Harpoon knocks Greenpeace activist overboard
Sydney Sunday, 15 January, 2006 : In a dramatic incident in the Southern Ocean last night a Greenpeace activist was dragged into the sea by a harpoon rope.
Greenpeace CEO Steve Shallhorn says the incident highlights the need for more pressure on the Japanese government to recall their whaling fleet:
“It's way past time for John Howard and the world's anti-whaling nations to demand that Japan gets its whaling fleet out of the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary. Greenpeace will keep up our intervention, but it will take strong international pressure to make Japan honour the International Whaling Commission ban on whaling in this sanctuary.”
At 6pm last night [10pm AEST] three activists in a Greenpeace inflatable were defending a minke whale in the sights of the harpoonist on the Yushin Maru No2. A harpoon was shot over the heads of the activists, it struck and killed the whale almost instantly as the grenade tipped harpoon exploded. But the harpoon line got stuck on the isteering controls of the inflatable, trapping the boat between the dead whale and the catcher ship. As the harpoon line tightened, the boat's driver, Canadian activist Texas Joe Constantine was thrown overboard.
For several minutes, the activist, dressed in a survival suit, drifted in the icy waters of the Southern Ocean that had been coloured red with the blood from the killed minke whale. As the inflatable turned round, it was able to collect Mr Constantine.
"We were out defending the whales. We have been out there for about an hour. I was driving our boat and we were in a good position and the whaler fired its harpoon,” said Mr Constantine. “All of a sudden the harpoon line came down on us trapping us between the whale and the catcher. The line came tight at that point and threw me from the boat into the water. It was a few minutes before our boat was able to come over and pick me up out of the water."
In spite of international protest and repeated calls from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to stop its annual whale hunt the Fisheries Agency of Japan claims it is conducting a scientific research programme. Greenpeace and other environmental organisations say the hunt is nothing more than commercial whaling in disguise. After the whales have been measured and weighed by the scientists, the whales are cut up and boxed for the market.