Greenpeace Collides With Japanese Whaling Ship
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ A Greenpeace ship collided with a Japanese whaling vessel today off Antarctica in the most serious incident since the environmental group began a campaign a week ago to stop the whale hunt.
The Japanese ship, Nisshin Maru No. 3, sustained minor damage to its hand rails while the Greenpeace ship Gondwana was not damaged, said Greenpeace spokesman Peter Wilkinson. There were no injuries, he said.
Wilkinson, speaking from the Gondwana by radio telephone, told The Associated Press the 1,435-ton Greenpeace ship was in a ″perfectly legitimate position″ when the vessels collided.
In Sydney, Greenpeace’s coordinator for Antarctica Lyn Goldsworthy said: ″The Japanese ship used an iron grappling hook and attached it to the Gondwana to pull it out of the way. In the maneuvering that resulted the Japanese boat collided with Gondwana.″
Immediately after the collision, Wilkinson said, there was a flood of communications between the skippers of both ships. ″The Japanese told us to stay away and keep a distance of at least 300 yards,″ he said.
Japan has said it plans to take 300 whales this year as part of its scientific research to determine the size of whale stocks - despite a moratorium imposed by the International Whaling Commission.
Greenpeace contends most of the whale meat will end up in sushi restaurants in Japan.
In Tokyo, a whaling official said today that attempts by the environmental group to block Japanese ships from whaling in the Antarctic are endangering the lives of the crewmen and amount to terrorism.
″This is terrorism, the same as that opposed by the United States and other countries,″ said Takehiro Takayama of the Tokyo-based Japan Whaling Association. ″They have no concern about human life.″
Wilkinson said that after the collision, the Gondwana, carrying a crew of 19, launched inflatable dinghies into the icy waters in an effort to prevent the loading of harpooned whales onto the factory ship.
″They then turned water hoses on us,″ he said. Wilkinson, a veteran of Antarctic expeditions, said the Greenpeace vessel later chased several Japanese catcher ships whose crews were hunting for whales with explosive harpoons.
He estimated that Japanese harpooners already have taken between 50 and 55 Minke whales this season, about 10 of them since the Gondwana caught up with the whaling fleet a week ago.
Wilkinson said Greenpeace would continue harassing the Japanese whaling fleet for several more days. ″The whales don’t belong to the Japanese,″ he said. ″They belong to all of us.″