Tue, Feb 25, 2014 - Page 6 News List

Sea Shepherd claims night ‘ambush’ by Japan whalers

AFP, SYDNEY

A Japanese harpoon vessel passes close to the bow of anti-whaling ship the Bob Barker in a handout photograph taken by Sea Shepherd Australia Ltd on Sunday in the Southern Ocean.

Photo: AFP / Sea Shepherd Australia Ltd

Militant anti-whaling campaigners Sea Shepherd yesterday said that they were ambushed under the cover of darkness by a Japanese whaling fleet in a “ruthless assault” to disable their ship in the Southern Ocean.

Sea Shepherd said two Japanese harpoon ships attacked their Bob Barker vessel on Sunday night, using steel cables to try and jam its propellers and rudders from close range — in violation of laws aimed at preventing collisions at sea.

Bob Barker captain Peter Hammarstedt said he had been tailing Japanese factory ship Nisshin Maru since Sunday morning, but that the harpooners waited until night fell before “launching their onslaught under the cover of darkness.”

High-seas confrontations are common between Sea Shepherd and Japanese ships hunting whales off Antarctica under a “scientific research” loophole in the moratorium on whaling. Sunday’s incident was the second showdown in a month.

“We maintain unwavering dedication in the face of an increasingly vicious onslaught from the poachers — the last line of defense standing between these criminals and the protected whales they are targeting to kill,” Hammarstedt said.

The captain said he radioed the Japanese ships to inform them that his operations were “completely lawful and that any aggressive action on their part would be reported to the Australian government and New Zealand search and rescue.”

“I have nine Australians and one New Zealander on board as part of my brave crew who have endured this ruthless assault,” he said.

Sea Shepherd Australia Ltd director Jeff Hansen said that Australia and New Zealand had challenged Japan’s whaling program at the International Court of Justice.

“So where are these governments now, when their citizens ... are under attack from these poachers?” he asked.

During the incident, Sea Shepherd said its crew were pelted with ice by the Japanese fleet’s crew, who also flashed the Bob Barker’s bridge with blinding searchlights to allow the Nisshin Maru to escape.

The factory ship is now being tracked by Sea Shepherd’s two other vessels, the Sam Simon and the Steve Irwin, while the Bob Barker shadows the harpoon ships, which it says are “unable to whale.”

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