Whalers and Sea Shepherds collide

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  March 2013:

HONG KONG––A Sea Shepherd Conservation Society video posted to YouTube on February 26,  2013 shows the Sea Shepherd vessel Bob Barker being repeatedly crunched between the much larger Japanese whaling factory ship Nisshin Maru and the Sun Laurel,  a Panamanian-flagged fuel oil tanker reportedly carrying a South Korean crew. The Institute of Cetacean Research,  the Japanese umbrella for “research whaling,  earlier on February 26 released a shorter and more ambiguous video clip which ICR claimed showed the Bob Barker ramming the Nisshin Maru and the Sun Laurel.  The longer Sea Shepherd clip,  appearing to show the same incident,  revealed a different story. As the video opened,  the Bob Barker was about the width of the Nisshin Maru from either the Nisshin Maru or the Sun Laurel. The Bob Barker held a straight and steady course between the Nisshin Maru and the Sun Laurel,  obstructing the Sun Laurel from refueling the Nisshin Maru for the last ten days of the 2013 ICR whaling campaign. Five times the Nisshin Maru closed the gap,  hit the Bob Barker broadside with multiple water cannon blasting the Bob Barker’s decks,  and pushed the Bob Barker against the Sun Laurel.  “In the turbulence of the combined wake, the Bob Barker was slammed back and forth between the Nisshin Maru and the fuel tanker,”  said a Sea Shepherd prepared statement. Twice bright flashes came from flying objects which detonated between the Bob Barker and the Sun Laurel.  The objects appeared to come from the Sun Laurel. Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson told media from the Sea Shepherd vessel Steve Irwin that three armed Japanese customs officials had been transferred to the Sun Laurel by the Shirasse,  a Japanese escort vessel.  The flashes,  Watson said,  were from stun grenades. “You can see in that footage the very small Sea Shepherd ship being tossed around as if in the washing machine,”  Sea Shepherd director Bob Brown told Australian Associated Press. The Sea Shepherd video appeared to have been taken from a trailing vessel,  believed to be the Steve Irwin. The Sea Shepherd vessel Sam Simon was also nearby.  During the day’s encounters the Nisshin Maru also collided with the Sam Simon, “causing hull damage along most of the port side of the ship and smashing their satellite communications dome,”  said the Sea Shepherd statement. Eventually the Nisshin Maru “decided to interrupt her refueling procedure due to the extremely dangerous and foolhardy behavior” of the Sea Shepherd vessels,  the ICR told CNN in Hong Kong. The February 26 collisions came a week after similar incidents,  after which ICR admitted that the Nisshin Maru had rammed the Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker,  near the Davis Research Base maintained by Australia on the Antarctic coast,  but ICR blamed the contact on Sea Shepherd maneuvers.  The Nisshin Maru also hit the Sun Laurel on that occasion,  Watson said. The Bob Barker put out a distress call to Australian maritime authorities after it lost power following the February 20 collisons and began taking on water,  but withdrew the call when the crew was able to repair the damage. Watson predicted on Febru-ary 21 that the ICR fleet would return to Japan,  having apparently killed only 12 whales during the 2013 campaign,  but Hidenobu Sobashima,  the Japan-ese consul-general in Melbourne,  Australia,  said the ICR had only temporarily suspended trying to refuel. Confronting the Japanese whaling fleet every winter since 2005-2006,  the Sea Shepherds contend that both the Nisshin Maru and the Sun Laurel entered Antarctic waters in violation of international law––the Nisshin Maru to kill whales within a whale sanctuary declared by the International Whaling Commission,  and the Sun Laurel as an oil tanker in a region declared off limits to tankers,  to prevent oil spills from damaging the fragile Antarctic habitat. The Sea Shepherd position is supported by current Australian environment minister Tony Burke,  but Australia made no effort to intervene.  Asked Australian prime minister Julia Gillard,  “When did we become the nation that apparently has the capacity to police every ocean in the world?”

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