Whalers, Sea Shepherd begin hostilities

Hostilities between whalers and Sea Shepherd protesters look to be underway with images of water-cannoning appearing on the conservation group’s website.

Photos appear to show a small boat, of the kind the conservation group uses to harass whalers, being water-cannoned by a ship.

Sea Shepherd says its ship the Bob Barker came across a Japanese harpoon vessel, the Yushin Maru 3, on Wednesday morning while looking for the factory ship Nisshin Maru.

The Bob Barker encountered the boat at around 4am (AEDT) in French waters 370km north of the Dumont d’Urville Antarctic base but Sea Shepherd says it was not whaling at the time.

The conservation group says the Yushin Maru 3 has since left the French exclusive economic zone and is tailing the Bob Barker in Australian Antarctic waters.

“Sea Shepherd can confirm that the Japanese whaling fleet is now in Australian Antarctic Territorial waters,” a statement on the group’s website read.

Sea Shepherd had asked the Australian government to send a ship to observe the activities of both the whalers and protesters.

It says the Bob Barker is continuing its search for the Nisshin Maru, which had previously been tracked with the use of a drone launched from on board the Steve Irwin.

The protesters’ tactics include trying to blockade the factory ship to stop the whale catch being processed.

The Bob Barker is the only Sea Shepherd ship currently operating after the Brigitte Bardot was forced to return to Western Australia with hull damage caused by a freak wave.

The Steve Irwin is escorting it to Fremantle with both being tailed by a Japanese government security ship, the Shonan Maru 2, the group claims.

Sea Shepherd says it has the Japanese fleet on the run and has therefore stopped it catching any whales.

“Because the Nisshin Maru and the harpoon vessels have been moving continuously since first located by Sea Shepherd, they do not appear to have had any time to kill whales,” the statement said.

“They know that if they slow down or stop the Bob Barker will close the gap and will be on them.”

The office of federal environment minister Tony Burke has been contacted for comment.

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