Heal Our Planet Earth

Japanese whaling ship collides with activists' vessel

Japan Times - Feb. 13, 2007

SYDNEY (Kyodo) A Japanese whaling ship and a vessel of an environmental group collided in the Antarctic Ocean off New Zealand on Monday, the Japanese Fisheries Agency and the conservation group said.

The accident caused damage to both the 860.25-ton whaler Kaiko Maru operated by the Institute of Cetacean Research and the Robert Hunter of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, the agency and the environmental group separately said.

Sea Shepherd said the Robert Hunter was left with a 30-cm gash in its hull after the collision in the late afternoon.

Speaking from aboard the ship, Captain Alex Cornelissen claimed the vessel sustained the damage after the Kaiko Maru struck its hull. "We were holding our course and the Kaiko Maru turned and struck our port side. We couldn't really avoid the crash," Cornelissen said.

The Robert Hunter and the Sea Shepherd flagship Farley Mowat had chased the Japanese vessel into a patch of ice after seeing the ship following a pod of whales, he said.

However, the Japanese government denied that the Kaiko Maru, which is engaged in what Japan calls research whaling, had struck the Robert Hunter, claiming it was the other way around.

The Japanese vessel made a distress call after the Robert Hunter struck the ship in what amounted to a "pirate attack," a spokesman of the Fisheries Agency said.

The incident follows a clash Friday in which two Sea Shepherd ships caught up with the Japanese fleet after five weeks of playing cat and mouse in the icy Ross Sea.

The protesters threw a foul-smelling acid aboard the Nisshin Maru, the mother ship of the Japanese whaling fleet, inflicting minor injuries to two of its crew members, the agency said.

In the earlier clash, two Sea Shepherd activists went missing during the operation in an inflatable boat. They were found seven hours later, the group said.

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