The so-called Whale Wars saga involving Japanese whale hunters and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society activists appears to have reached a boiling point.
The crew of the Yushin Maru 3 on Friday issued a mayday signal, claiming it was under attack by the activists from the Sea Shepherd vessel Bob Barker. Sea Shepherd countered that the Bob Barker was seven miles away when the distress signal was issued, and accused the harpoon boat crew of trying to ram and destroy its smaller harassment boat.
“It was like staring death in the face when that steel hull suddenly turned into us. We just narrowly avoided being cut in half,” said Locky MacLean, captain of the the boat, named Gojira.
The Institute of Cetacean Research, the group supporting the so-called scientific whaling missions, issued a news release stating that the assault continued for hours despite the mayday call, and that activists "deployed at least 10 propeller foulers and threw more than 80 butyric acid-filled glass bottles and at least five smoke bombs against the Yushin Maru 3."
The Yushin Maru 3, one of three harpoon boats involved in the Southern Ocean hunt, apparently had been tailing the Bob Barker in an attempt to prevent it from pursuing the factory processing ship, Nisshin Maru. Sea Shepherd stated that a Gojira crewman radioed the Yushin Maru 3 and said it would not be hassled if it stopped tailing the Bob Barker.
Sea Shepherd also claims that someone on the harpoon boat hurled a "bamboo spear" at an activist driving an inflatable vessel alongside the harpoon boat. Sea Shepherd posted video of that incident on its website.
-- Pete Thomas
Photo: Sea Sherpherd activists are fired upon by water cannons. Credit: Gary Stokes / Sea Shepherd