Activists aiming to halt Japan’s whaling fleet yesterday revealed a new weapon for their latest Antarctic campaign — a US$2 million ship they say was once owned by the government in Tokyo.
Lockhart MacLean, captain of the renamed Sam Simon, said the militant Sea Shepherd Conservation Society was able to buy the vessel after a US company, New Atlantis, purchased it when it was advertised for sale.
“It’s a Japanese vessel,” he said, adding that it was ideal for chasing the harpoonists through the freezing waters of Antarctica where they annually hunt for whales during the southern hemisphere summer.
Japan says the hunt does not breach an international moratorium on commercial whaling because it is done in the name of scientific research, but the meat is later sold openly in shops and restaurants.
The new Sea Shepherd vessel was built as a scientific observation ship and run by Japan’s meteorological agency until 2010, MacLean said.
“Her main career was doing that, collecting ocean current data, weather observations, that sort of thing,” he said from Hobart in Tasmania, where the boat launched yesterday.
“It’s interesting that it was actually a real research ship, whereas we feel that Japan is not doing any significant research down in Antarctica. We actually own a real Japanese research ship,” he said. “I guess it’s ironic in that sense.”
Sea Shepherd bought the ship after a donation from Sam Simon, the US television producer best known for The Simpsons, and renamed it in his honor.