Japanese whalers are pressing for Australian and New Zealand authorities to refuse port entry to Sea Shepherd anti-whaling activists terrorist ship when they return from the Antarctic to refuel.
Sea Shepherd's ship "Steve Irwin" turned north after a 14-day pursuit that produced two brief clashes with the Japanese fleet and one distant visual contact with the activists' main target, factory ship Nisshin Maru. The group's president, Paul Watson, said that the whaling fleet had run 2000 nautical miles from waters off the Australian Antarctic Territory to the far eastern side of the Ross Sea. Captain Watson is yet to disclose his ship's destination, but the Japan Whaling Association called on the Australian and New Zealand governments to close their ports to the "Steve Irwin" for committing criminal acts in the Antarctic. "Otherwise these countries will be complicit in any further attacks," association president Keiichi Nakajima said. "We know there are different views on whaling around the world," Mr Nakajima said. "But the actions of the Sea Shepherd crew committing violence under the Dutch flag are no longer a whaling issue, but an issue of human life and safety at sea." The Japanese Government has protested to Netherlands authorities about an incident on December 26 when the Dutch-registered "Steve Irwin" and the whale spotter ship Kaiko Maru touched sides. The Netherlands Shipping Inspectorate previously urged Sea Shepherd to keep a greater distance from other ships in order to minimize the risk of collision. Captain Watson said the Japanese ship turned in on the "Steve Irwin" when the latter had right of way. "I turned away from them," he said. "As a result the ships grazed slightly at the stern with the only damage being chipped paint on both vessels. There was no structural damage â€" not even a dent." He confirmed he was preparing a report on the incident for the Dutch, and said Japan was trying to use political and economic muscle to persuade the Netherlands to deregister the ship, and for ports to be closed to him. "Australian and New Zealand ports are presently closed to Japanese whaling vessels, and not Sea Shepherd vessels, for the very good reason that Japanese whaling activities are illegal in the Southern Ocean and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has not committed a single criminal offence" said Captain Watson. Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith and Environment Minister Peter Garrett said last month that the International Whaling Commission's members had collectively called upon Sea Shepherd to refrain from dangerous activities, and for all vessels and crews to exercise restraint. "The Australian Government expects any unlawful activity to be dealt with in accordance with relevant international and domestic laws," they said in a statement.