Anti-whaling activists and members of the Japanese fleet clashed on Wednesday off the coast of Antarctica, with three activists reported injured.
Japan is undergoing its annual whale hunt in the Southern Ocean, with Sea Shepherd anti-whaling group tailing the fleet and trying to cut short the project.
Several Sea Shepherd small boats were trying to slow down a Japanese harpoon vessel which was “aggressively tailing the Steve Irwin”, the anti-whaling group’s flagship, according to Captain Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd’s leader.
An American crewmember was injured by a bamboo pole, while a South African cameraman and a French photographer suffered bruising from iron grappling hooks, according to a statement by Sea Shepherd.
Japan’s version is different, with the Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) announcing that the activists tried to cut ropes with knives and threw hooks at nets several times. “When the activists started using a knife to cut the…float fender rope and net, the Japanese vessel crew used bamboo poles as a measure to push the boat back,” the ICR said.
Sea Shepherd managed to stop Japan’s whaling campaign prematurely last year, after aggressively chasing the hunting fleet.
Japan claims it hunts whales for scientific reasons, avoiding thus an international ban on whaling that has been in place since 1986.