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Clash between Sea Shepherd and Japanese whaling ship leaves anti-whaling vessel badly damaged

Sea Shepherd anti-whaling vessel Ady Gil

A conservation group's boat had its bow sheared off and was taking on water Wednesday after it was struck by a Japanese whaling ship in the frigid waters off Antarctica, the group said.

The boat's six crew members were safely transferred to another of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's vessels, the newly commissioned Bob Barker. The boat is named for the American game show host who donated $5 million to buy it.

The clash was the most serious in the past several years, during which the Sea Shepherd has sent vessels into far-southern waters to try to harass the Japanese fleet into ceasing its annual whale hunt.

Clashes using hand-thrown stink bombs, ropes meant to tangle propellers and high-tech sound equipment have been common in recent years, and collisions between ships have sometimes occurred.

The society said its vessel Ady Gil -- a high-tech speedboat that resembles a stealth bomber -- was hit by the Japanese ship the Shonan Maru near Commonwealth Bay and had about 10 feet (three meters) of its bow knocked off.

Locky Maclean, the first mate of the society's lead ship, said one crewman from New Zealand appeared to have suffered two cracked ribs, but the others were uninjured. The crew members were safely transferred to the group's third vessel, though the Ady Gil's captain remained on board to see what could be salvaged, he said.

The group accused the Japanese ship of deliberately ramming the Ady Gil.

Sea Shepherd anti-whaling vessel Ady Gil "They were stopped dead in the water when the incident occurred," Maclean told the Associated Press of the Ady Gil. He spoke by satellite phone from the ship, the Steve Irwin.

"When they realized that the Shonan Maru was aiming right for them, they tried to go into reverse to get the bow out of the way but it was too late. The Shonan Maru made a course correction and plowed directly into the front end of the boat," he said.

Glenn Inwood, a New Zealand-based spokesman for the Institute of Cetacean Research, the Japanese government-linked body that carries out the hunt, disputed Sea Shepherd's account, saying video shot from the whaler showed the conservationists' boat moving toward the whaler just before the collision.

"The Shonan Maru steams to port to avoid a collision. I guess they, the Ady Gil, miscalculated," Inwood told the Associated Press. "Sea Shepherd claims that the Shonan Maru has rammed the Ady Gil and cut it in half -- its claim is just not vindicated by the video."

Japan's Fisheries Agency said it was still checking details about the clash. Spokesman Toshinori Uoya said there were no injuries on the Japanese side.

It was not immediately clear what would happen to the Ady Gil. Sea Shepherd said in a statement posted on its website that the boat was "believed to be sinking and chances of salvage are very grim."

Sea Shepherd sends boats to Antarctic waters each southern summer to try to stop the Japanese whaling fleet from killing whales under what it calls a scientific whaling program. Conservationists and many countries say the program is a front for commercial whaling.

Each side routinely accuses the other of dangerous activity during what has become a cat-and-mouse chase in one of the world's most remote regions.

Australia and New Zealand -- which both have Antarctic territories and are among the closest nations to the waters where the hunt goes on -- have urged both sides to show restraint, warning that they are far away from rescue if anything goes wrong.

Map "Our strongest condemnation applies to any violent or dangerous activity that takes place in these remote and inhospitable waters," Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett said Wednesday. He said he could confirm the collision, but that details were still unclear.

Wednesday's confrontation with whalers marked the first for the 1,200-ton Bob Barker, which rescued the crew. Sea Shepherd only recently bought the ship after its namesake, the former host of the "The Price Is Right" game show and a longtime animal rights activist, donated the money. Barker met Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson through a fellow activist and said he was instantly impressed.

"He said he thought he could put the Japanese whaling fleet out of business if he had $5 million," Barker recalled. "I said, 'I think you do have the skills to do that, and I have $5 million, so let's get it on,' so that's what we did."

Barker, 86, said he was "genuinely proud" to be associated with Sea Shepherd.

The Ady Gil, meanwhile, clashed earlier Wednesday with another Japanese ship, the whaling fleet's mothership, the Nisshin Maru.

The Institute of Cetacean Research said the Ady Gil came "within collision distance" of the Nisshin Maru's bow and repeatedly dangled a rope in the water that could have entangled the ship's rudder and propeller.

The Ady Gil's crew lobbed small projectiles designed to release a foul smell, and the whalers responded by firing high-powered hoses to keep the Sea Shepherd vessels away, the institute said in a statement.

"The obstructionist activities of the Sea Shepherd threaten the lives and property of those involved in our research, are very dangerous and cannot be forgiven," it said.

Maclean confirmed the earlier clash.

Japan's whaling fleet left in November for its annual hunt in Antarctic waters. Uoya said that for security reasons, details of the fleet's composition, the number of whales it hopes to take and the number of crew members are not being released to the public.

The Ady Gil is a 78-foot (24-meter) black-painted trimaran made of carbon fiber and Kevlar in a design meant to pierce waves. It was built to challenge the record for the quickest circumnavigation of the globe and can travel faster than 46 mph (75 kph).

Sea Shepherd unveiled the Ady Gil last October saying a California millionaire with the same name had donated most of the money for it. At the time, the group said the boat would be used to intercept and physically block Japanese harpoon vessels.

Sea Shepherd anti-whaling vessel Ady Gil

-- Associated Press

Top photo: The Ady Gil is shown with its bow sheared off following a collision with a Japanese whaling ship in Antarctica.  Credit: JoAnne McArthur / Associated Press

Middle photo: The Ady Gil (in foreground) is hit by a Japanese whaling ship.  Credit: JoAnne McArthur / AFP/Getty Images

Bottom photo: The Ady Gil intact in Oct. 2009.  Credit: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society / AFP/Getty Images

 
Comments () | Archives (4)

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How can a fast, light vessle be hit by a big, slow one? By being in front of it deliberately, perhaps.
And how come activists get furious over a few hundred whales being killed, while say 70000 moose are hunted each year in Sweden alone? Maybe anti-whaling is sexier than anti-hunting on land? Do you think the animals on land suffer less when they are wounded but not killed? And bullfighting... Best not to mention. Fundraising for pirates is easier than most fundraising too, isn't it? My opinion

Whales are an endangered species. The last time I checked, moose were not although I am against hunting them. If you are concerned about the moose, why don't you start a campaign to save them instead of putting down the Sea Shepherds for risking their lives to try and save the whales. At least they are willing to act and to risk their lives. What have you done recently? Nothing? What a surprise!

"Whales are an endangered species". WRONG. Whales are not AN endangered species... whales consists of dozens of species. Mink whales, which IS the species hunted by Japan as well as a few European countries, are NOT endangered... in fact they are so prolific to a point where in some oceans, they are depleting sardines and driving that species to near extinction. If you are concerned with endangered species getting extinct, protect those fish instead of arguing over whether or not Japan and a few countries should hunt a tiny percentage of mink whale population just once a year.

As a land based hunter I chose to hunt with a bow. I would love the oportunity to fire the Harpoon gun, it must be quite a thrill. Whale wars is a very entertaining show, I watch it whenever possible and love to see the crew of the sea shepard crying like babies over the whalers efforts, a bit pathetic. On the other side I don't think much "research" is happening by the Japanese. I wonder how long wale meat has been available in Glendale the last couple years??? Someone has been getting PAID, corruption all the way around.


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