Japanese Whalers and Greenpeace Collide at Sea

HOBART, Tasmania, Australia, January 10, 2000 (ENS) - Greenpeace is recording its most extensive success in a decade of harassing Japan's whaling fleet, with nearly three weeks' engagement of the fleet off eastern Antarctica.

Activists aboard the ship Arctic Sunrise tracked down the secretive fleet for a third time this week, and claimed to have successfully disrupted whaling on eight separate occasions. In their latest action they hoisted an eight metre high hose spray using a pump aboard an inflatable to block a harpoonist's line of sight.

Arctic Sunrise first found Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha's fleet on December 20, 1999 north of Casey Station in an unheralded revival of Greenpeace's campaigns of direct action to halt the world's last factory whaling fleet.

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The crew of the Greenpeace inflatable place a stream of water directly in front of the Toshi-maru's harpoon to block the killing of whales. (Photo courtesy Greenpeace)
In the face of a sophisticated campaign to send images of the whaling around the world using a helicopter and satellite communications, the Japanese fleet twice gave the single Greenpeace ship the slip. But with greater success than earlier campaigns in the 1990s, Greenpeace was able to track down the fleet again.

Twice activists have leapt into the frigid waters of the Southern Ocean in attempts to stop the transfer of harpooned whales. At other times they have driven inflatables below the stern of the factory ship Nisshin Maru to hamper operations as fire hoses rained down the stern ramp.

But as the ships manoeuvred, the Arctic Sunrise and the much larger factory ship were also involved in a collision at sea, in which both ships were dented.

Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha said its "whale research laboratory vessel" was hit by Arctic Sunrise, damaging the stern shell but causing no casualties.

Greenpeace said the collision happened when Nisshin Maru rammed Arctic Sunrise in an illegal overtaking manoeuvre, and it has protested to the maritime safety authority at Arctic Sunrise's country of registration, Holland.

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Greenpeace activists attempt to prevent the transfer of a minke whale onto the deck of the Japanese factory ship Nisshin-maru. The factory ship carries a crew of 112 and butchers the whales caught by the catcher ships in five vessel fleet. (Photo courtesy Greenpeace)
The campaign comes six months ahead of what is expected to be a fiery annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) - this time in Adelaide, Australia.

Japan's hunt for 440 minke whales in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary under a self-awarded scientific permit is condemned by the majority of IWC nations. Last year the fleet's departure for Antarctica was met by protests from the British, United States, Australian and New Zealand governments.

But Japan argues it is taking only a small fraction of the world's last remaining big population of baleen, or filter feeding whales, and the kill is sustainable. The IWC counts more than 700,000 minke whales worldwide, most of them in the Antarctic.

In its attempt to exploit the resource, Japan has given notice that it will ask for permission to trade in minke meat at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species when it meets in Nairobi in April.

{Republished with permission from http://www.antarctican.com}