Sea activists celebrate win against anti-whaling

Sea activists are celebrating the defeat, for now, of Japanese whale hunters who have ”left” the Southern Ocean.

Sea Shepherd Australia announced the success of Operation Zero Tolerance (OZT), a campaign to drive the Japanese whalers out of the seas near the Antarctic.

The conservation group welcomed the return of three ships commissioned to carry out the anti-whaling campaign. The ships, Steve Irwin, Sam Simon, and Bob Barker, with 110 international crew members, arrived at Seaworks Pier in Williamstown, Wednesday, amid a throng of anti-whaling fanatics.

The euphoric return is considered a victory for the whale conservation. Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, earlier hailed his group’s success and said the Japanese had the lowest catch in history with “no more than 75″ of the mammals culled, the Japan Times reports.

The Japanese claims whaling is for scientific research purposes to justify the trade. Pic: News Ltd.

Watson, who is wanted by InterPol, calculates “the figure is a meagre total that contrasts with the 267 caught last year — 266 minke whales and one fin whale — and is dramatically below the Institute of Cetacean Research’s target this year of 935 minke whales and up to 50 fin whales.”

The three vessels embarked on the voyage in November last year to combat the Japanese whale killers. After four months, the OZT is considered as the most successful campaign so far in sending the Japanese back home.

A Japanese ship (right) collides with Bob Barker. Pic: AP.

The sea battle was fierce. Steve Irwin and Bob Barker collisions with Japanese vessels. In February this year, the 8,000 ton Nisshin Maru rammed into the Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker. Watson “accused Japanese coastguard personnel of throwing concussion grenades at their protest ships during a confrontation in the frigid waters near Antarctica and said the Bob Barker was taking on water in its engine room.”

Bob Brown, a co-chair of the OZT was alerted during the confrontation and had called on Australian government to dispatch a naval ship to the area to ease the tensions.

“It is illegal to be ramming ships in any seas anywhere on the planet. It is illegal for a tanker to be carrying heavy fuel oil into Antarctic waters under international law,” Brown said.

Three ships and 110 crews arrived in Williamstown, VIC, but not Captain Paul Watson. Pic: Sea Shepherd Australia.

Jeff Hansen, Director Sea Shepherd Australia, however, acknowledged with “heavy heart” that Captain Paul Watson has not arrived ashore.

Watson has disappeared after skipping bail in Germany amid allegations by the Costa Rican government that he endangered the lives of shark finners back in 2002. Watson strongly denied the allegation. He also faced extradition requests from both Costa Rica and Japan against whom Sea Shepherd have waged a long and bitter war over whales in the Antarctic.

A whale being hauled by a large Japanese vessel. Pic: Australian Custom Service.

While sea activists are celebrating, the Japanese Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi earlier said that whaling has been part of a long historical tradition in Japan.

Sea Sheperd may have won the battle, but the war is not over.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent

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