SYDNEY – Japanese whalers and militant conservationists have again been in dangerous clashes off Antarctica, with both sides accusing the other of ramming their vessels.
Veteran antiwhaling campaigner Paul Watson said that on Monday the factory ship Nisshin Maru rammed the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s much smaller vessel, the Bob Barker.
But on its website, the Institute of Cetacean Research accused several Sea Shepherd boats of ramming the Nisshin Maru as it tried to refuel with her supply tanker, the Sun Laurel.
“It was five hours of intense confrontation,” Watson said from onboard the Sea Shepherd vessel Steve Irwin. “We took up our positions to block their approach to the (fuel tanker) Sun Laurel and they rammed the Bob Barker twice, causing considerable damage, and then they pushed it into the side of the Sun Laurel.”
Watson said the Japanese threw stun grenades and used water cannon on his boat, and damaged another Sea Shepherd vessel, the Sam Simon, but there were no injuries to Sea Shepherd crew.
“It was extremely dangerous,” he said. “I can’t tell you how intimidating it is to have a 12,000-ton ship coming at you and trying to slam into the side of you.
“Their contention that we rammed them is just ludicrous. We would just bounce off them.”
The institute claimed the whalers were “again subject to sabotage by the Sea Shepherd ships Steve Irwin, Bob Barker and Sam Simon.”
“During their obstruction to refuelling operations the Sea Shepherd vessels rammed into . . . the Nisshin Maru and the supply tanker,” it said. “During the attack, the Nisshin Maru used her water pump as a preventive measure to make Sea Shepherd vessels refrain from further approaching and repeatedly broadcast a warning message to stop them.”