Japan has rejected claims that this year’s whale hunt is over following a clash with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in the Southern Ocean this week.
Sea Shepherd claims two of its vessels, the Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker, were rammed by the Japanese factory ship Nisshin Maru and that a Japanese escort vessel directed a water canon and launched concussion grenades at activists on Wednesday.
Sea Shepherd director Bob Brown said he has alerted authorities and wants immediate action against what he called “multiple breaches of international law,” in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. He also said it the “worst incident” the group has seen since the Ady Gil sank in 2010 after a confrontation with whalers.
“They literally ran over the top of the Bob Barker. It looked like a tank crushing a car,” said Captain Paul Watson.
Australia’s Environmental Minister Tony Burke is threatening to take Japan to international court over the incident.
“What we are watching and what we’ve been seeing Japan do in that Southern Ocean year on year now is just disgusting. No other way of describing it. Now, as a government we don’t settle it in the car park, we settle in the court,” he said.
Last month, the Australian government lodged a complaint with the Japanese government after the Shonan Maru No 2 entered its exclusive economic zone near the Macquarie Island in pursuit of the Bob Barker. However, this time around Prime Minister Julia Gillard is refusing to intervene in the whaling conflict by sending in navy ships.
The Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) announced a temporary halt in their operations, but will not confirm that it is giving up this year even though there are less than 20 days left in the season.
“Our experience, Sea Shepherd Australia’s experience, is at this stage of the summer, with the days getting shorter and the winter closing in, whaling is fast drawing to the end as a possibility for the Japanese killer fleets,” said Brown.
The group estimates that so far this season only 12 whales were slaughtered.
An official for Japan’s Fisheries Agency told the AFP that Japan has every intention of keeping its whaling program. The ICR also said it’s considering filing a third claim in a U.S. court for Sea Shepherd’s “insults against the court authority,” reports CNN.
In December, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a ruling that prevents Captain Paul Watson and his group from coming within 500 yards of Japanese whaling vessels. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the decision this month after an appeal was filed by Sea Shepherd.
A case against whaling is now running in the International Court of Justice, where opponents are arguing that whaling in the Southern Ocean is illegal, but Sea Shepherd is still concerned that a ruling in their favor will just be ignored.
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