand, Australia and the Netherlands urged them to avoid violent confrontations.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s ship Steve Irwin sailed from Fremantle in Western Australia to confront a fleet of Japanese whaling ships that left Japan on Nov. 19 to harpoon hundreds of whales in Antarctic waters over coming months.
Harassment of the Japanese fleet last year led to a collision between the Steve Irwin and a whaling ship, with both sides blaming the other and trading accusations of recklessness.
New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully, his Australian counterpart Stephen Smith and Maxime Verhagen of the Netherlands said they respected the right to protest.
“At the same time, we do not condone — indeed we condemn — dangerous or violent activities, by any of the parties involved, be it demonstrators or whalers,” they said in a joint statement. “Our governments expect any unlawful activity to be dealt with in accordance with relevant international and domestic laws.”
The three governments said the Southern Ocean was a remote and inhospitable region where the risk of mishaps was high and there was little ability to launch any rescue.
“Our governments jointly call upon all parties to exercise restraint and to ensure that safety at sea is the highest priority,” the ministers said.
Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson dismissed the governments’ statement and accused the three of doing nothing practical to stop Japanese whaling.
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