Update on Sea Shepherd Pursuit of Japanese Whaling Ship

| Fri Feb. 9, 2007 6:24 PM EST

Pirate excitement continues during the long days of the austral summer in the stormy Southern Ocean. Sea Shepherd crews aboard the Farley Mowat and the Robert Hunter continue in hot pursuit of the Japanese factory whaling ship the Nisshin Maru. For a while disaster loomed, as two crewmen went adrift in a Zodiak chase boat crippled after its confrontation with the Japanese whaler.

The Zodiac inflatable carrying 2nd Officer Karl Neilsen, 29, of Australia, and Engineer John Gravois, 24, of the United States, fell back from the other Sea Shepherd ships after its fiberglass hull cracked and filled with water. The damage was caused when the inflatable struck the steel hull of the whaling vessel Nisshin Maru in heavy seas. The two were quickly lost as heavy fog, snow, and sleet conditions suddenly occurred.

Captain Paul Watson immediately put the Farley Mowat into a search grid and then issued a maritime distress call and was joined by the Sea Shepherd ship Robert Hunter. Because it was an official distress, the Japanese factory vessel was obligated to participate and joined in the search. The search lasted eight hours.

The crewmembers were found by the Farley Mowat; both were unharmed and slightly cold. They were spotted by Farley Mowat Quartermaster Jaime Brown of New Zealand. They were both wearing wetsuits under survival suits. Karl and John were glad to be rescued and were not suffering any ill effects.

Captain Paul Watson called the Nisshin Maru to thank them for their assistance in the search and then said, "We're all back on schedule." At this point, the two Sea Shepherd ships resumed their pursuit of the Japanese whaling fleet as conditions continue to worsen, and winds and swells increase.

Yet fair maritime play was soon followed by foul, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society says, as the Nisshin Maru claimed injury of two crew from the butyric acid attack. Not possible, swabbies, says Captain Watson.

"My crew did not injure anyone," said Captain Watson. "This is just a spin designed to get public sympathy for men who are themselves vicious and ruthless killers of whales."

The Japanese claim that two whalers were injured when six liters of butyric acid were tossed onto the flensing deck of the Nisshin Maru.

According to Japan's Fisheries Agency spokesman, Hideki Moronuki, the two Japanese crewmen sustained injuries from the attack after one was hit by an empty container of acid and the other had acid squirted in his eye.

"Nice try, but a total fabrication," said Captain Watson. "The butyric acid is contained in one-liter glass bottles, all of which broke upon contact with the flensing deck of the Nisshin Maru. These bottles are sealed and the acid released after being broke, so it is impossible to be hit by an empty bottle. Secondly, no one squirted butyric acid into anyone's eye, and even if they did, this is a simple non-toxic butter acid, basically rancid butter. It will not cause eye injury. If we had tossed marshmallows on the deck of the Nisshin Maru, I'm sure the whalers would try to claim they were injured by them"

Every minute the whaling fleet runs from the Sea Shepherd ships is a minute less spent hunting whales. And, no, the whalers won't just hunt longer or raise prices dockside in response because there isn't any market in Japan for whale meat anymore. Greenpeace describes how that other pirate whaling nation, Iceland, can't figure out what to do with its tons of whale meat it hoped to sell to Japan.

In Iceland we have discovered an unprecedented amount of the whale meat from the recent hunt has not been used. Even whaling captain Sigurður Njálsson has said the meat is unfit for domestic consumption. 200 tonnes of the meat is in storage with a further 179 tonnes of entrails buried at a landfill site. But despite demand for whale meat plummeting, Japan and Iceland continue to hunt whales. An icy landfill site has been used to dump a vast proportion of the fin whale remains. Underneath the snowy floor around 179 tonnes of bones and entrails have been left to rot. Around 200 tonnes of meat and blubber - a vast proportion of the total yield - are sitting elsewhere in storage waiting to be tested for chemical contamination.

"Iceland claims their commercial whaling is sustainable – but how can they justify it when they are hunting endangered species, without domestic demand, and an over-supply of whale products in Japan?" said Greenpeace Nordic Oceans campaigner, Frode Pleym. "Both Iceland and Japan continue to whale in the face of domestic and international opposition, even though there is no scientific, economic or environmental justification for it," added Pleym.

The Icelandic meat and blubber in storage is intended for export to Japan, despite the fact that Japan already has 4962 tonnes of whale meat stockpiled (as of October 2006) according to the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Last year, 5500 tons of whale meat was supplied to the Japanese market. This includes whale meat which does not get eaten and is simply thrown away because it didn't sell. Even if we generously assume all of the meat was in fact eaten, that is only about 46g of whale meat per person , as opposed to 5.6kg of beef, 12.1kg of pork, and 10.5kg of chicken.

"It is no surprise that there are massive stockpiles of whale meat, when a recent survey shows that 95 percent of Japanese people never or have rarely eaten whale meat. It is time for all governments to make a commitment to the whales and not an outdated, unwanted and pointless industry," said Greenpeace Japan's campaign director, Junichi Sato.

Talk about outlaw nations, axes of evil. Add Norway to the list and you've got a Triumvirate of Terror that Ahab would be proud of.

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