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Whalers collide with activist's ship

JAPANESE whalers and anti-whaling activists trying to stop the hunters from pulling one of their kills out of the Antarctic Ocean collided yesterday in an incident Tokyo condemned as "appalling and unforgivable." No one was injured.

Activist Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society said his boat was chasing the Japanese ship dragging a whale on board when another Japanese boat shot in front of his vessel, causing a collision.

"The situation down here is getting very, very chaotic and very aggressive," Watson told AP by satellite phone from his boat, named after the late Australian conservationist and TV personality, Steve Irwin.

Earlier in the day, Watson said, the Japanese hurled pieces of blubber and whale meat at his ship. "We can see the blood pouring out by the barrel," he said as he watched the Japanese haul another whale on to their vessel.

In a statement, the Institute of Cetacean Research -- the Japanese government-affiliated organization that oversees the hunt -- condemned the protesters' actions, characterizing the collision as a "deliberate ramming."

Japan plans to harvest up to 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales this season. Under International Whaling Commission rules, the mammals may be killed for research but not for commercial purposes. Opponents say the Japanese research expeditions are simply a cover for commercial whaling, which was banned in 1986.


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