One of Sea Shepherd's vessels has been badly damaged by a wave in bad weather conditions off the coast of Antarctica. The conservationist group had been trying to interfere with the annual Japanese whale hunt.
One of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's boats has been severely damaged after getting caught in choppy waters with six meter swells off Antarctica. The Brigitte Bardot was hit by a wave which cracked its hull while chasing the Japanese fleet's Nisshin Maru factory vessel on its annual whale hunt.
The conservationist group's leader, Paul Watson, told the press he was disappointed about the drawback but that they had been prepared for such situations. He said the group's main ship, the Steve Irwin, would be going to the help of the 10-member crew stuck on the Brigitte Bardot, but that it would take around 20 hours to reach the crippled boat.
The ship's captain, Jonathan Miles Renecle, said that while the crack was getting bigger, he was "confident that the ship will stay afloat until the Steve Irwin arrives."
Commercial whaling was banned in an international moratorium in 1986
After picking up the trail using a military-style drone on Sunday, three Sea Shepherd vessels had been chasing the Japanese fleet to disrupt their hunt. With two ships out of the race, the Sea Shepherd now only has one, the Bob Barker, on the tail of the whalers.
The conservationist group is on its eighth consecutive annual mission to interfere with the annual Japanese whale hunt. It receives support from the international community, who are against Japan carrying out whaling for "lethal research" since 1987 despite an international moratorium on commercial whaling, which was introduced in 1986.
Japanese whalers kill hundreds of whales on their annual hunt. But last season, the Japanese had to cut short their mission due to Sea Shepherd harassment. The conservationist group claims to have saved 800 whales from being killed in the Southern Ocean last season alone.
Iceland and Japan claim to carry out whale hunting for scientific purposes
In 2010, Sea Shepherd's speedboat Ady Gil sank in a clash with the whalers. This year, the Japanese harpooners are being accompanied by an unspecified number of coastguard vessels – an endeavor supposedly being partially financed with tsunami reconstruction funds.
While Australia with the help of New Zealand has taken up legal action against Japan in the International Court of Justice in the Hague, Netherlands, the whalers are taking legal action in Washington against Sea Shepherd for their "life-threatening" campaign.
Author: Sarah Berning (AFP, dpa, AP)
Editor: Arun Chowdhury