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article imageSea Shepherd charges Japanese whale researchers with piracy

By Stephanie Dearing     Jan 9, 2010 in Crime
The Ady Gil was lost after its bow sheered off in a collision with a Japanese ship that was protecting Japanese research ships. Sea Shepherd was trying to tow the boat but said the Gil sank after the towline snapped.
Sea Shepherd was using the Gil to try to prevent Japanese researchers from hunting whales in the Southern Ocean, and was hit by the Japanese ship the Shonan Maru No. 2 on January 5th. The Ady Gil cost $2.5 million to build. Originally called Earthrace, the boat was piloted around the world setting a record for its 60 day trek. The boat was donated to Sea Shepherd last year. Sea Shepherd announced the piracy complaint Friday. Sea Shepherd's lawyer, Liesbeth Zegveld, told Reuters "We filed a complaint for criminal prosecution with our prosecutor, requesting the start of an investigation into what we consider to be a crime -- piracy, actually -- committing violence on the high seas."
The incident occurred in Australian waters and two separate investigations have been launched. Australia has said it has not yet ruled out legal action and also said it will work harder to "diplomatically" deter Japan from its annual research activities in the Southern Ocean.
Both sides are blaming each other for the collision which not only destroyed the Ady Gil, but also resulted in injuries for a Sea Shepherd volunteer. The Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) fleet was in the Southern Ocean conducting its annual whale research, and Sea Shepherd was there to attempt to stop the hunt which results in the deaths of around 1,200 whales.
On Friday Sea Shepherd's Master and Commander Paul Watson said that the Japanese ignored the distress calls issued after the Gil Ady was hit. Zegveld said "This particular ship that attacked the Ady Gil was at a close distance all the time since they left the Australian harbor. It was sent out and equipped for following and harassing the Ady Gil."
ICR's spokesman Glen Inwood dismissed the ramming incident as a publicity stunt. The ICR accused Sea Shepherd of "...willfully polluting the Antarctic environment..." when the Ady Gil sank. The ICR also claimed Sea Shepherd was armed, expressing concerns that Sea Shepherd might "produce causalities." The ICR claimed it retrieved "several bowgun arrows," stating in a press release issued Friday "... The Sea Shepherd activists have been escalating the viciousness of their sabotage including hurling projectiles containing hazardous butyric acid and firing line-launch rockets against Japan’s research vessels." The ICR also claimed their ships were "... subject to continuous attack ..." by Sea Shepherd since early morning January 5th.
Sea Shepherd ridiculed the ICR's statement in its own press release issued Friday, adding “... The Sea Shepherd crew on the Bob Barker did not lie about the sinking of the Ady Gil... they notified the Australian maritime authorities that the Ady Gil had to be abandoned because it was partially submerged ... and was slowly sinking. The Ady Gil is a total loss and has officially been declared sunk ... the crew risked their lives to re-enter and to pump all oils and fuel from the Ady Gil in an effort to protect the marine environment from pollution in the likely event of a sinking... Sea Shepherd suspects that the pictures of a spill ... were set up."
The ICR claims it needs to hunt whales for research "... to properly manage whale stocks. This is the only long-term research program on whales in the Antarctic that is providing valuable information related to whales and the Antarctic ecosystem." The ICR's research is largely prepared for the International Whaling Commission Scientific Committee.
Minke whales were considered too small for commercial purposes until the recent past. The protection of larger whales combined with their diminishing populations have made the Minke more popular.
More about Sea Shepherd, Whaling, Piracy, Japanese whaling, Paul watson
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