Japanese whalers and environmentalist group Sea Shepherd on Monday exchanged accusations regarding a potentially dangerous attack in the Southern Ocean.
Sea Shepherd claims that their vessel, Bob Barker, was attacked by two Japanese harpoon ships on Sunday night, using steel cables in an attempt to jam its propellers and rudders from close range in violation of laws aimed at preventing collisions at sea.
“They launched their onslaught under the cover of darkness,” said Bob Barker captain Peter Hammarstedt.
“We maintain unwavering dedication in the face of an increasingly vicious onslaught from the poachers, the last line of defence standing between these criminals and the protected whales they are targeting to kill,” Hammarstedt said.
In return, officials in Tokyo said it was their ships that were attacked.
Hammarstedt said he radioed the Japanese ships to inform them that his operations were “completely lawful and that any aggressive action on their part would be reported to the Australian government and New Zealand Search and Rescue”.
“I have nine Australians and one New Zealander on board as part of my brave crew who have endured this ruthless assault,” he said.
“So where are these governments now, when their citizens… are under attack from these poachers?” he asked.
In Tokyo, a Japanese fisheries agency official said the campaigners had been the aggressors.
“The two Japanese ships were faced with a dangerous act by Sea Shepherd on Sunday,” he said without revealing his identity.
“The whaling operation is going on. We were not responsible. Sea Shepherd members should be held responsible,” he added.