Activists claim captain was shot in chest after rotten butter attack March 07, 2008 4:50 AM
(CNN) -- Japanese whalers and anti-whaling activists clashed in the waters near Antarctica on Friday, with each side offering conflicting accounts of a confrontation with violent overtones.
Activists from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society hurl objects on to the Japanese ship Nisshin Maru.
The anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society said one of its members, captain Paul Watson, was shot in the chest but escaped serious injury because he was wearing a bullet-proof vest.
A Japanese Fisheries Agency official denied that guns were fired.
The official said a whaling crew member threw a device that explodes with a warning bang to discourage the activists. The crew member threw the device after activists threw a foul-smelling acid found in rotten butter toward the whaling ship, the official said.Video Watch captain describe incident »
Sea Shepherd has hurled rank acid onto whaling ships to try to prevent them from hunting whales. A few days ago, four whalers aboard a Japanese ship suffered injuries after activists threw acid onto their vessel, Japanese authorities said.
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The episode on Friday started after activists threw acid at the whaling ships, Sea Shepherd told CNN. In response, at around 3:45 p.m. local time, Japanese authorities threw flash grenades toward the Sea Shepherd's ship, the Steve Irwin, Sea Shepherd said in a statement.
Watson was shot, the group said, and two others were injured. A 35-year-old from Australia hurt his hip trying to dodge a flash grenade, and a 33-year-old Australian received bruises after a flash grenade exploded near him.
An official the Japanese Fisheries Agency said the Sea Shepherd began throwing smelly chemicals toward the whaling vessel around 12:36 p.m. local time. About an hour later, the official said, a safety officer aboard the whaling vessel threw a ball that explodes to produce a warning bang.
"They might have mistaken that was a shooting sound," the official said. "We are not shooting a gun or anything at them."
Japanese ships crisscross the Antarctic Ocean each winter to capture and kill up to 1,000 whales. Whaling is allowed under international law when done for scientific reasons, which Japan cites as the legal basis for its hunts.Video Watch why Tokyo is furious over the stink between whalers, protesters »
However, many in the international community -- particularly Australia -- believe that such hunts amount to needless slaughter. Critics say that calling it research is just a pretext for retrieving whale meat to be sold in markets and restaurants.
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