Anti-whalers"taken hostage" on
Japanese whaling ship
Published January 15, 2008 07:59 AM
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By Michael Perry
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Two anti-whaling activists were "taken hostage"
and tied to a radar mast of a Japanese whaling vessel in the
Southern Ocean on Tuesday, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
Australian Benjamin Potts and Briton Giles Lane, from the Sea
Shepherd vessel Steve Irwin, had boarded the Japanese whaling ship
Yashin Maru No. 2 to hand the captain a letter advising that the
crew was "illegally killing whales," said the militant
"They were successful in delivering the message, but then they
were not allowed to leave and return back to our vessel," Sea
Shepherd spokeswoman Christine Vasic told local media.
"The Yushin Maru is now still moving ahead away from us and not
responding to radio contact," she said.
Japan's Institute for Cetacean Research confirmed that the two men
had been detained and were being held in a locked room on the
whaling ship, but denied they were tied up.
"Any accusations that we have tied them up or assaulted them are
completely untrue," the Institute's director-general, Minoru
Morimoto, said in a statement posted on its Web site.
"It is illegal to board another country's vessels on the high seas.
As a result, at this stage, they are being held in custody while
decisions are made on their future," he said.
"The two boarded the Yushin Maru No. 2 after they made attempts to
entangle the screw of the vessel using ropes and throwing bottles
of acid onto the decks."
The Sea Shepherd group called on Australia and Britain to demand
the immediate release of the two crew members.
The anti-whaling group had been searching for the Japanese whaling
fleet in Antarctic waters and said it had discovered five whaling
ships on Tuesday and started pursuing them.
"We will hound these poachers for as long as we can and when we
catch up with them we will disable their equipment and do
everything physically possible short of inflicting injury on the
crew in order to stop their illegal activities," Steve Irwin
captain Paul Watson said in a statement.
Watson last year threatened to ram the Japanese flagship and
collided with a whale hunter.
Environmental group Greenpeace, which has distanced itself from
Sea Shepherd's more confrontational tactics, said on Monday it had
chased the flagship of Japan's whaling fleet from hunting grounds
An Australian fisheries ship is searching for the fleet to gather
photographic evidence for an international court case aimed at
stopping Japan's annual "scientific" hunt.
In a purely symbolic act, but one that could inflame bilateral
ties, an Australian court ruled on Tuesday that a Japanese whaling
company broke environment laws by killing whales in Australia's
But the Federal Court of Australia has no jurisdiction outside
Australia and the Japanese government denied the whalers were
doing anything illegal.
"According to the International Whaling Commission, what the
Japanese whaling fleet is doing in the South Pacific and Antarctic
region is legal," said Tomohiko Taniguchi, a spokesman at Japan's
Foreign Ministry. An official at Japan's Fisheries Ministry
declined to comment.
Japan plans to hunt almost 1,000 minke and fin whales for research
over the Antarctic summer, but has abandoned the cull of 50
humpback whales after international condemnation and a formal
diplomatic protest by 31 nations.
Humane Society International (HSI) launched legal action against
Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha Ltd in 2004, seeking a federal court
injunction against harvesting in the Australian Whale Sanctuary.
Federal court Judge Jim Allsop ruled on Tuesday the whaler had "killed,
injured, taken and interfered with Antarctic minke whales and fin
whales and injured, taken and interfered with humpback whales in
the Australian Whale Sanctuary in contravention of...the
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act."
But the judge conceded there was little chance his ruling could be
Japan has long resisted pressure to stop scientific whaling,
insisting whaling is a cherished cultural tradition. Its fleet has
killed 7,000 Antarctic minkes over the past 20 years.
(Additional reporting by Isabel Reynolds in Tokyo; Editing by