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 user 2008-01-17 at 11:26:00 am Views: 46
  • #19263

    Australia to act on whaling row
    Australia has said it will send a ship to collect two activists from a Japanese whaling vessel, in a bid to end a two-day Antarctic stand-off.
    Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said a ship monitoring the whalers would retrieve the men as soon as possible.The protesters, from radical anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd, boarded the Japanese ship on Tuesday.Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has urged restraint on all sides but said that he would like to see an end to whaling.The Japanese whalers said they want to return the activists to their ship, the Steve Irwin, but Sea Shepherd said conditions for the release are unacceptable.Mr Smith said that the patrol boat, the Oceanic Viking, would retrieve the men from the Yushin Maru 2 and transfer them to Sea Shepherd’s Steve Irwin vessel.

    Founded 1977 by Paul Watson, one of Greenpeace founders
    Self-proclaimed policing organisation aimed at protecting marine wildlife
    Committed to shutdown of all illegal whaling and sealing operations
    More confrontational than other environmental groups
    Has fleet of three ships plus several smaller boats
    Both the Japanese and Australian governments had agreed to the plan, he said.

    “We now need the full and complete co-operation of the two vessels, the two captains and the two men concerned.”The stand-off has ratcheted up tensions between Sea Shepherd and the whalers, who have clashed in the past.Australian Benjamin Potts and Briton Giles Lane boarded the whaler on Tuesday to deliver a protest.Sea Shepherd’s executive director, Kim McCoy, pointed out that the Japanese would not be whaling while the activists were on board.”But of course we are concerned for the safety of Giles and Pottsy, and we are definitely looking forward to a reunion,” she said.

    ‘Difficult operation’
    The whalers say the men tried to damage their propeller and threw acid before illegally boarding.They offered to return them if Sea Shepherd agreed not to confront the whaling vessel during the handover. Sea Shepherd said the men were roughed up when they boarded the vessel and ruled out any kind of conditional handover.As the deadlock continued, Sea Shepherd threatened a commando-style raid if the activists were not returned.A whaling official, meanwhile, said the activists could be taken to Japan if Sea Shepherd did not co-operate.

    Mr Smith gave no timescale for the manoeuvre.
    “We would like the transfer to be expedited as soon as possible but people should understand it is a difficult operation,” he said.The Oceanic Viking has been following the fleet to collect evidence for a possible legal challenge against the whalers in international courts.The fleet plans to kill about 900 minke whales and 50 fin whales by mid-April as part of what it describes as a scientific research programme.But other nations and environment groups say the research goals could be achieved using non-lethal methods and call the programme a front for commercial whaling.

    November 2007: Japanese fleet of six whaling ships sets sail
    31 December: MV Esperanza carrying Greenpeace campaigners enters Antarctic waters on trail of Japanese fleet. MV Steve Irwin carrying rival Sea Shepherd Conservation Group also heads towards whaling fleet
    9 January: Australian ship Oceanic Viking leaves Perth on whaling surveillance mission
    15 January: One Briton and one Australian held by Japanese after boarding Yushin Maru No 2 to deliver protest letter