Op-Ed: Sea Shepherd ships rammed by Japanese whalers

Posted Feb 19, 2013 by Paul Wallis
The anti-whaling ships Steve Irwin and Bob Barker have been rammed by Japanese whalers. The Bob Barker is said to be taking on water. This is incredibly dangerous in the Southern Ocean, where people can die of hypothermia in minutes.
The Bob Barker and The Steve Irwin meet
The Bob Barker and The Steve Irwin meet
Sea Shepherd
Sydney Morning Herald
After several days of close manoeuvres between the two sides north of Australia's Davis station, Sea Shepherd activists said on Wednesday the factory ship Nisshin Maru had rammed two of their ships.
"The Steve Irwin has been rammed twice by the Nisshin Maru," said the group's founder, Paul Watson.
"The Bob Barker has also been rammed and is taking on water in the engine room. The crew have the situation under control."
The escalation isn’t entirely unexpected. The Sea Shepherd ships have been operating against the whalers for years, and tempers are obviously fraying.
Japan's consul-general in Melbourne, Hidenobu Sobashima, said....
"All obstructive activities of Sea Shepherd that endanger life of the crew and property, and safe navigation at sea, should be stopped," Mr Sobashima said.
All well and good, and that’s an almost exact quote of basic maritime law, but who’s endangering whom, with these actions? This is an actionable offence under maritime law. The captain of any vessel which puts other vessels at risk can lose his license.
Double standards don’t have any traction in this situation. The Japanese whalers have been claiming regularly that the Sea Shepherd ships have been putting them at risk. To do what is basically the same thing as they’re accusing the activists of doing is no defence.
Australia has been looking with a jaded eye at the Japanese whalers for some time. The area in question is in Australian territorial waters. Japan doesn’t recognize the Australian claim, which is actually quite irrelevant in this case. Under treaty, Australia is responsible for these waters. Overlooking breaches of maritime law is not an option for Australia, any more than it would be for Japan in relation to similar issues in Japanese waters.
Don’t expect much in the way of easily recognizable law enforcement in this area any time soon. Charges should be laid against any ship risking lives, but probably won’t.