sea shepherd, japan whaling,
Tertius Pickard/AP
Sea Shepherd’s flagship, the Steve Irwin

Japan Wants Ports to Stop Antiwhaling Boats from Gassing Up

January 07, 2009 11:56 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The Japanese government says it will ask Australia, and potentially New Zealand and Chile, to forbid activists’ antiwhaling boats from refueling at their ports.

Foreign Ministry Will Ask Ports To Deny Antiwhaling Ships Fuel

The Japanese foreign ministry, comparing the conservation group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and the crew of the Sea Shepherd’s antiwhaling ship, the Steve Irwin, to pirates, announced that it would ask ports in Australia, and perhaps New Zealand and Chile, to deny access and fuel to antiwhaling boats.

Meanwhile, the Japanese briefly suspended their whale hunt after a crew member with the whaling fleet fell overboard. The Steve Irwin is not responsible for the lost Japanese crew member, but Japan has claimed the vessel “rammed” a Japanese ship, Al Jazeera reports. Sea Shepherd denies the attack, but says organization members did throw 25 bottles of rotten butter at Japanese whaling ships.

Japan has made several efforts to keep activists from thwarting its current whaling expedition. According to Reuters, the Japanese newspaper Sankei Shinbun released a report in December detailing the decision by Japan’s fisheries agency and justice ministry to arrest antiwhaling activists if they tried to board Japan’s whale-hunting ships in the Antarctic Ocean.

The decision was announced a few days after the Steve Irwin set sail from Brisbane. Japanese crew members planned to capture activists and turn them over to the Japanese coast guard, after which they would be charged with forcible obstruction of business under Japanese law.

Background: Sea Shepherd’s quest against Japanese whaling

Allegedly, the Sea Shepherd organization has already faced a cold welcome from Australia. In November, Sea Shepherd president Paul Watson reported that he was having trouble with immigration in Australia for the first time. He was detained at the Sydney airport for questioning, and told The Age that he believed the treatment was a “passive-aggressive approach” to keep the activist organization out of Australia.

That treatment coincided with a request from Japan at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference for Australia to tighten the monitoring of antiwhaling organizations.

A Sea Shepherd press release issued before the Steve Irwin put to sea said that the organization is determined to do whatever it can on the water to cut into Japanese profits from whaling, as it believes that is the only way to discourage continued whaling.

The Japanese claim that the trips are research-based, but the research involves killing the whales and Sea Shepherd asserts that the trips are a guise for a robust whaling industry.

The Japanese whaling industry is continually confronted with opposition from environmental groups. In mid-November, Greenpeace launched a ship also intended to challenge Japanese whaling boats in the Antarctic.

In March 2008, as a response to Sea Shepherd’s activities, Japan protested Australia’s plan to kill 400 kangaroos in order to protect grasslands, accusing the country of hypocrisy.

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