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Friday, December 23, 2005

Whale ship showdown

The Mercury: Whale ship showdown [23dec05]

A JAPANESE whaling ship will sail into a political storm and a flotilla of protesters when it unloads a stricken crew member in Hobart tomorrow.

The Keiko Maru's skipper is expected to try to avoid protesters by transferring the sick crew member to a police boat in Storm Bay.

However, it may need to sail up the Derwent River to refuel at Self's Point.

News that the vessel would dock in Hobart fuelled outrage against whaling in the Southern Ocean.

The ship's agent refused to comment yesterday and Hobart Ports would not release details, referring inquiries to the agent.

There is also no mention of the vessel in today's shipping list supplied to The Mercury.

A police spokesman said Tasdhmania Police would help with the transfer of the stricken sailor but he would not comment further.

Environmental group Eco-Fleet spokesman Stuart Lennox said the group's inflatable rafts "will be out there" to meet the Keiko Maru.

He said he expected other vessels from concerned Tasmanians would also motor, sail and paddle out to meet the ship tomorrow morning, particularly if it had to refuel.

"It will use most of its fuel getting to Tasmania," he said.

"Or it could meet its refueling ship halfway."

Greens senator Bob Brown and Greenpeace are calling on the Federal Government to impound the boat to prevent its return to the whaling fleet.

Senator Brown, who will be in Hobart for the protest, said federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell had made an art-form of talking-up Australia's anti-whaling stance.

"He can't allow it to go back to the killing," Senator Brown said. "The ship is part of a fleet harpooning our whales in our territory off Antarctica.

"The Government should impound the ship as it does Indonesian fishing boats and the pirate Portuguese Patagonian toothfish ships. It should give the sick whaler medical aid but ensure the ship does not return to the kill."

Greenpeace CEO Steve Shallhorn said his group would not interfere with the medical evacuation of the crew member but he backed Senator Brown's call.

"This is a perfect opportunity for the Australian Government to walk its talk on its opposition to whaling and ensure that this ship does not return to the fleet, which is on a killing spree in Australia's Antarctic Territory waters right now," he said.

Greenpeace has released graphic images of whales hanging from the ships and one of its two boats was involved in a collision with a whaling ship.

Greenpeace said the collision happened when its vessel Esperanza was trying to block access to a processing ship.

A harpooning vessel carrying a dead whale tried to nudge the Esperanza out of the way.

Senator Campbell said Australia was legally powerless to stop Japan killing whales.

"If I thought I could bring an end to the slaughter that is occurring in Australian territory in Antarctica by sending a lawyer to a court somewhere, I would have done it," he said.

But he said graphic images filmed by Greenpeace of Japanese whaling would be likely to horrify the Japanese public.

And he said: "They are doing this under the scientific clause of the whaling convention but there is no science involved in slaughtering animals, seeing them drown in their own blood, dragging them on to a vessel and slicing them up into pieces and sending them back to Japan."


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