ANTARCTIC OCEAN—The "Whale Wars" appear to be escalating after protestors say they were attacked for a second time in a month by a Japanese whaling boat.
"I think what they are trying to do is intimidate us out of the area by becoming more and more violent," said Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, after another boat, the Bob Barker, was side-swapped in Antarctic Ocean waters Saturday.
January 6th, the boat "Addy Gil" was cut in half by a Japanese boat, and the crew barely escaped alive. Watson says they asked the U.S. government to step in after that incident, but they never did. Now, he says they got lucky that only the boat was injured in this latest collision.
"It's a dangerous job, and we're operating in one of the most remote hostile areas of the planet," says Watson, "but we have no choice, we're not going to sit by and watch them wipe out endangered species."
Sea Shepherd crews say the Japanese are breaking international law by hunting the whales. The Japanese say they are legally killing them for "research", claiming they open up the bellies of the whales to find out what kind of fish they eat.
"They are getting away with it because it is so remote," says Orca Conservancy President, Michael Harris, "It's just so completely away from the eyes and minds of the rest of the world."
Harris believes the Japanese feel free to continue hostile tactics in the waters, like in Saturday's collision, because they got away with intentionally ramming and sinking the "addy Gil" last month. You can watch video of the collision here: http://www.seashepherd.org/matilda/video.html
"This is the 'Wild West' happening again in international waters," says Harris,"clearly its escalating, the Japanese are feeling more embolden to go out and physically attack the protesters."
Harris and Watson say that area where most of the whaling happens, in the Antarctic Ocean near Australia, is meant to be free and peaceful, and they can't believe the governments in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States haven't pressured the Japanese to change their ways."
"It's a cultural war going on more than anything else," says Harris, "it's the Japanese people saying hey you know what, you kill cows, you kill chicken, we kill whales, you stop killing cows, we'll stop killing whales."
"They are no different than elephant poachers in East Africa, except there in East Africa, they are black and they are poor and people shoot them," says Captain Watson, "but because they are Japanese and wealthy they get away with breaking the law."
Watson believes the Sea Shepherd cause is starting to pay off. He says in the last 5 years, they have managed to cut Japanese profits, and quotas.
"We're speaking the language they understand, profits and loss," says Watson, "as long as we can continue to undercut them, and negate their profits, I think we may be able to drive them out of the Southern ocean whale sanctuary."
Watson says Japan has just recently opened up about a possible compromise, but he says any compromise where whales continue to get killed, is not one the Sea Shepherd Society will sign off on.