Have the first shots been fired in the war over whaling?
The SSCS ship Robert Hunter before its transformation into the Steve Irwin. Photo by Alpha
Captain Paul Watson, leader of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, said that he was shot by Japanese Coast Guard members during a confrontation Friday but was saved by his Kevlar vest. Watson said the alleged shooting occurred when he and other SSCS members were bombarding the whaling fleet with “stink bombs” made of rancid butter.
Japanese officials denied any shots were fired. They said that Coast Guard officials on board the whaling vessels tossed flash grenades, a non-deadly form of crowd control, onto the deck of the SSCS ship Steve Irwin.
Armed Japanese Coast Guard members have been placed aboard the factory ship Nisshin Maru after a series of escalating clashes with the SSCS this year. A spokesman for the Japanese Coast Guard said: “There are two coastguards aboard the Nisshin Maru. They are armed with pistols, but they were not used in this incident.” A fishery ministry official said: “He must have heard the bang of the flash grenade and got a shock.”
The SSCS posted photos on their website of Watson holding a small object he said was a bullet and Japanese sailors throwing smoking canisters onto the Steve Irwin. Watson told Australian radio: “I felt this impact on my chest. I found a bullet buried in the Kevlar vest that I wear. It bruised my shoulder but it would have hit my heart if I didn’t have the vest.”
The Japanese struck back, once again condemning the violent tactics used by SSCS activists. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said: “They have repeatedly resorted to such activities and it is truly unforgivable. Is it all right to hurt humans in order to protect whales? I think whales are cute and important creatures, but even so, hurting humans is unforgivable.”
Stuck in the middle of yet another clash between the two groups is the Australian government. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had promised to fight Japanese whaling, but the government curtailed their support for the group after two of their members boarded a Japanese ship and sparked a diplomatic incident.
Info from Reuters