The Yushin Maru No. 3, the harpoon ship responsible for hitting The Bob Barker during Sunday’s nine-hour assault on the Sea Shepherd ships, is currently approaching the waters of the Australian Whale Sanctuary. It is the second time this year that the ship has threatened to enter Australian waters, tailing the Sea Shepherd long-range ship, The Bob Barker.
At the same time, the Japanese government security vessel, Shonan Maru No. 2, responsible for sinking the New Zealand-registered trimaran Ady Gil in 2010, is heading for New Zealand waters. The vessel is currently tailing the Sea Shepherd ship, The Steve Irwin.
At its current course and speed, the Yushin Maru No. 3 will enter the 200 nautical mile limit of the Australian Whale Sanctuary surrounding Macquarie Island at 2000 AEDT on February 8. The Shonan Maru No. 2 is due to enter New Zealand waters at 0200 NZDT on February 8.
On January 10, the Yushin Maru No. 3 stopped short of Australian waters following a formal protest from Sea Shepherd to the Australian Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, requesting his intervention on the matter. If the harpoon ship enters the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone it runs the risk of contempt proceedings as a result of the Japanese whaling fleet’s continued defiance of the 2008 Australian Federal Court, which ruled that the Japanese whaling fleet’s operations were violation of Australian Federal Law.
Captain Peter Hammarstedt of The Bob Barker says, “During Sunday’s attack, when the Yushin Maru No. 3 slammed the full weight of its steel vessel into the bow of my ship, I saw the reckless desperation of an archaic and brutal industry, struggling to survive. The shameful operations of the Japanese whaling fleet have no place in the twenty-first century, and this blood-stained harpoon ship has no place in Australian waters.”
In June 2013, New Zealand joined Australia to challenge the legality of Japan’s whale hunt in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary at the International Court of Justice. A ruling in this case is expected imminently.
On January 6 this year, New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully, released a statement that “condemned the resumption of so-called ‘scientific’ whaling in the Southern Ocean,” stating, “The New Zealand Government has repeatedly called upon Japan to end its whaling programme.”
According United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), ships that enter a nation’s territorial sea can “enjoy the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea.” Captain Siddarth Chakravarty of The Steve Irwin says, “The passage of the Shonan Maru No. 2 is anything but innocent. This vessel has intentionally collided with and consequently sank the Ady Gil, endangering the lives of the crew on board both vessels. The entire purpose of this ship’s operations is to provide security to an illegal operation. They are no different than armed thugs protecting drug-running operations. Under no circumstances should this ship be permitted to enter New Zealand waters.”
Sea Shepherd Australia has once again contacted Minister Hunt, requesting his intervention to stop the harpoon vessel from entering Australian waters. Further, Sea Shepherd has contacted Minister McCully, requesting that New Zealand enforce their 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone and deny entry to any whaling vessel into New Zealand waters.
The Japanese whaling fleet is operating in the Southern Ocean violation of the 1986 global moratorium on commercial whaling, and in contravention of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, established in 1994.