The fight to protect endangered whales in the Antarctic reached a boiling point over the weekend when high-seas activists from the group Sea Shepherd were bombarded by Japanese whalers as they tried to thwart the fleet from hauling in a dead whale.
"We blocked it for nine attempts but then their harpoon ship attempted to try and come across and hit us so we ducked away and that's when they were able to make the transfer of that whale," Sea Shepherd Australia's Jeff Hansen said.
As the whalers are illegally operating in Australian waters, the group urged Australian authorities to intervene—but to no avail.
"The Japanese whalers are slaughtering protected, threatened, and endangered species of whales within this sanctuary in violation of a global moratorium on commercial whaling," founder and president of Sea Shepherd Paul Watson writes at the Guardian today. "They are also in contempt of an Australian federal court ruling from 2008 that specifically forbade them from killing whales in the waters of the Australian Antarctic territory."
"Is this Australian territory or not? If it is, then come down and exert some kind of authority," Hansen said.
Since the confrontation, Sea Shepherd boats have successfully blockaded further catches and resume their showdown with the Japanese whaling fleet. The group also maintains that the whaling fleet has been spilling oil into the pristine waters.
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Three days ago the Japanese harpoon vessel Yushin Maru #2 killed a minke whale within the Australian Antarctic Territory, only 50 miles from the Australian Davis Research base on the Antarctic coast.
This is the first time since 2009 that they have killed a whale in front of us and they did so deliberately to test our resolve. [...]
The Sea Shepherd crews are committed to blocking the illegal whaling operations, and it appears the whalers are under orders to kill as many whales as possible. This is gearing up for a major showdown, and the challenge for the Sea Shepherd volunteers is to save as many whales as possible while ensuring that no one is injured by an increasingly hostile and aggressive crew of whalers, made all the more dangerous by the extreme remoteness and intense weather and sea conditions.
The group, who have now campaigned against Japanese whalers in the Antarctic for nine years, originally set out this year with Operation Zero Tolerance to "send the whalers home without them killing a single whale." They will now forge on to prevent as many whale deaths as possible—hoping to drive the industry into financial collapse.