Thursday, January 17, 2008

Anti-Whaling Activists from Sea Shepherd Conservation Group Board Japanese Whaling Ship to Bring Awareness to it’s Illegal Whaling

Very brave act and it seems to have worked. Awareness has been raised as to the continual illegal whaling by Japan.

As stated below,

“Japan sent ships to Antarctica in November to kill about 1,000 whales under a program that skirts an international moratorium on whaling because Tokyo says the kill is for scientific purposes. The program is widely condemned as a front for commercial whaling.”

For more about the Sea Shepherd conservation group see http://www.seashepherd.org/

Article:

Anti-whalers seek release of activists

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080116/
ap_on_re_as/antarctica_whaling_5

By HIROKO TABUCHI, Associated Press Writer
Wed Jan 16, 5:48 AM ET



TOKYO - Japan's whaling fleet in the Antarctic halted its operations Wednesday and scrambled to arrange the turnover of two activists who boarded one of its harpoon ships after a tense, high-seas chase, accusing the Sea Shepherd conservation group of piracy.

The captain of the activists' ship, meanwhile, told The Associated Press the two were "hostages" and vowed to continue to harass the fleet.

"We will only accept an unconditional release," Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson told the AP by satellite phone from the anti-whaling ship Steve Irwin. He said he wanted action immediately.

"We're going to chase them until they stop their hunt," Watson said. "As long as we're chasing them, they're not killing any whales."

The Japanese Fisheries Agency said it told the anti-whaling group to pick up the two activists, who boarded a harpoon ship on Tuesday to deliver a protest letter. The agency said its only demand was that the Sea Shepherd promise not to mount any attacks during the rendezvous.

Watson, however, said Japan was also demanding the group end its harassment of the whaling fleet as a condition of securing the pair's freedom.

Glenn Inwood, a spokesman for Japan's Institute for Cetacean Research, which organizes the hunt, accused Sea Shepherd of stalling to get publicity.

"It is completely illegal to board anyone's vessel ... on the high seas," he said. "So this can be seen as nothing more than an act of piracy by the Sea Shepherd group."

Australia criticized both sides for behaving in a potentially dangerous way in a region that is thousands of miles from the nearest help in case of an emergency.

Australian Benjamin Potts, 28, and Briton Giles Lane, 35, boarded the Yushin Maru No. 2 after chasing it in a rubber boat, and were tied up on deck while other Sea Shepherd activists threw bottles of acid onto the deck, Japanese officials said.

Watson said the activists wanted to deliver a letter demanding an end to the whale hunt and then leave, but were roughed up and held against their will.

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said Australian officials had twice contacted their Japanese counterparts to press for the release of the two activists, and were assured this would happen.

He urged both sides to work together to urgently bring about the "safe and speedy" return of the men to the Steve Irwin.

"From the very first day, I urged all parties in this matter to exercise restraint," Smith told ABC radio, referring to previously known plans for the environmentalists to chase the whalers. "It's quite clearly the case that restraint hasn't occurred here."

He warned later at a news conference: "We're dealing with the great distance of the Southern Ocean. The capacity for adverse incidents is high, and the capacity for rescue or assistance is low."

In Tokyo, Japanese Fisheries Agency official Takahide Naruko told reporters the whalers decided to release the activists because they had done no damage to the ship, but Sea Shepherd had not responded to efforts to arrange the handover.

Whaling has been halted until the two are handed over, Naruko said.

Hideki Moronuki, a spokesman for the Japanese Fisheries Agency's whaling section, said it sent safety instructions for the hand-over, but attached no further conditions in terms of Sea Shepherd's activities.

But Watson said Japan was demanding Sea Shepherd stop harassing, filming or photographing the whalers, and that the transfer of the pair be conducted by small boat, 10 nautical miles from the Yushin Maru.

"I find it very strange that people who are holding hostages are calling us the pirates," Watson said.

The event was a rapid escalation of the annual contest between the fleet that carries out Japan's controversial whale hunt in the ocean at the bottom of the world and the environmental groups that try to stop them.

Smith said Australian Federal Police were evaluating whether any laws had been broken.

Naruko said whalers briefly tied up the two activists near the bridge of the Yushin Maru, and later moved them to a cabin.

Japan sent ships to Antarctica in November to kill about 1,000 whales under a program that skirts an international moratorium on whaling because Tokyo says the kill is for scientific purposes. The program is widely condemned as a front for commercial whaling.

Under intense international pressure, Japan abandoned its plans to include 50 humpback whales in this season's hunt, which is due to run until April.

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