Greenpeace Activists Block Refueling of Japanese Whaling Ship

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

After delaying the Nisshin Maru's refueling, Greenpeace inflatable boats returned to document boxes of whale meat, processed in the weeks before Greenpeace located the whaling fleet, being transferred to the Oriental Bluebird, and to continue protesting whaling fleet's refueling in waters protected by the Antarctic Treaty.

As the documentation was in progress, two of the whaling fleet's hunter vessels spent more than an hour performing close-quarter maneuvers around the small Greenpeace inflatables, to harass the activists, and push them away from the Nisshin Maru and Oriental Bluebird.

In a statement radioed to the Oriental Bluebird, Greenpeace 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 Organization and a 'natural reserve, devoted to peace and science' by the Environmental Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty. A refueling operation within the Treaty area would be contrary to the spirit of the Antarctic Treaty.  Japan, as a party to this Treaty, must comply with the letter and the spirit of the Treaty and not refuel within the Treaty area and comply with Treaty provisions 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. The Oriental Bluebird, while not an official part of the whaling fleet, refuels the hunting and processing vessels of the fleet and transports whale meat from the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. 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 Oriental Bluebird also lacks this documentation, designed to ensure protection of the environment, and Panama- a nation that supports whale conservation- is unlikely to issue one.

While this event was in progress, the crew of the Greenpeace ship Esperanza, which was close by, spotted the Australian government ship Oceanic Viking on the horizon. The Oceanic Viking's arrival stopped the Japanese harassment of the Greenpeace activists.

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