A Japanese harpoon whaling ship has rammed a conservationist protestors’ vessel in dramatic scenes in icy seas off Antarctica.
Video released by anti-whaling organisation, Sea Shepherd, shows the Japanese ship the Yushin Maru 2 crashing into the bow of the Bob Barker last week in the Southern Ocean off the South Pole.
Sea Shepherd claims the collision was deliberate and part of a sustained attack by three whaling ships on the protestors.
The Sea Shepherd boats, the Bob Barker and the Steve Irwin, were patrolling off Antarctica in the RossSea, the most pristine marine ecosystem on earth in which a high concentration of marine wildlife has remained mostly free from pollution, mining and fishing.
Known as “the last ocean”, the RossSea teems with large predatory fish, whales, seals and penguins.
The Sea Shepherd vessels had sailed to the Ross Sea to interfere with a Japanese whaling fleet comprising the Yushin Maru, Yushin Maru 2, Yushin Maru 3 and the world’s only whaling factory ship, the Nisshin Maru.
Sea Shepherd claims the Japanese ships launched a sustained eight hour attack from around 1am Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT) on Sunday 2nd February.
The Nisshin Maru is chartered by Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR), which claims to be a nonprofit research organization of whales and dolphins, but which Sea Shepherd and Greenpeace say is just a Japanese Government-funded operation for slaughtering whales for profit.
In the attack, which continued until 9am, the harpoon vessels overtook the Sea Shepherd ships, crossing their bows and coming within three to five metres in numerous “dangerous manoeuvres”, Sea Shepherd claimed.
It said the Yushin Maru 3 struck the Bob Barker and quoted the ship’s captain, Peter Hammarstedt, and Siddarth Chakravarty of the Steve Irwin saying the two ships on several occasions had to steer out of the harpoon whalers’ paths, narrowly avoiding potential collisions.
Greenpeace claims the Nisshin Maru has twice rammed its vessel, the Arctic Sunrise, although the Institute for Cetacean Research contested Greenpeace was to blame.
ICR says on its website Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd engage in dangerous ‘sabotage’ which endangers life at sea.
‘Sea Shepherd group, one of several Greenpeace offshoots, joined the interference against Japan’s whale research and, imitating Greenpeace methods such as illegal boarding and ramming of research vessels, started to use increasingly dangerous and violent sabotage methods which include entangling devices (propeller foulers), throwing and shooting of chemical-containing projectiles, smoke bombs and incendiary devices,’ ICR said.
‘Over and over again we have strongly condemned the harassment and sabotage actions by these groups and demand again that they refrain from further spreading violence under pretext of protecting whales.’
Sea Shepherd’s team of volunteers from around the world has photographed the ICR’s harpooning of whales, and slaughter of dolphins in the Japanese port of Taiji.
Australian Alana West told of the scene at Taiji last year, when the Japanese team herded a pod of striped dolphins into Taiji Cove and how she could hear ‘the distress cries of the dying pod members’.
‘Although the noise and confusion of the killing must have been terrifying for these dolphins, they did not swim to the other end of the Cove, as they so wanted to be with their pod members who were in fear and pain and were taking their last breaths,’ Alana said.
‘It was incredibly harrowing to witness.’
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Marine Conservation Society to take legal action over ocean sewage spills
The Marine Conservation Society is announcing joining as co-claimant in a legal case against the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to protect English seas from sewage dumping.
The legal case seeks to compel the Government to rewrite its Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan 2022, impose tighter deadlines on water companies and redevelop the Plan to effectively apply to coastal waters which are, currently, almost entirely excluded.
Sandy Luk, Marine Conservation Society CEO: “Untreated sewage is being pumped into our seas for hundreds of thousands of hours each year; putting people, planet and wildlife at risk.
We’ve tried tirelessly to influence the UK Government on what needs to be done, but their Plan to address this deluge of pollution entering our seas is still unacceptable. We owe it to our members, supporters and coastal communities to act, which is why we’ve joined as co-claimants on this case. We’re out of options. Our seas deserve better.”
Launched and funded by the Good Law Project, the Marine Conservation Society will stand as co-claimants on the case with Richard Haward’s Oysters, and surfer and activist, Hugo Tagholm.
Before reaching this point, the charity responded to a government consultation in March 2022 and met with DEFRA to express concern. In August 2022, the charity wrote an open letter to DEFRA outlining the ways in which the proposed Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan fails to protect the environment and public health from dumping raw sewage into the sea. However, the Plan hasn’t been amended and still fails to adequately address water companies’ excessive reliance on storm overflows and the harm their heavy use causes to our ocean.
The plan virtually excludes most coastal waters (except for bathing waters) either directly or indirectly, with some types of Marine Protected Areas and shellfish waters totally excluded. 600 storm overflows are not covered at all by the Plan and will continue to – completely legally – be able to dump uncontrolled amounts of sewage directly into English seas and beaches. What’s more, the Plan lacks all urgency – with long-term targets set for 2050, and the earliest, most urgent targets not to be met until 2035.
Meanwhile, Marine Conservation Society analysis finds that raw sewage is pouring into the ocean at an alarming rate. In total, there are at least 1,651 storm overflows within 1km of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in England. These overflows spilt untreated sewage 41,068 times in 2021. Of these, almost half the overflows spilt more than 10 times in 2021, with an average of 48 spills for each of those overflows. Overall, in 2021, sewage poured into Marine Protected Areas for a total of 263,654 hours.
According to DEFRA’s own latest assessments, only 19% of estuaries and and 45% of coastal waters are at ‘good ecological status’, with none meeting ‘good chemical status’, and three quarters (75%) of shellfish waters failing to meet water quality standards.
Rachel Wyatt, Policy & Advocacy Manager for Clean Seas at the Marine Conservation Society: “Untreated sewage contains a cocktail of bacteria, viruses, harmful chemicals, and microplastics. It’s nearly impossible to remove microplastics and ‘forever chemicals’ once in the environment. Due to their persistence, with every discharge, these pollutants will continue to increase, meaning eventually they will pass – or may have already passed – a threshold of harm.”
In addition, it’s not just invisible toxins that are causing problems. In September this year at the charity’s annual Great British Beach Clean, sewage related pollution, such as wet wipes and sanitary products, were found on 73% of the beaches surveyed across England.
A new DEFRA report, Ocean Literacy in England and Wales, shows that 85% of people say marine protection is personally important to them. Yet this is being ignored.
Emma Dearnaley, Legal Director at the Good Law Project, said: “The Marine Conservation Society is at the forefront of tackling the ocean emergency and standing up for coastal communities impacted by climate change and pollution. We are delighted to have them on board as a co-claimant.
“Good Law Project will work closely with the claimants, including the Marine Conservation Society, to put forward the case for more ambitious and urgent measures to reduce sewage discharges by water companies. These sewage spills are threatening human health, biodiverse marine life and the fishing industry. We believe that taking legal action now is vital to help safeguard our coastal waters for generations to come”.
If the case is won, the Marine Conservation Society hopes to see the UK Government amend its Plan so that it meets the DEFRA Secretary of State’s legal obligations to protect the ocean and its inhabitants from raw sewage spills.
For more visit the Marine Conservation Society website.
Header image credit: Natasha Ewins
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