Watch footage of attempts to disrupt Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean

A Japanese whaling ship and a Sea Shepherd anti-whaling protest ship collided deep in the Southern Ocean early this morning. A statement released by the protest shipRobert Hunterclaimed it had suffered a three-foot gash in the hull above the waterline, but was not in any immediate danger. Meanwhile, the crew claimed to have acknowledged a distress call from the whaling shipKaiko Maru, which was also acknowledged by the New Zealand authorities. However the Japanese ship refused to specify the nature of its distress.

This latest battle follows other dramatic events over the weekend, including a seven-hour truce called by the protesters while they searched for two missing crew. Sea Shepherd activists Karl Neilsen, from Fremantle, and John Gravois, from Los Angeles, were trying to entangle a net in the factory ship’s propeller to sabotage its operations.
But their dinghy collided with the ship’s hull, cracking the small fibreglass boat. As it began to fill with water, heavy fog, snow and sleet descended. Suddenly, the pair found their VHF radio would no longer work and in desperation, lassoed an iceberg to avoid drifting too far from the ship.
When Sea Shepherd noticed two of its men were missing, it called on the whalers for help.
And theNisshin Maruobliged, calling in its five whale chaser and spotter ships to assist in the search for the saboteurs. “I’ve got to say they were very receptive to helping us,” Sea Shepherd’s president, Paul Watson toldThe Agewebsite in Australia.

The stakes are high in the battle between the Japanese governent and the Sea Shepherd organisation. There has been a global moratorium on commercial whaling since 1986, but Japan kills hundreds of whales each year under a scientific whaling programme. Iceland and Norway are the only countries to conduct commercial hunts.
The protesters claim the Japanese government has been using satellite technology to track the two Sea Shepherd ships, while mobilizing the authorities to act against the ships in their home ports – Belize and UK. TheRobert Hunterhas only days remaining as a legally registered UK ship, whileFarley Mowatt, Sea Shepherd’s flagship, was struck off the Belizian register several weeks ago.
But, the protesters are claiming some successes. Despite failing to entangle the propeller of theNisshin Maruthey have managed to throw a “stink bomb” butyric acid on to its deck and have fixed metal plates over the deck drainage ports on the side of the ship preventing the slaughtered whale blood from escaping in to the sea.

Click here to view dramatic footage of a previous encounter between Sea Shepherd and Japanese whalers 

Click here to view latest footage of clashes between Sea Shepherd and Japanese whalers