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Sea Shepherd in pursuit of Whalers in Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary
by Takver - Sydney Indymedia
Saturday Dec 20th, 2008 4:46 AM
Anti-whaling activists on board the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship Steve Irwin have intercepted the Japanese whaling fleet inside the Australian Antarctic Economic Exclusion Zone at 64°26 South and 132° 40' East on Friday 19 December. The encounter took place in dense fog, ice conditions and winds picking up to 50 knots approaching blizzard conditions.
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Photo: The Japanese harpoon whaling vessel the Yushin Maru No. 2 crosses the bow of Sea Shepherd's M/V Steve Irwin in Antarctica's Southern Ocean on Saturday, Dec. 20, 2008. Photo by Adam Lau/Sea Shepherd

Sea Shepherd launched an inflatable boat to launch a rotten butter bomb attack on the Yushin Maru No 2, but the inflatable was recalled for safety reasons given the weather conditions. The Yushin Maru No 2 then headed north with the Steve Irwin staying in pursuit of the rest of the Japanese whaling fleet. The whaling fleet has for the moment stopped whaling activities and is running with the Sea Shepherd crew of the Steve Irwin in pursuit.

Captain Paul Watson said "It looks like Whale Wars, season #2 is officially underway. We've got them on the run. They are not in the Ross Sea where they said they would be. They are in Australian waters. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is officially calling on Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett and Foreign Minister Stephen Smith to order the Japanese fleet to comply with the orders of the Australian Federal Court and to cease and desist from killing to whales in Australian waters."

Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett told Sky News that "All the things that we said we would do a little over 12 months ago we've done. We sent the Oceanic Viking over the last season to collect material for potential legal use. That option remains on the table."

On the 10th December Peter Garrett called for restraint by whalers and whaling activists, while conveying Australia's opposition to the Japanese whaling program through intense diplomatic engagement. Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith was supposedly raising the issue of whaling with his counterpart in Japan on December 19.

Japan's whaling fleet left from the Japanese port of Innoshima on November 17, 2008 with Greenpeace activists displaying banners reading "Whaling on Trial", another in Japanese outlining the whaling operation's multi-million dollar drain on Japan's taxpayers. The high profile departure was cancelled this year, according to Greenpeace with just the family of crew members and whaling and fisheries officials farewelling the fleet.

In October the whaling fleet's refueling and cargo vessel, Oriental Bluebird, was deflagged following a ruling by Panamian Authorities, which is expected to greatly impact the whaling fleet's capacity to transport whale meat back to Japan. The maximum fine of 10,000 Balboas (US$10,000) was imposed on the owners of the ship, Hiyo Shipping Co. Ltd, in Japan who on October 8th removed its Panamanian registration and flag.

"The Oriental Bluebird has now become an international pariah vessel, and its owners will be urgently looking for a new flag State which will condone its breaches of environmental treaties. It would make a mockery of international law if Japan continued to rely on the services of this vessel," said Sara Holden, Greenpeace International Whales Campaign coordinator. "We are delighted that Panama has found the vessel guilty. Japan must now do the same, not just by mothballing the Oriental Bluebird, but by retiring the entire whaling fleet. The international community has a responsibility to hold Japan to this."

According to Greenpeace, Japan has ratified an international treaty (FAO Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas) which seeks to end the practice of 're-flagging' vessels in order to circumvent international environmental law. The treaty bars Japan from authorising a ship to participate in the exploitation of marine living resources for at least three years, if that ship has changed its flag after being found in breach of international conservation measures.

The Japanese government has this year added an extra 800 million yen (US$8 million) for a coastguard ship to act as so-called "protection" for the fleet. Sea Shepherd found the Japanese whaling fleet less than a week after leaving Hobart, Tasmania.

Commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean is an illegal activity with Japan engaging in commercial whaling activities in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary under the guise of scientific research provisions of the International Whaling Commission.

Sources:

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The Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.JacquesSunday Dec 21st, 2008 1:18 AM