Auckland/Southern Oceans – 17th December 2001: Greenpeace activists today repeatedly drove inflatable boats between an Antarctic whaling boat and its factory ship Nisshin Maru to slow the transfer of a freshly harpooned minke whale.
The whalers responded with super-powered water cannons – targeting the boat drivers and in danger of knocking them out of the inflatables and into the ice laden waters.
Shortly after, the Greenpeace helicopter located another catcher boat in the act of chasing a whale, and for the first time captured unique footage of a whale being hit with the harpoon – the first time such a hit has been witnessed in more than a decade.
“We watched the whalers chase the whale for more than 40 minutes – repeatedly firing its harpoon and missing up to 5 times. Finally they hit it with the sixth harpoon,” said Phil Robinson, New Zealand helicopter pilot.
Meanwhile, two inflatables from the Greenpeace ship, MV Arctic Sunrise, were trying to stop the loading of a dead whale to the Nisshin Maru. The water cannons were so strong that the drivers’ vision was reduced. The whalers also trailed wooden blocks into the water – a danger to the inflatables if they get caught in the propellers. They carried the message “Danger – Keep Away.”
Speaking from the Arctic Sunrise, after returning from the inflatable, Japanese Campaigner Yuko Hirono said, “There is nothing scientific about this whaling. Once the whalers found open water they set to with a determination to catch every whale in the area. This is commercial whaling – purely for profit.” She called on Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi to stop allowing the Fisheries Agency to misrepresent commercial whaling as legitimate research.
This agency has demonstrated its clear intention to bring back full-scale commercial whaling. The Japanese Government has been steadily buying votes in exchange for overseas aid to try and gain a majority at the International Whaling Commission (IWC). They hope to win a majority in time for next years IWC – to be held in the whaling fleet’s own home port of Shimonoseki. If they do it will put the world’s whales at risk.
"The world knows that this is not science. It is purely the Fisheries Agency's way to continue whaling against the wishes of the international community," said Hirono.