|Peter Alford From: The Australian January 07, 2010 2:51PM
Japan today lodged a "stern" official complaint with New Zealand over the Southern Ocean collision between a Japanese whaling ship and a Sea Shepherd Conservation Society vessel.
The Japanese government is calling for Australia and New Zealand to curb Sea Shepherd’s Antarctic activities, while officials here deny claims Shonan Maru No. 2 deliberately rammed Sea Shepherd’s Ady Gil.
“We lodged a complaint with the New Zealand government in a stern manner because the vessel is registered in New Zealand, and have strongly asked it not to repeat such an incident in the future,'' Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano said today.
Describing the collision between Sea Shepherd's Ady Gil and the whaling fleet security vessel Shonan Maru No. 2 as “extremely regrettable”, the Japan Fisheries Agency called for unspecified “appropriate measures” from the two countries.
Australia allows port facilities to Sea Shepherd flagship Steve Irwin and Ady Gil is New Zealand-registered.
Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she had seen the incident, in which the lightweight vessel had its bow sheared off, on video and had called on the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to investigate.
“It deeply concerns me. Lives are at risk. It seems miraculous that lives were not lost,” Ms Gillard said in Adelaide.
However, she said the government would not send the customs vessel, the Oceanic Viking, to the region.
The vessel was sent to the region two years ago to observe and “it did not influence behaviour”.
Earlier today, an international law expert at the Australian National University, Professor Donald Rothwell, told The Australian Online that Australia should send the Oceanic Viking to monitor the clashes between whalers and the anti-whaling vessels, which were operating “at the very limit and edge of the law”.
Last night, the operator of the so-called scientific whaling program, the Institute of Cetacean Research, accused Australian authorities of neglecting its international obligation to curb Sea Shepherd's hazardous operations.
“Following last December attacks, Australia, the de facto home port country to the Steve Irwin, neglected to take appropriate and objective actions when the activists' vessel briefly made port call in Hobart,” the Institute of Cetacean Research said in a statement.
As the incident today attracted rare front page treatment of a subject usually downplayed by Japanese news outlets, senior Opposition MP Shigeru Ishiba called for international criminal action against Sea Shepherd vessels.
“Sea Shepherd should be considered in the same way as pirates so that we can arrest them in international waters,” the former defence and agriculture minister said.
Last year, while Mr Ishiba's party was still in office and he was minister responsible for whaling, the government considered seeking Sea Shepherd's declaration as a piracy group but did not act.
A Fisheries Agency official said today investigations of the collision were continuing and all facts were not yet available but he denied that it had been caused by the Japanese vessel.
He said a video taken from the Shonan Maru No. 2 proved the whalers' claim that Ady Gil had sped into the path of the larger vessel.
However the video published on the ICR website appears to support Sea Shepherd's claim the security vessel veered onto a collision course with Ady Gil which, at the time, was moving only slowly.
The thing I find interesting is Japan does not recognise our authority to tell them to stop whaling in the Southern Ocean yet they critise us for not using our authority over the Souther Ocean to prosecute the protesters for interfering with the whaling we don't want to be happening in the first place.
They either recognise our authority or they don't, but I do not appreciate my country being dictated to by a corporation masquerading and a government research agency.