Ships of whalers, activists collide in Antarctic waters

In a photo by antiwhaling group Sea Shepherd, its ship, the Bob Barker, left, and the Japanese harpoon boat the Yushin Maru 3 are close to a collision in the waters off Antarctica on Saturday, the second major clash this year.

Associated Press

In a photo by antiwhaling group Sea Shepherd, its ship, the Bob Barker, left, and the Japanese harpoon boat the Yushin Maru 3 are close to a collision in the waters off Antarctica on Saturday, the second major clash this year.

SYDNEY — Antiwhaling ship the Bob Barker and a Japanese harpoon boat collided in icy Antarctic waters in the second major clash this year in increasingly aggressive confrontations between conservationists and the whaling fleet.

No one was injured in the clash Saturday, which each side blamed on the other.

The U.S.-based activist group Sea Shepherd, which sends vessels to confront the Japanese fleet each year, accused the Japanese ship of deliberately ramming the Bob Barker — named after the U.S. game show host who donated millions of dollars for the antiwhaling group to buy it.

But Japan's fisheries agency said the activist boat caused the collision by suddenly approaching the harpoon vessel Yushin Maru 3 to throw bottles containing bad-smelling butyric acid at the Japanese ship.

The agency accused Sea Shepherd of "an act of sabotage" on the Japanese expedition, noting that it is allowed under world whaling regulations as a scientific expedition. Conservationists call the annual hunt a cover for commercial whaling.

Neither side's account could be verified. Video shot from the Bob Barker shows the two ships side by side moving quickly through the water. The ships come closer together and the Japanese ship then appears to turn away, but its stern swings sharply toward the Bob Barker. The collision is obscured by spray.

Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson said a 3-foot-long, 4-inch-wide hole was torn in the Bob Barker's hull, but it was above the water line and was not a threat to the ship. The Japanese agency said Yushin Maru sustained minor damage to its handrail and hull.

On Jan. 6, a Japanese whaler struck Sea Shepherd's high-tech speed boat Ady Gil and sheared off its nose. The Ady Gil sank a day later.

The governments of Australia and New Zealand, which have responsibility for maritime rescue in the area where the hunt is usually conducted, say the conflict is becoming increasingly dangerous and have repeatedly urged the sides to tone it down.

Ships of whalers, activists collide in Antarctic waters 02/06/10 [Last modified: Saturday, February 6, 2010 10:26pm]

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