The militant anti-whaling activist group Sea Shepherd said it zeroed in on the Japanese whaling fleet Monday and captured evidence that four whales have been slaughtered. The group also alleged the ships were found inside a Southern Ocean sanctuary.
Sea Shepherd said it had located all five Japanese vessels and was now in pursuit, forcing the harpooners to abort their operation and retreat.
The group released footage and photographs showing three minke whales on the deck of the Nisshin Maru factory ship and said a fourth, also believed to be a minke, was being slaughtered when Sea Shepherd’s helicopter flew overhead.
“There’s three carcasses on the ship, a fourth carcass has been cut up. There’s blood all over the place, meat being carted around on this factory ship deck, offal and innards being dumped in the ocean,” said Sea Shepherd Australia Chairman Bob Brown.
“That’s just a gruesome, bloody, medieval scene which has no place in this modern world.”
When the Nisshin Maru was first spotted from the air, Brown said it was in Antarctica’s Ross Dependency, within New Zealand’s territorial waters and the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, which he described as a “gross breach of international law.”
The commercial hunting of whales is prohibited in the sanctuary, which was designated by the International Whaling Commission in 1994, but Japan catches the animals there under a “scientific research” loophole in the moratorium on whaling.
The fisheries agency said its program is being conducted “in line with a research plan submitted to the IWC.”
“We are not aware of the existence of a whaling sanctuary so we don’t want to comment on their arguments,” an agency spokesman said of Brown’s claims.
The Foreign Ministry said research whaling is “not a violation or an abuse of a loophole in the international convention.”
“Quite the contrary, this is a legitimate right of the contracting party under Article VIII of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling,” it said.
Brown described “massive violence” against the whales, using grenade-tipped harpoons to catch them, and said Sea Shepherd will do “all it peaceably can to prevent this grotesque and cruel destruction.”
He urged Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to “have the spine to stand up to Tokyo and defend these whales.”