Japan says environmentalists rammed whaler

Feb. 7, 2009 at 7:59 PM

SYDNEY, Feb. 7 (UPI) -- The captain of a Dutch-registered environmental activists' vessel acknowledges ramming a Japanese whaler while trying to interrupt its work.

Paul Watson, captain of the Steve Irwin, told Kyodo News Service he was trying to prevent the transfer of a whale carcass from one Japanese ship to another. The Steve Irwin, named after the late celebrity Australian herpetologist, is operated by Sea Shepherd, an anti-whaling group.

''We were in the process of blocking the transfer from the Yushin Maru No. 2 when the Yushin Maru No. 1 moved directly in front of the bow to block us,'' Watson said in a satellite phone interview. ''I could not turn to starboard without hitting the Yushin Maru No. 1. I tried to back down, but the movement of the Yushin Maru No. 2 made the collision unavoidable.''

Minoru Morimoto, head of the Institute for Cetacean Research, accused the Steve Irwin's crew of entangling whalers' propellers and throwing acid at them. Watson said the substance was rancid butter.

Sea Shepherd tracks the Japanese whaling fleet's annual trip to Antarctic waters. Watson accused the Japanese of increasingly violent tactics.

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