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Greenpeace blocks whalers line of fire

After several days being battered by gale force winds the Greenpeace activists on board the MV Arctic Sunrise – currently protesting Antarctic whaling – were again able to launch inflatable boats, and late last night successfully blocked the catching of a minke whale.

As the harpoonist took aim Greenpeace drove the inflatable directly in the line of fire – putting itself between the minke and the Japanese catcher boat Kyo Maru No. 1, until the whale disappeared.

“If we can stop a catcher from whaling for a short time, then why can’t the Governments of the world stop this whaling for good?” asked Yuko Hirono, Greenpeace Campaigner on board the MV Arctic Sunrise.

Greenpeace is calling on governments represented in the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to protest at the underhand methods being used by The Fisheries Agency of Japan to “fix” the IWC and bring back full scale commercial whaling. The Agency has been recruiting new countries into the IWC and “buying” their votes with overseas development aid. Today the Fisheries Agency is perilously close to achieving a majority vote at the next IWC meeting in May 2002.

“With a majority in the IWC the Japanese government could overturn the existing temporary ban on commercial whaling. A whaling free for all could be launched spelling disaster for the future of the world’s whales,” said Hirono.

Later the Greenpeace crew in the inflatables witnessed the bizarre “double” transfer of a dead whale from the catcher boat to the factory ship Nisshan Maru. The whale had somehow been severed at the tail and was dragged between the ships in two pieces.

Sandwiched between the catcher and the Nisshan Maru the inflatable tried to impede the transfers and slow the catcher down from returning to the hunt. High-powered water cannon were again aimed at the drivers –hitting them directly in the face. So powerful are the jets they have knocked out contact lenses and cut the lip of one of the Greenpeace drivers. Nevertheless the inflatable held it’s ground until the Kyo Maru had edged in too close – narrowing the space for the inflatable and forcing it to withdraw.

For further information contact:
Greenpeace New Zealand oceans campaigner: Pia Manica (09) 372 6661 or 025 927 301 or communications officer: Brendan Lynch 021 790 817

MV Arctic Sunrise - Greenpeace oceans campaigner: Sarah Duthie (English
language) or Yuko Hirono (Japanese) Tel: + 873 1302577 (Satellite phone
approx. US$10 per minute)

Footage and stills: Reuters and APTN or Kate Davison Tel: + 61 2 9263 0350 or + 61 2 94993041 Mobile: + 61 418 204869

Editors Notes:

In the run-up to the 2001 IWC meeting a senior member of the Japanese delegation, Mr Komatsu, confirmed that Japan was vote buying. In an interview with ABC TV, Australia, Mr. Komatsu admitted that Japan had to use the “tools of diplomatic communications and promises of overseas development aid to influence members of the International Whaling Commission".

The IWC will be held in Shimonoseki, Japan, in May 2002. Shimonoseki is the home port of the Japanese whaling fleet.

At the time of the encounter with the whaling fleet the position of the MV Arctic Sunrise was 64° S, 64° E.

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