Japanese Whaling Ship rams Greenpeace vessel in Southern Whale Sanctuary

8.01.2006

Artic Sunrise 1
Artic Sunrise 2
Japanese Whaling Ship graffitied

After three days of obstructing the whale hunt by placing inflatable zodiacs between whales and the harpoon, the Nisshin Maru rammed the Greenpeace ship, Arctic Sunrise. The whalers are counter claiming their ship was rammed by Greenpeace. The collision ocurred in the Australian Antarctic Territory in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. The Nisshin Maru has continued north at full speed, with the three conservationists ships in pursuit.

Both sides have said that no one was hurt in the collision, although some damage was sustained above deck and to a mast on the Arctic Sunrise.

According to an ABC report, Shane Rattenbury from Greenpeace said that the Arctic Sunrise had been observing their activists onboard inflatable zodiacs as they painted the words "whale meat from sanctuary" on the side of the Japanese supply vessel, Oriental Bluebird, shortly before the collission occurred. According to Mr Rattenbury, it appeared to be a deliberate move by the Japanese Factory ship.

"At the time we were over a kilometre from the Nisshin Maru - it had been tied up with another vessel making transfers, it then pulled away, it had to come around the vessel that it had been transferring from and had to head directly toward the Arctic Sunrise," he said. "There were no other vessels in the area and there was no reason to head towards us, the Arctic Sunrise was virtually stopped at the time."

"There is no way to describe this as anything but a deliberate ramming which placed the safety of our ship and the lives of our crew in severe danger." said Rattenbury. He said that the Nisshin Maru is more than twice as long and six times heavier than the Arctic Sunrise. The impact has left the Sunrise "battered and bruised" but with no crew members were injured.

A statement on the Institute of Cetacean Research website by Director-General Hiroshi Hatanaka said the Arctic Sunrise’s bow hit the side of the Nisshin-Maru twice. "The captain of the Nisshin-Maru confirmed to ICR today that Greenpeace had rammed our vessel, which has sustained some damage. Luckily, no crewmembers were injured."

Dr Hatanaka said the collision happened when the Nisshin-Maru was approaching the refueling ship, the Oriental Bluebird. He called for "Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd should stop at once their dangerous and criminal actions."

Statements by both parties conflict as to when the collision occurred and who caused the collision, but the video of the incident on the Greenpeace site clearly shows the Nisshin Maru cuting across the path of the Arctic Sunrise in breach of the collision avoidance rules at sea.

On the Greenpeace Ocean Defenders Blog, Shane said:

"One minute the Nisshin Maru was tied up with the re-supply vessel, offloading whale meat, the next it was heading straight for us. I was on the phone at the time, when suddenly Arne (the captain) said, "they are coming straight at us". I looked around and saw the Nisshin Maru bearing down. It was very surreal, their ship is so large compared to ours. Then it looked like we were going to miss. I went back to the phone interview I was doing, only to be distracted again by Arne sounding the ships horn. The next part was like it was in slow motion, the Nisshin Maru coming towards us, their crew hanging over the rails watching, until suddenly there was a loud bang, and our little ship shook. Then a second bang, as their stern swung around and caught us again. And then the strangest part - as their stern slid past, I looked up and saw that a man was standing at one of their water cannons, and as he passed by, he turned the water cannon straight at us, pouring water at the bridge of our ship."

"So was it deliberate? I have no doubt. The Nisshin Maru turned a big circle to come around to where we were. When they started, the re-supply vessel was between us and them - they had to come around it to get to us. Why else would you make such a manoeuvre? And the guy with the water cannon - surely that was premeditated, and it was certainly an act of aggression."

Arne, the Captain of the Arctic Sunrise, claimed the Nisshin Maru Captain was solely responsible for the collision and is in breach of the collision avoidance rules at sea. "The ship that has the other one on the starboard side has to give way. The Arctic Sunrise was on the starboard side of the Nisshan Maru. Therefore I maintained my course and speed."

The day was also marked by the arrival on the scene of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society vessel, the Farley Mowat.

The previous two days have been marked by Greenpeace activists obstructing the whale hunt by placing their zodiacs between the whales and the harpoon. Greenpeace have fitted fire hoses to their zodiacs to spray a shield of seawater to obstruct the sights of the harpooner.

=== Mercy Shot ===

On Friday January 6, Greenpeace were put in the position of assisting the mercy killing of a whale. The whale had been hit and was mortally wounded, but the harpoon had not set. Blood was gushing out of the whale. The Greenpeace activists in their Zodiacs fell to the back of the Yushin Maru No. 2, well out of its way - hoping the whalers would end the animal's suffering.

