Anti-whaling Sea Shepherd crew detained in South Africa

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

After seven weeks in the Southern Ocean disrupting the Japanese whaling fleet, a Canadian registered anti-whaling ship, the Farley Mowat, has been detained by South African authorities.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society vessel, its captain Paul Watson, and his crew, have been detained indefinitely. The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) have placed a guard on the gangplank and are patrolling the ship.

The Farley Mowat, which sailed from Melbourne, Australia on December 6, was detained in Cape Town harbour, following a request from the Canadian government. A SAMSA official said the ship did not have the required certification.

"They don't have the right certificates for the skipper, the first-mate or the chief engineer," an official said. According to SAMSA, the detention adheres to Canadian maritime laws and followed correspondence from Canada, who requested that the authorities check the ship.

According to Scoop Independent, the ship and crew have been detained due to the International Maritime Organization's ISPS Code. Under Canadian maritime law, both the captain and first officer should be Canadian nationals. Captain Paul Watson is Canadian, First Officer Alex Cornelissen is Dutch.

SAMSA claims that the Farley Mowat was not in possession of an international ship security certificate or a ship security plan.

This means the ship allegedly does not comply with the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code) — a comprehensive set of measures to enhance the security of ships and port facilities. The code was developed in response to the perceived maritime threats to ships and port facilities in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in the United States.

The official said the detention was in line with Canadian maritime laws and followed correspondence from Canada requesting the authorities check the ship.

However, Captain Paul Watson says political pressure from Japan is behind the detention of the boat. He says he does not have the necessary documentation required by officials as the boat is registered as a yacht and not a commercial vessel.

Confrontation on the High Seas

Japanese whalers are currently in the Antarctic catching whales for the Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR)'s JARPA II lethal research program - a practice condemned internationally by anti-whaling nations. After samples have been taken, the remaining whale meat is sold as a delicacy.

During the last six weeks in Antarctica, the Farley Mowat has intercepted the Japanese whaling fleet, chasing the whalers over 4,000 miles. Sea Shepherd say the whalers spent 15 days running from them, and that "no whales were killed as the fleet attempted to put as much distance between the whalers and whale defenders as possible."

During one confrontation the Farley Mowat crew claim it sideswiped the Japanese whaling fleet supply vessel Oriental Bluebird and ordered it to leave from the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society say they will return to Antarctica in December 2006 with a faster long-range vessel. "We discovered that when we can catch them, we could stop their whaling activities. If we can secure a faster ship we will be able to shut them down completely. We will be making every effort to secure a faster ship so that we can return and intervene more effectively against their illegal killing operations," said Captain Paul Watson.

Institute of Cetacean Research in Tokyo councilor Dan Goodman say that Australia, New Zealand, and other anti-whaling nations should support Japan's commitment to its scientific research.

Japan announced at last year's meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) this summer its JARPA II program that includes the killing of 935 Minke whales and 10 endangered Fin whales.

In 2007-08, Japan will raise its self-imposed kill quotas to include 935 Minke whales, 50 fin whales, and 50 Humpbacks whales. Mr. Goodman said Japan had to kill the whales because certain kinds of data – including how old whale populations are, how old whales are when they reach sexual maturity, how long whales live for, and what they eat – cannot be obtained using non-lethal methods.

"These are the kinds of data required to improve management measures for the resumption of commercial whaling," Mr. Goodman said. "Of course the anti-whaling scientists don't believe this kind of data is required because they do not want to see a resumption of commercial whaling."

Dr Gales, head of Australia's delegation to the scientific committee for the IWC, said after years of research the Japanese should have concluded by now that piked (minke) whales eat krill. "They're asking for support for science that has no support," he said.

Next year, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society say they intend to return to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in Antarctica to do some research of their own; "We need to research more effective law enforcement measures to shut down this criminal operation that is posing as a research project," said Captain Watson.

Wikinews Australia has in-depth coverage of this issue: Southern Ocean whaling season (2005-2006)