Greenpeace blocks whalers from refueling in Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary

Press release - 22 January, 2008
On the eleventh day of successfully preventing the Japanese whaling fleet from killing whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary [1], activists from the Greenpeace ship Esperanza today blocked the fleet's factory ship Nisshin Maru from being refueled in Antarctic waters by the Panamanian-registered vessel Oriental Bluebird.

The activists, in a non-violent protest against the whaling fleet's activities in the Southern Ocean placed their inflatable boat between the factory ship and refueling vessel, preventing them from coming alongside to refuel.

In a statement radioed to the Oriental Bluebird, in Japanese, Spanish and English, Japan whales campaigner Sakyo Noda said, "The Oriental Bluebird must leave Antarctic waters immediately: your presence here is unwanted and a threat to the pristine Antarctic environment which has been declared a particularly sensitive sea area by the International Maritime Organisation and a 'natural reserve, devoted to peace and science' by the Environmental Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty [2]. A refueling operation within the Treaty area would be contrary to the spirit of the Antarctic Treaty. Japan, as a party to the Treaty, must comply with the letter and the spirit of the Treaty and not refuel within the Treaty area and comply with Annex IV on the Prevention of Environmental Pollution".

While Japan's government issues permits for six so-called "scientific whaling" ships to hunt in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, the Panamanian-flagged Oriental Bluebird has no such paperwork. Despite Japan's status as signatory to the Antarctic Treaty, it consistently fails to lodge required environmental impact assessments for the whaling fleet with the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat. The Panamian-registered Oriental Bluebird also lacks this documentation, designed to ensure protection of the environment.

"The Panamanian government, which takes a position in defence of whales, at the IWC and elsewhere is now in effect taking part in the whale hunt in the Antarctic whale sanctuary by allowing the Oriental Bluebird to illegally join the Japanese whaling fleet under the Panamanian flag," said Panamian activist Mir Rodriguez, from on board the Esperanza. "Panama must immediately either recall its flag from the Oriental Bluebird, or order it to stop supporting the whaling fleet."

VVPR info: Dave Walsh, Greenpeace International communications officer on board the Esperanza. Tel: +47 514 079 86 or +873 324 469 014Sara Holden, Greenpeace International Whales Project leader, on board the Esperanza. Tel: +47 514 079 86 or +873 324 469 014Junichi Sato, Greenpeace Japan Whales Project leader, Tokyo.Tel: +81-80-5088-2990 (GMT + 9)Photos are available from Michelle Thomas, + 81 903 593 6979 and video from Michael Nagasaka +81 806 558 4447, both in Tokyo (GMT +9)

Notes: 1. Japan's annual commercial whale hunt, which this season plans to kill 935 minke whales and 50 endangered fin whales, exploits a loophole in International Whaling Commission (IWC) regulations, was condemned by an IWC resolution in May 2007, and has been dismissed as useless by the IWC's own scientists.2. The Antarctic Treaty entered into force in 1961 and applies to the entire area South of 60 degrees. In 1998, the Treaty was supplemented by the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (called the Madrid Protocol), Article 2 of which reads that, "the Parties commit themselves to the comprehensive protection of the Antarctic environment and dependent and associated ecosystems …". The global community's recognition of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean as a global commons and areas of particular value are supplemented by MARPOL 73/78, the International Agreement that was negotiated to prevent pollution from ships at sea. MARPOL73/78 recognises Antarctica as a 'special area'. This is recognition of its particular vulnerability to any kind of pollution from seaborne traffic - both immediate and cumulative.Greenpeace is an independent campaigning organisation that uses non-violent creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems to force solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.