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Conservationists Clash With Japanese Whalers in Southern Ocean


Handout photo taken 6 Jan 2010 by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society shows Ady Gil after ramming incident with Japanese whaling vessel

Handout photo taken 6 Jan 2010 by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society shows Ady Gil after ramming incident with Japanese whaling vessel

An environmental group says one of its boats was split in two and taking on water after a collision with a Japanese whaling ship in Antarctica.

An environmental group says one of its boats was split in two and taking on water after a collision with a Japanese whaling ship in Antarctica.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society says one of its boats, the Ady Gil, a sleek high-technology speed boat, was rammed and sliced in half by a Japanese ship, the Shonan Maru.

All six crew members were unharmed and were rescued as the boat began taking on water near Commonwealth Bay in Antarctica.

The Sea Shepherd group claims it was the victim of unprovoked aggression and indicates that it will fight back.

The captain of the organization's flagship vessel, Paul Watson, says his colleagues are lucky to be alive.

"When the skipper on the Ady Gil saw the Shonan Maru moving in to strike him, he put his engines in reverse to get out of the way, which probably saved some of his crew but it ripped the front end of the vessel off and caused catastrophic damage to the Ady Gil," explained Watson. "The Ady Gil then put out a distress signal, a mayday signal, which was ignored and not acknowledged by the Japanese and then they sped away from the scene of this incident."

A spokesman for the Japanese whaling fleet earlier accused the Sea Shepherd group of using the Ady Gil to attack its vessels. The Japanese say the powerboat repeatedly came very close to the factory ship, the Nisshin Maru, while activists tried to entangle its rudder and propeller with a rope.

Wednesday's incident escalates a long-running dispute in one of the world's most isolated regions. In recent years environmentalists have attempted to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt in the icy Southern Ocean.

Tokyo says it kills hundreds of whales each year in the Antarctic for scientific research to determine the status and size of whale populations.

Critics, including the Australian government, say the research argument is a cover for the sale and consumption of whale meat, which is banned under international regulations.

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