A second harpoon shot missed, with the whale somehow escaping the pursuit. A second whaling hunter ship, the Kyo Maru, joined the first in the search as well as the Greenpeace ships and helicopter. According to Andrew on board the Esperanza "For a brief twisted period we found ourselves on the same side, both Greenpeace and whalers working together - maybe for different reasons, but I would like to think that they also regretted the animal's pain."

The Captain of the Esperanza finally located the whale and "called the whalers on the radio to tell them (in no uncertain terms) where to find it, and to finish it." wrote Andrew.

The third harpoon set, and then a crewman aboard the whaler used a rifle to end the whales misery. The drama took nearly 30 minutes to play out.

=== Japanese Whalers cry foul over Sea Shepherd activists ===

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society vessel, the Farley Mowat, caught up with the whaling fleet and the Japanese Factory ship, the Nisshin Maru on the 8 December, 36 nautical miles inside the Australian Antarctic Territory. The Nisshin Maru had just detached from the supply ship Oriental Bluebird, turned a full 360 degrees and rammed the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise. Three inflatables and a helicopter had been despatched from the Farley Mowat at some distance away. According to a news release from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, when the Farley Mowat was less than one mile from the Japanese factory ship, the whalers began to run at full speed northward.

Greenpeace Activists had succeeded in painting on the side of the Oriental Bluebird the words "whale meat from sanctuary", and on the stern the words "whale meat".

As the Nisshin Maru left the scene of the collision with the Greenpeace ship, Arctic Sunrise, crew members of the Sea Shepherd in inflatables threw a fouling line as the Nisshin Maru whaling factory ship sped past, in the hope of entangling the ships propellor.

According to the Sea Shepherd website, the Farley Mowat is chasing the Nisshin Maru but but cannot match the speed of the factory ship. While the Nisshin Maru is under way at speed no whales can be transferred from the harpoon vessels. Dead whales need to be transferred to the factory ship within 32 hours. The two Greenpeace ships are also shadowing the factory ship. Thus the whale hunt continues to be disrupted.

Captain Paul Watson reported from onboard the Farley Mowat, chasing the Nisshin Maru: "They have been running all day and they have not been whaling. The whalers are now 17 miles outside of the Australia Antarctic Territory. We ordered them to leave, and they left."

According to Sea Shepherd the factory ship appeared to be off-loading whale meat to the Panamanian registered supply ship, Oriental Bluebird. Paul Watson said : "There are sushi bars in Tokyo in desperate need of these 'research materials'. It appears they can't wait for the whaling fleet to return in March."

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society says the Japanese whaling operation is in violation of many international laws and regulations, including:

* Violating the Southern Ocean Sanctuary.
* They are violating the International Whaling Commission (IWC) moratorium on commercial whaling.
* They are targeting endangered fin and humpback whales that are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. (CITES).
* The Japanese are also in violation of the Australian laws protecting the Australian Antarctic Territorial waters.
* They are violating the IWC moratorium on the use of factory ships to process any protected stock which includes the whales they are hunting – minke and fin whales.

See Also:

* Greenpeace Ocean Defenders Blog
http://weblog.greenpeace.org/oceandefenders/
* Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
http://www.seashepherd.org/index.html
* Institute of Cetacean Research website
http://www.icrwhale.org/eng-index.htm

Sources:

1. Japanese whaling ship collides with Greenpeace boat - ABC, January 8, 2006. 5:19pm
http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200601/s1543643.htm

2. Whalers ram Greenpeace ship (Video) Statement from Greenpeace, January 8, 2006
http://oceans.greenpeace.org/en/the-expedition/news/whalers-ram-ship-111

3. Their desperate Measures by Shane aboard the Arctic Sunrise, January 8, 2006
http://weblog.greenpeace.org/oceandefenders/archive/2006/01/their_desper...

4. Arctic Sunrise rammed by whaler's factory ship by Andrew, onboard the Esperanza, January 8, 2006
http://weblog.greenpeace.org/oceandefenders/archive/2006/01/arctic_sunri...

5. Mercy Shot - by Andrew, onboard the Esperanza, January 6, 2006
http://weblog.greenpeace.org/oceandefenders/archive/2006/01/mercy_shot.html

6. Institute of Cetacean Research statement (PDF), January 8, 2006
http://www.icrwhale.org/eng/060108Release.pdf

7. Sea Shepherd scares off Japanese Whaling Fleet - News release January 8, 2006
http://www.world-wire.com/news/0107060001.html

8. No Whales Will Be Killed While the Chase is On - News Release from Sea Shepherd, January 8, 2006
http://www.seashepherd.org/news/media_060107_2.html