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Japanese whalers and activists clash off Antarctica

The Independent. 1 January 2011.

Japanese whalers and activists clash off Antarctica
By Kristen Gelineau, Associated Press

Japanese whalers shot water cannons at anti-whaling activists
today, the conservationist group's founder claimed, hours after the activists tracked down the hunting fleet in the remote and icy seas off Antarctica.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is chasing the fleet in the hopes of interrupting Japan's annual whale hunt, which kills up to 1,000 whales a year. The two sides have clashed violently in the past, including last year, when a Sea Shepherd boat was sunk after its bow was sheared off in a collision with a whaling ship.

On Saturday, Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson was talking to The Associated Press by telephone from his ship when he said the whalers suddenly began blasting one of his group's inflatable boats with a water cannon.

"They just turned their cannons on our Zodiac," Watson told The AP. "Right at this moment."

New Zealand-based Glenn Inwood, spokesman for Japan's Tokyo-based Institute of Cetacean Research, which sponsors the whale hunt, said he had no comment. Every year, Japan and Sea Shepherd make claims of aggression against each other, but the accounts are generally impossible to verify. Their skirmishes take place in an extremely remote part of the ocean off Antarctica.

The Japanese are allowed to harvest a quota of whales under a ruling by the International Whaling Commission, as long as the mammals are caught for research and not commercial purposes. Whale meat not used for study is sold for consumption in Japan, which critics say is the real reason for the hunts. Each hunting season runs from about December through February. Japan's whaling fleet set out for Antarctic waters in December. Sea Shepherd has been searching for them since, and spotted the first whaling vessel yesterday, Watson said. By today, the group had tracked down three of the fleet's ships in an area about 1,700 nautical miles southeast of New Zealand, he said.

"We got them before they started whaling and now that we're on them, we're hoping to make sure they don't kill any whales for this season," Watson said.

Japanese whaling fleet fires on activist ship

1st January, 2011

Activist ships are doing battle with a Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean, 1,700 nautical miles southeast of New Zealand.

Three vessels belonging to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have held the Japanese vessels, including harpoon vessels the Yushin Maru, Yushin Maru 2, and the Yushin Maru 3 at bay. Clashes between the warring factions has prevented the Japanese sailors from pursuing whales. "What an awesome way to begin the New Year," captain of the Gojira Locky MacLean of Canada said Saturday.

"Our three vessels dancing dangerously through the ice packs locked in confrontation with the three harpoon ships of the Japanese whaling fleet. It was both deadly and beautiful. Deadly because of the ice and the hostility of the whalers and beautiful because of the ice, and the fact that these three killer ships are not killing whales while clashing with us."

The three Japanese harpoon vessels attempted to block Sea Shepherd's vessels including the Steve Irwin, Bob Barker, and Gojira from the pursuit of the Nisshin Maru factory ship. The Japanese fired water cannons at the activist vessels....

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