Japanese whaler rams hi-tech protest boat

In a dramatic escalation of the annual hostilities off Antarctica between Japan’s whaling fleet and militant protesters, a Japanese ship rammed a hi-tech protest boat today, slicing off its bow and effectively scuttling it.

None of the six crew were seriously injured, although one suffered broken ribs, when the Shonan Maru, a security vessel, collided with the Ady Gil, a speedboat deployed by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The group accused the Japanese of an unprovoked “hit and run” attack, and said it was fortunate no one had been in the bow, which was completely sheared off.

However, the Japanese Fisheries Agency blamed the crew, saying the Ady Gil had abruptly slowed down while crossing the path of the larger vessel, which had been unable to avoid a collision. It said that Sea Shepherd’s “obstructing activities … are dangerous acts that threaten the vessels engaged in scientific whaling as well as the lives and properties of the crew”.

A small, US-based group, Sea Shepherd has made a name for itself in recent years by pursuing and harassing the Japanese fleet in the icy waters of the Southern Ocean. There have been collisions before, although never causing such serious damage, as protesters interposed themselves between harpoon ships and their prey.

Each side routinely accuses the other of dangerous tactics in the cat and mouse games staged at the bottom of the world. Before yesterday’s collision, which was captured on film, activists threw stink bombs at the Nisshin Maru, the main factory ship, and dropped ropes in an effort to snarl its propeller.

Last night the Ady Gil – a futuristic trimaran which resembles a spacecraft – was taking on water and sinking. Sea Shepherd said it was unclear whether it would be possible to salvage the $1.5m (£940,000) boat, which has been bankrolled by a Californian businessman with the same name.

Chris Aultman, a spokesman, accused the Japanese of deliberately ramming the smaller boat. “At the time of the collision, the vessel was dead in the water,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“It was motionless and there was no confrontation taking place between the two vessels.

“The Shonan Maru just … took upon itself to strike the vessel. Luckily no one was in the bow at the time of the collision, or they certainly would have been killed instantly.”

Sea Shepherd still has two ships in the area, one of which, the Bob Barker, rescued the Ady Gil’s crew. Paul Watson, the group’s president, said activists would not be deterred by the whalers’ “extremism”. “The Japanese whalers have now escalated this conflict very violently,” he said. “We have a real whale war on our hands now, and we have no intention of retreating.”

Japan, which sends its fleet to Antarctica during the southern hemisphere’s summer, claims its whaling programme is for scientific research purposes. It is planning to catch 935 minke whales and 50 endangered fin whales this year.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own