Greenpeace activists and Japanese whaling ships have resumed their battle in the mountainous waters of Antarctica after 10 days of enforced peace.
Greenpeace said two of its Zodiac inflatable raft crews from its ship, the Esperanza, had placed themselves between whales and harpooners in freezing conditions south of Australia’s Heard Island territory.
A second Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise, and a Sea Shepherd vessel, the Farley Mowat, were also steaming towards the site on Thursday night.
As the clashes erupted again, the whaling ships warned through their Institute for Cetacean Research they would continue to use water cannon on the protesters.
“While likely to go unheeded, we warn these groups again to keep their distance from the whaling (of) our research vessels and to refrain from any impulsive and reckless stunts,” ICR director-general Hiroshi Hatanaka said in a statement.
“To protect their safety and that of our crews we will continue to use the water cannons as a deterrent and a safety measure.”
The six-ship whaling fleet resumed harvesting whales “for research” after 10 days without catching a single whale, due to poor weather and harassment by Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd.
But Greenpeace’s jubilation at the disruption ended late on Wednesday night as at least seven whale carcases were loaded aboard the processing ship Nisshan Maru. Another six minke whales were seen loaded early on Thursday.
The activists’ ships lost contact with the Japanese vessels early Wednesday and spotted the slaughtered whales when they caught up with them late in the day.
“This is the first chance they’ve had when we haven’t been with them,” Mr Rattenbury said from the Arctic Sunrise.
“They’ve done their refuelling and got back into the whaling grounds.”
Mr Rattenbury said the Greenpeace Zodiacs had been on the water for four hours by 1800 AEDT and expected to continue for the rest of the day.
“They resumed whaling this morning and we launched two of our inflatable boats,” Mr Rattenbury told AAP.
“We’ve had people out on the water, essentially putting themselves between the whale and the harpoon again, trying to stop or slow down that hunting process.
“Nonetheless, we were only able to cover one catcher boat today. There’s three in the fleet so we haven’t succeeded in catching (up with them).
“At last count, (they caught) six minke whales today.”
Mr Rattenbury said the sea surface in the area was almost flat but there had been snow flurries and the air temperature was around zero degrees Celsius.
But he said the activists were continuing their harassment “and they are determined.”
They would not be deterred by water cannon, he warned.
“Our actions are peaceful and non-violent. They can turn the water cannons on us if they want to but we will still keep trying to stop the whales being killed,” Mr Rattenbury said.
The whaling fleet is currently just south of the Australian territory of Heard Island, in the southern Indian Ocean, about 4,000km south-west of Perth.
Japan plans to take 935 minke whales and 10 fin whales this southern summer under its scientific research program.
Greenpeace maintains the kill is a commercial operation.
A web diary update from Sea Shepherd said its ship, the Farley Mowat, was also steaming towards the scene of the latest whaling.
“If the Japanese fleet has fled to the western end of the whaling zone to avoid us, they will fail because we are on our way and we intend to disrupt, harass and obstruct them when we close with them once again,” the weblog said.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald