A showdown on the high seas between environmental activists and whalers is making waves on the diplomatic front.
A protest boat belonging to the radical anti-whaling group The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society had its bow sliced off in a collision with a Japanese ship.
All six crew were rescued from the futuristic New-Zealand flagged Ady Gil. Japan has protested to Wellington over the incident.
Australia and New Zealand are investigating the clash in Antarctic waters. Tokyo says protesters are to blame.
“We think it was caused by the Sea Shepherd’s sudden approach to our ship,” said Akira Gunji, Japan’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. “Our research mission is a credible mission permitted by the international agreement.”
Amid talk of a ‘whale war,’ the activists have demanded protection from Australia’s navy. But, eager to avoid further conflict, Canberra is calling for calm.
“We are strenuously opposed to whaling,” said Australian Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard. We are also strenuously opposed to violence at sea. We believe in the right to protest, but we believe in the right to peaceful protest.”
Commercial whaling was banned under a treaty in 1986. But the Japanese continue to cull whales on the grounds that it is for research purposes.