In a day of drama in the Southern Ocean Whale sanctuary, the Japanese Coast Guard retaliated against Sea Shepherd crew throwing rotten butter onto the deck of the whaling factory ship Nisshin Maru with flash grenades being thrown onto the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin injuring two activists. A rifle shot also occured with Captain Paul Watson being hit in the chest by a single bullet. Kevlar armor and an anti-whaling badge saved Paul Watson's life, according to ship's doctor Dr David Page.
The incident occured around 3:45pm Australian Eastern Standard Time (0445 GMT) in the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone of Antarctica. According to a report by Peter Brown, 1st Officer on board the Steve Irwin "A single bullet was fired by what must have been an expert marksman at Paul’s chest, which embedded in his Kevlar vest and also damaged a metal badge worn behind the vest. Fortunately, this stopped the bullet penetrating his flesh."
The ships’ doctor, Dr. David Page from Sydney, was videotaped prying the bullet from Captain Watson’s Kevlar vest. “You have been hit by a bullet,” he said. Dr Page was emphatic that without protection, the shot would have been lethal.
Dr. David Page, the ship’s medical officer, has examined and verified that there were three injuries sustained, all severe bruises. Ralph Lowe from Melbourne was bruised on the back by an exploding flash grenade, and Animal Planet cameraman Ashley Dunn from Launceston, Tasmania injured his hip while trying to avoid a flash grenade. Captain Watson has a large bruise and a cut on the upper left side of his chest.
Sea Shepherd 1st officer Peter Brown continues:
"At the time the shot was fired, the Japanese whaling vessel Nisshin Maru was moving parallel to the Steve Irwin in stormy seas. The high level of movement indicates that the shot must have been fired by an expert.
The Steve Irwin continues to track the Nisshin Maru west after it altered its northerly course.
We have received verbal confirmation that the Australian Embassy has been advised by the Japanese that a crew member on board the Nisshin Maru fired “warning” shots. In addition to the lead bullet lodged in Captain Watson’s Kevlar vest, up to seven flash grenades were also hurled by armed Japanese Coast Guard Officers, injuring two other Steve Irwin crew members.
Captain Watson is now in a comfortable condition, and no whales are being slaughtered in the name of bogus research by these illegal poachers.
No warning was given that a bullet would be fired.
Japanese Fisheries, the ICR and the Japanese Foreign Ministry have denied any firearms were used and have denied that the Japanese Coast Guard fired the shot that hit Captain Watson. Mr Minoru Morimoto, the Director General of the Institute of Cetacean Research said "No-one shot at Paul Watson. His claim that we shot at him and he has the bullet that was stopped by his bullet-proof vest is more fiction for articles for the Australian media,". This was echoed by public relations consultant Glenn Inwood.
According to the Japanese Ministry for Foreign Affairs "The Japanese Government unequivocally denies the accusations of Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson who claims he was shot by a Japanese Coast Guard (JCG) on board the Nisshin Maru. At no time during all these, was there any possibility that a lethal form of firearm was used. The claims by Paul Watson are absolutely false and are further proof of the tactics they are using to disrupt Japan's legal research activities."
However Australian Foreign Minister Steven Smith has confirmed that "Japan has advised the Australian Embassy in Tokyo that a crew member on board the Japanese whaling vessel fired warning shots." Australian officials in Japan are seeking further information.
So it seems the Japanese Foreign Ministry, ICR director Mr Morimoto and public relations spin artist Glen Inwood have again been caught lying in a very serious escalation amounting to an attempt to murder Paul Watson.
Earlier in the day at 0800 hours (1900 GMT), the Steve Irwin had ordered the Nisshin Maru to leave French territorial waters. The Japanese whaler complied and turned around, heading back west into Australian waters. The confrontation occurred inside the Australian Territorial Zone at the position of 63 Degrees, 41 Minutes South and 133 Degrees, 27 Minutes East.
Sea Shepherd has been shadowing the Japanese whaling fleet since February 23, and the Nisshin Maru for the last week, preventing any whaling operations from ocurring in the whale sanctuary. Today was the second day in which Sea Shepherd activists have engaged the Nisshin Maru by throwing glass bottles containing highy smelly rotten butter onto the decks of the whaling factory ship.
Whaling activists claim Japan is whaling in violation of the IWC, CITES, the Antarctic Treaty, and Australian law.
Australian has announced a strong push to reform the IWC to exert control over scientific whaling and conservation, and close down the scientific whaling loophole. Member nations of the IWC are having informal meetings this month in London.
- Sea Shepherd - Mar 7, 2008 - Japanese Scramble to Spin Shooting Story
- Sea Shepherd - Mar 7, 2008 - Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson Survives Shooting Attempt in Antarctica
- Sea Shepherd - Mar 7, 2008 - Japanese Open Fire on Sea Shepherd Crew: Three Injured
- ICR - Mar 7, 2008 - Sea Shepherd escalating violent attacks
- Australian Foreign Minister - Mar 7, 2008 - Incident in the Southern Ocean, and Update
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan - Mar 7, 2008 - Weekly Media FAQ