A Japanese whaling ship and
an anti-whaling protest boat collided in the remote, icy seas off Antarctica,
with both sides on Monday blaming each other for the crash.
No one was injured, though
both ships received minor damage in Sunday's collision – the latest drama in an
annual battle between the conservationists and the whalers.
Sea Shepherd, which each
year tries to harass the whaling fleet into ending its hunt, said they were the
victims of a lengthy attack by the whalers.
The protest group said the
whaling vessels spent hours repeatedly dragging steel cables across the bows of
the Sea Shepherd's ships in a bid to damage the rudders and propellers.
Japan's Yushin Maru No. 3
then struck Sea Shepherd's Bob Barker when it crossed too closely in front of
the protest ship, damaging its bow and anchor, said Peter Hammarstedt, captain
of the Bob Barker.
"It was an unprovoked
attack and they did so ruthlessly," Hammarstedt told The Associated Press
by satellite phone from the Bob Barker, named after the famous "The Price
is Right" game show host who donated millions of dollars to the group.
Japan, meanwhile, says Sea
Shepherd is to blame. The Tokyo-based Institute of Cetacean Research, which
sponsors the annual whale hunt, said in a statement that protesters on board
two inflatable boats from the Bob Barker dropped ropes in front of the bow of
the Yushin Maru, which became entangled in the ship's propeller.
The Bob Barker then drew
too close to the Yushin Maru No. 3, colliding with its stern and damaging the
whaling ship's hull and railing, the institute said.
"Our research whaling
is a legitimate activity allowed under the international treaty. Sea Shepherd's
violent sabotage against it, which is threatening the lives of the Japanese
crew-members and causing damage to our ships and equipment, cannot be
tolerated," Japan's Fisheries Agency said in a statement.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt on Monday ordered an investigation into the
Japan, which plans to kill
about 1000 whales this year, is allowed to hunt the animals for scientific
purposes under an exception to a 1986 ban on whaling.
Critics say the programme is
a cover for commercial whaling, because whale meat not used for study is sold
Last year, Australia went
to the United Nations' highest court in a bid to outlaw Japan's annual whale
hunt. Japan says the hunt is legal and produces valuable scientific data. The
International Court of Justice is expected to issue its decision later this
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