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2010年1月10日 (日)

Collision between Japanese whaler, protest vessel creates waves in Japan and abroad

Collision between Japanese whaler, protest vessel creates waves in Japan and abroad

The collision between an anti-whaling vessel operated by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and a Japanese whaler has sparked protests and discussion in Japan over the possibility of applying anti-piracy laws against the society.

In a news conference on Thursday, Senior Vice Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Akira Gunji heavily criticized Sea Shepherd, saying it was responsible for the accident. He said he had asked countries involved to crack down on the group, and indicated that if protest activities escalated, there was a possibility Japan's anti-piracy law could be applied.

"It was dangerous behavior that threatened a ship from our country together with the lives of the crew and their property. It cannot be forgiven under any circumstances," Gunji said at the news conference.

Gunji said that protests had been lodged with New Zealand, where the Sea Shepherd protest vessel was registered, and Australia, where the conservation group's port of call is located. Australia has been struggling to cope with the group's increasingly extreme protests amid strong anti-whaling sentiment in the country.

In New Zealand, Japanese Ambassador Toshihiro Takahashi lodged a protest saying that the collision occurred as a result of the protest activities, adding that it threatened the safety of the vessel and the crew.

Gunji, commenting on calls for Sea Shepherd to be recognized as a pirate group under Japan's anti-piracy law, said discussion with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other bodies was necessary, but added, "If activities that threaten people's lives and property continue then there will be grounds for discussing the issue."

News_100107_1_ady_gil_sinking_01_2 The anti-piracy law was established in June last year for the purpose of cracking down on pirates off the coast of Somalia and other areas. If it is applied to Sea Shepherd, then the Japan Coast Guard and Maritime Self-Defense Force will be able to use public authority including the use of weapons to control activities occurring on the open sea.

Governmental sources said that when Shigeru Ishiba was minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, he had argued that Sea Shepherd and other organizations should be made subject to the law, but caution had been voiced over such a move, and the issue was shelved.

An official at Japan's Fisheries Agency expressed hope over such designation, but doubted whether patrol boats would be able to counter small, high-speed protest vessels. Meanwhile, an official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs added, "It has already been agreed that the law (which defines piracy as taking money or hostages), does not apply to Sea Shepherd."

(Mainichi Daily News, January 10, 2010)  Logo_3

Ady Gil is sinking while sprinkling oil into the Antarctic Ocean. Look at serial photos on the web; http://mainichi.jp/select/jiken/graph/20100106/

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