Thursday, February 15, 2007

Anti-whalers run low on fuel, end Southern Ocean protest

Anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd, which has clashed with Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean, will end its protest on Wednesday as its ships are running low on fuel. But environmental group Greenpeace said its ship, the Esperanza, was in the Southern Ocean and now searching for the Japanese fleet to begin its actions to disrupt whaling."We are probably going to have to disengage today. We have eight days of fuel left and we have eight days to the nearest port," said Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson, who had earlier threatened to ram a Japanese whaler."We really can't physically stay down any longer without putting everyone in danger. We have been down here for seven weeks," Watson told Australian media from his ship.On Monday, the Sea Shepherd's ship Robert Hunter and the Japanese ship Kaiko Maru both suffered minor damage after a collision which both sides blamed on the other.Sea Shepherd is unable to refuel its ships and return to the Southern Ocean as its flagship ship, the Farley Mowat, was deregistered by Belize in December and Britain has said it will deregister the Robert Hunter within 30 days."We can't refuel and come back because we have lost our flag," said Watson. "So once we get into port we will be restrained from leaving. I think we have done what we can with the resources available to us."Greenpeace said on Wednesday it was searching for the Japanese fleet after sighting a spotter ship two days ago."We will start our action as soon as we find the fleet," Greenpeace's John Bowler told Reuters on Wednesday."Its a big area. They could be going in any direction. It could start in one day or 10 days. We are searching," he said.Greenpeace said its protest action in the Southern Ocean, which it would not detail, would be non-violent. "Our focus is to try and stop whales being killed," said Bowler.In Tokyo, a special meeting of the International Whaling Commission began on Tuesday, with hosts Japan and like-minded countries trying to build momentum to resume commercial hunting.Thirty-four of the International Whaling Commission's 72 members were attending the three-day meeting, with some 26 anti-whaling nations -- including Australia, New Zealand and the United States -- refusing to attend.Anti-whaling nation Britain has set out to recruit more like-minded nations to join the commission and block Japan's drive to end a 1986 ban on commercial whaling.Japan, which says whaling is a cherished cultural tradition, began scientific research whaling in 1987. The meat, which under whaling commission rules must be sold for consumption, ends up in supermarkets and pricey restaurants.

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