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Japanese whalers clash with activists in Antarctic

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TOKYO (AP) -- Anti-whaling activists threw rotten
butter and bottles containing an unidentified liquid
at a Japanese whaling vessel in the Antarctic Friday,
and the Japanese Coast Guard responded by throwing
sound-emitting "warning balls" back at the activists.

A leading protester claimed he was shot at but was
saved from injury by his bulletproof vest. Japanese
authorities denied firing any gun shots.

The high seas clash is the latest incident involving
the anti-whaling Sea Shepherd group and a fleet of
Japanese whalers now in Antarctic waters on their
annual hunt.

Activists aboard the Sea Shepherd ship threw several
bottles containing what is believed to be rotten
butter, more than 10 paper bags of white powder, as
well as several bottles containing an unidentified
white liquid at the Nisshin Maru, according to Hideki
Moronuki, chief of the Japanese Fishing Agency's
whaling section.

There were no injuries among the Nisshin Maru crew, he
said.

The Nisshin Maru radioed warnings to the Sea Shepherd
to desist. But the protesters did not, and the Nisshin
Maru, which has Coast Guard escorts on board,
responded by lobbing seven warning balls at the Sea
Shepherd, Moronuki said.

Paul Watson, the founder of Sea Shepherd, said the
clash was more serious.

"I felt an impact on my chest at one point," he told
the Australian Broadcasting Corp. "I didn't think too
much of it at the time. When I opened up my Mustang
survival suit, and I have a Kevlar bulletproof vest,
there was a bullet lodged in."

He said the impact left a bruise.

"If I wasn't wearing my vest, it would have been
pretty serious," he said.

Moronuki denied allegations that shots were fired.

"We did not fire any shots," Moronuki said. "We will,
again, urge the Netherlands to handle this issue
firmly," he said.

The activists' ship is licensed in the Netherlands.

It was impossible to verify either side's account of
the clash, which occurred in remote waters 3,000
kilometers (1,600 nautical miles) south-southwest of
Melbourne in the Antarctic Ocean, according to the
Coast Guard.

Sea Shepherd and other anti-whaling groups have
repeatedly harassed the Japanese whaling fleet to
interfere with the hunt. Japan kills about 1,000
whales every year under an internationally approved
research program.

Japan has accused the activists of terrorist tactics.
Sea Shepherd, meanwhile, has called on Japan to stop
its hunt.

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith issued two
statements on the incident Friday. Initially Smith
said Japan had informed Australian diplomats in Tokyo
that a crew member aboard a whaling vessel had fired
warning shots.

About 30 minutes later, Smith issued another statement
saying Japanese officials had subsequently advised
Australian diplomats that no gunshots had been fired,
but that three "warning balls" had been thrown. He
said warning balls were also known as "flash bangs."

"I absolutely condemn actions by crew members of any
vessel that cause injury -- or have the potential to
cause injury -- to anyone on the high seas," Smith
said.

"The Australian government once again calls on all
parties in the Southern Ocean -- including all protest
and whaling vessels, and their respective crews -- to
exercise restraint," he said.

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http://mdn.mainichi.jp/national/news/20080306p2a00m0na013000c.html
Japan Coast Guard investigates attack on Japanese
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http://mdn.mainichi.jp/national/news/20080304p2a00m0na016000c.html
Activists lightly injure whalers in Antarctica
http://mdn.mainichi.jp/national/news/20080304p2a00m0na002000c.html
Sea Shepherd activists attack Japanese whaling ship
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http://mdn.mainichi.jp/national/news/20080303p2a00m0na027000c.html
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http://mdn.mainichi.jp/national/news/20080225p2a00m0na004000c.html

�iMainichi Japan�j March 7, 2008




Japan Whaling Association Media Release


http://www.whaling.jp/english/release/080304.html

3 March 2008

Sea Shepherd stages terrorist attack again on Japanese
whale research fleet in the Antarctic

On March 3, at around 7:00 a.m. Japan time, the Sea
Shepherd Conservation Society's vessel, the Steve
Irwin, threw more than 100 bottles containing butyric
acid onto the Japanese Antarctic whale research
mothership Nisshin Maru, causing injuries to two
Japanese coast guard officers and two members of the
crew.

Mr. Keiichi Nakajima, president of the Japan Whaling
Association, accused the repeated terrorist actions by
Sea Shepherd in strong terms, saying "The researchers
and crew are onboard the fleet to engage in legal and
legitimate whale research on the high seas. Such
blatant violence against them should not be condoned."

"In order to secure safety of the crew on the research
fleet, the government of Australia, where the Steve
Irwin made the last port call, as well as the
government of the Netherlands, which is flag State of
the vessel, should take urgent and effective measures
to stop these violent actions by the terrorist group,"
Mr. Nakajima said.