Japan’s Illegal Whalers Attack Peaceful Greenpeace Demonstrators in Southern Ocean Confrontation

July 6, 2010

The Japanese whaling vessel Nisshin-maru today rammed the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise while making an illegal overtaking maneuver in the remote Southern Ocean around Antarctica. While no one was injured by the ramming, it signals an escalation in the aggressive tactics being used by the whalers in their pursuit of illegal bounty. Yesterday the Japanese crew of the Nisshin-maru turned six fire hoses on the Greenpeace helicopter in flight. Had the high- powered water hit the spinning rotors, the helicopter could have been knocked from the sky.

“This is another example of the Japanese whaling fleet’s complete defiance of international law,” said John Bowler, Greenpeace campaigner on board the  Arctic Sunrise. “Not only is Japan disregarding the UN Law of the Sea by hunting whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, but now its whalers have violated maritime law and endangered lives. As we enter the new millennium, nations that trample international law in these ways should be met with a storm of diplomatic pressure to cease and desist.”

Greenpeace is calling on national governments to demand that the Japanese Government cancel its illegal Antarctic whaling program. While the governments of Great Britain, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand have made diplomatic moves to pressure Japan to abandon its whaling program, more action is needed to enforce the moratorium on whaling. Following today’s incident, Greenpeace is sending a letter of protest to the Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR), the Japanese organization responsible for whaling in the Southern Ocean.

The Southern Ocean around Antarctica was formally declared a whale sanctuary in 1994 by the International Whaling Commission (IWC), making the region off limits to commercial whaling. This year Japan intends to hunt 440 minke whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary (50 more than last year), as part of its so-called “scientific research” program. However the whale meat produced by the “research” is sold on the open market in Japan. By continuing to whale in defiance of continued IWC requests to stop hunting, Japan is in breach of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). In 1982, 144 nations of the world-including Japan-agreed to respect UNCLOS.

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