Greenpeace Activists Block Refueling of Japanese Whaling Fleet’s Factory Ship in Whale Sanctuary

July 6, 2010

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.

VVPR info: Photo and video available upon request.

Notes: For more information, contact Steve Smith, steve.smith@wdc.greenpeace.org

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