Skip to main content

Anti-whaling activists say they were attacked by Japanese ships

By Jethro Mullen and Mark Morgenstein, CNN
February 26, 2013 -- Updated 0420 GMT (1220 HKT)
In these photos provided by Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research, SS activists onboard the inflatable boat "Gemini" sent from the Bob Barker deploy a wire-entwined rope near the Yushin Maru vessel, aiming to entangle its rudder and propeller, on Monday, February 25. In these photos provided by Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research, SS activists onboard the inflatable boat "Gemini" sent from the Bob Barker deploy a wire-entwined rope near the Yushin Maru vessel, aiming to entangle its rudder and propeller, on Monday, February 25.
HIDE CAPTION
Japan whaling clashes
Japan whaling clashes
Japan whaling clashes
Japan whaling clashes
Japan whaling clashes
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Australia says Japan needs to stop aggressive whaling "once and for all"
  • NEW: Australia and Japan are threatening to take the issue to court
  • NEW: Each side claims the others' ships rammed theirs
  • Environmental groups face off each year with Japan's whaling vessels

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Japan and Australia are exchanging harsh words and threats of legal action in a dispute over a whaling incident near Antarctica.

Environment Minister Tony Burke is threatening to take Japan to international court, claiming a Japanese whaling fleet attacked Australian ships on Wednesday. But in the Japanese version of what happened, it's the Australians who deserve court sanctions.

"Japan needs to stop this once and for all," Burke told Australia's Seven Network on Thursday.

"What we are watching and what we've been seeing Japan do in that Southern Ocean year on year now is just disgusting. No other way of describing it. Now, as a government we don't settle it in the car park, we settle in the court," he said.

2011: War over whaling in Japan

"There's been the most outrageous attack on the Sea Shepherd Australia ships," said Bob Brown, a member of the board of directors of Sea Shepherd Australia, describing it as the "worst incident" the anti-whaling group had experienced since one of its vessels sank two years ago.

In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Brown said that a large Japanese factory ship, the Nisshin Maru, had repeatedly rammed Sea Shepherd ships in the Southern Ocean near Antarctica where it was trying to refuel and that a Japanese government escort vessel had directed water cannon and lobbed concussion grenades at the activists.

He claimed the Japanese ships had intruded into Australian territorial waters and breached international and Australian law.

"I'm very concerned and alarmed that Japan has decided to become pirates in our territorial waters," he said. "It's time the Australian government acted."

Burke told Seven Network it's not that simple.

"In terms of sending in the Navy, you've got to make sure you don't have a response here that blows up a whole lot of other things. The reason -- even though they're our territorial waters -- we don't assert that. And that's part of the whole Antarctic Treaty System, which prevents mining in Antarctica. You don't want to blow up that system," he explained.

"I've got to say with that court case we are now getting very close. It has been too long. We are now getting very close on that. But I'm not going to take an action that blows up the Antarctic Treaty System either," Burke said. "What we will do, though, is take the action that we've taken already with the International Court of Justice to [expose] that this gimmick that they've got -- claiming that's its scientific whaling, when everybody knows that's a con."

Japan annually hunts whales despite a worldwide moratorium, utilizing a loophole in the law that allows for killing the mammals for scientific research. Whale meat is commonly available for consumption in Japan.

Each year, environmental groups such as Sea Shepherd face off with Japan's hunters in a high seas drama that has led to collisions of ships, the detaining of activists and smoke bombs fired back and forth between the groups.

The Japan Fisheries Agency's Institute of Cetacean Research disputed the Australian claims in a statement.

The ICR says three Sea Shepherd ships sailed recklessly and abnormally close to the Nisshin Maru and its fueling ship during a refueling operation on Wednesday.

Although the Nisshin Maru tried to ward off the Australian ships with loud speakers and water cannons, the Sea Shepherd ships' "extreme dangerous" acts halted the refueling operation, the ICR said. During the process, the three Australian ships bumped the Nisshin Maru at least four times, causing some damage, the ICR said.

The Japanese agency said it's considering filing a third claim in a U.S. court for Sea Shepherd's "insults against the court authority." According to ICR, Sea Shepherd has been banned from threatening whaling ships' operations or sailing within 500 yards of whaling ships.

CNN's Yoko Wakatsuki in Tokyo contributed to this report. CNN's Jethro Mullen co-wrote this report from Hong Kong and Mark Morgenstein co-wrote this report from Atlanta.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 1410 GMT (2210 HKT)
In South Korea, volunteer divers are risking their lives to rescue victims of the sunken ferry.
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
Park Jee Young, 22, helped passengers escape as the Sewol ferry sank -- giving out life jackets while refusing to wear one herself.
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1643 GMT (0043 HKT)
What did outgoing manager David Moyes get wrong in his six months with English Premier League football team Manchester United?
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 2125 GMT (0525 HKT)
In honor of Shakespeare's birthday, here are 15 of the world's most amazing theaters.
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
CNN exclusive: Australian officials are hammering out a new agreement for widening the Flight 370 search area.
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1228 GMT (2028 HKT)
Malaysian officials sent to brief Chinese families are armed with little to no information.
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1545 GMT (2345 HKT)
When a team of Indian surgeons opened up the stomach of a 63-year-old man, they had no idea they'd extract a fortune.
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 0701 GMT (1501 HKT)
Do these photos CNN of gun-toting men wearing green uniforms prove Russian forces are in eastern Ukraine?
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 1520 GMT (2320 HKT)
If the Duchess wears it, then your fashion career is sorted for life.
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 0130 GMT (0930 HKT)
Tucked away near the border with Cameroon, this poor corner of Nigeria is no stranger to such brazen, violent acts.
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1234 GMT (2034 HKT)
An infant mountain Gorilla sits in the dense jungle canopy on the edge of Uganda's Bwindi National Park in this 29, January 2007 photo. Bwindi, or the 'Impenetrable Forest' as it is known to many tourists is home to the majority of Uganda's rare and endangered mountain gorilla population where plans are underway to habituate two more gorilla family groups to counter growing demand from a flourishing gorilla trek tourism business, a major source of income for the Uganda tourism Authority. AFP PHOTO / STUART PRICE. (Photo credit should read STUART PRICE/AFP/Getty Images)
Tthe constant threat of poaching, deforestation and human diseases means the world's mountain gorillas could be completely wiped out.
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 1333 GMT (2133 HKT)
Prince George takes a special interest in an Australian animal on a zoo trip.
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 0202 GMT (1002 HKT)
How could a teenage stowaway survive hours in a jet's sub-zero wheel well at 38,000 feet?
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 1340 GMT (2140 HKT)
Browse through images you don't always see on news reports from CNN teams around the world.
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 1058 GMT (1858 HKT)
See what life is like for superyacht stewardesses-in-training. One thing's for certain -- they can never say "no."
April 22, 2014 -- Updated 0257 GMT (1057 HKT)
Home of Bruce Lee, divine dim sum, lofty buildings, loftier real estate prices and easy access to the great outdoors.
ADVERTISEMENT