Thought whaling was a thing of the past? Think again!
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) - Japan's fisheries agency may ask for Japanese police to be sent to protect the country's whaling fleet following two separate collisions this week between whalers and protest ships, a senior official said Tuesday.
Conservation groups Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd have been chasing Japan's whaling fleet in Antarctic waters for two weeks, frustrating their hunt for the 850 minke whales and 10 fin whales that Japan says it wants to kill as part of a scientific research program. Japan sells the whale meat for food.
Hideki Moronuki, the deputy chief of the Far Seas Fisheries division of Japan's Fisheries Agency, was quoted as saying by Australian Associated Press that it may ask Japan's Maritime Police Agency to support its whaling operations if the conservationists escalate their interference.
AAP reported that when asked what Japanese police could do if deployed, Moronuki, speaking from Japan, replied, "I have no idea. They may dispatch aircraft and they may ask the Australian government to take some action."
The two separate collisions on Sunday occurred in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary established by the International Whaling Commission in 1994. Japan does not recognize the sanctuary.
Conservationists have urged the Australian and New Zealand governments - both strong opponents of whaling - to send navy ships to stop Japanese ships from killing whales.
Australian Defence Minister Robert Hill said Tuesday there were no plans to deploy ships.
"It's a civilian issue," Hill said. "We don't see an Australian military role."
New Zealand Defence Minister Phil Goff said there would be no role for a navy ship as New Zealand had "no legal authority over either party."
"Sending a frigate down there would serve no purpose at all because we would have no authority to act as intermediaries between the protesters and the whalers," he said.
Japan and Greenpeace are at odds about who was to blame for Sunday's collision between the whaler Nisshin Maru and Greenpeace's Arctic Sunrise. The Greenpeace ship was dented at the bow, but no injuries were reported.
Sea Shepherd said it deliberately struck the supply vessel Oriental Bluebird with its ship Farley Mowat later Sunday. Neither ship was badly damaged and no injuries were reported.
"We sideswiped them to get our point across," Paul Watson, the Farley Mowat's captain, told Seven Network television Tuesday by satellite phone.