Whaling 'shooting' spurs call for inquiry

01:43, Jan 31 2009

Sea Shepherd has offered to let Australian police examine a bullet the anti-whaling group says hit its leader.

Paul Watson, captain of the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin, said he was shot and others injured during an encounter with Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean on Friday.

He said a bullet hit him just above his heart and he was saved by a bulletproof vest he was wearing.

Yesterday Glenn Inwood, spokesman for Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research, said it did not come from a Japanese firearm.

He accused Mr Watson of shooting his own bulletproof vest in a public relations stunt.

He demanded Sea Shepherd let Australian Federal Police examine the bullet.


"They [police] would get a sense pretty quickly from what [type of] gun it came from."

Crew on the Steve Irwin were throwing stink bombs at the Nisshin Maru when Japanese coastguards responded by throwing flash grenades, he said.

Mr Watson told The Dominion Post he did not shoot himself and would be happy to hand the bullet to police.

"I have never heard anything so stupid. Why would I shoot myself?

"If we are asked, we will happily hand over the bullet. As yet no one has contacted us and until someone does we will hold on to it."

Australian Federal Police have been called in to investigate the clashes. They had not indicated if they would examine the bullet.

Mr Watson said he and his crew had been wearing bulletproof vests for the entire campaign.

Sea Shepherd's tactics also earned the ire of the International Whaling Commission during a meeting in London at the weekend.

Sir Geoffrey Palmer, New Zealand's whaling commissioner there, expressed concern yesterday that someone could die if the activists' "stupid" behaviour continued.

"We don't condone Sea Shepherd's behaviour, in fact we condemn them. They need to take a look at themselves because they are being stupid."

Mr Watson said his crew would not back down from its aggressive stance and vowed to keep the whaling fleet "under the pump".

"We are not going to change our tactics, because so far they have stopped Japan from whaling for many weeks.

"We will continue to harass them until they leave the whale-hunting grounds."

Sir Geoffrey said the three-day IWC meeting, which sought to rebuild trust between member countries, made some progress toward finding common ground on whaling.

"There is still a big elephant in the form of [the] Japanese, but there was a view that progress is finally being made.

"Japan was in a very conciliatory mood which surprised me. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come."

The Dominion Post