Astounding! Last year around this time, things were really getting dramatic in the Sea Shepherd pursuit of the Japanese whaling fleet across Antarctica. Crew missing at sea, shipboard fires, the risk of a pristine environment being chemically decimated, and even one human death as an accompaniment to the slaughter of hundreds of mammoth sentient beings.
Not to be outdone, the 2007/08 season of resistance has just kicked into overdrive. Today, the Australian Federal Court called Japanese whaling - in Australian waters, at least - what it is: illegal. The Honourable Justice Allsop issued an injunction ordering that all Japanese whaling within Australian Antarctic waters (which Japan and most other countries don't recognize) stop immediately. So, technically, since about 3pm Australian East Coast time every single crew member of the Japanese whaling fleet has been eligible for arrest should they enter Australian territories.
But the Japanese whaling fleet, as always, needed to up the ante. In the last 50 minutes it has been reported that the crew of the harpoon gunboat Yashin Maru II have taken two Sea Shepherd activists - Australian Benjamin Potts and a Briton, Giles Lane - hostage, and tied them to the radar mast of their ship. A spokesman for the fleet described this as nonsense, saying that the two men had not been tied to a mast but have actually been locked in a room below decks. This is the kind of public relations you just can't make up. Seriously.
Earlier today the Sea Shepherd vessel Steve Irwin broke off its pursuit of the whale-processing factory vessel, also known as the Cetacean Death Star, the Nisshin Maru. With Greenpeace's Esperanza still pursuing the factory ship away from the rest of the whaling fleet, the Shepherds turned about to disrupt the activities of the rest of the scattered fleet.
Obviously, they found them alright. Shepherd Captain Paul Watson reports that the two men, who have now been effectively kidnapped on the high seas - ironically, a genuine act of piracy by the Japanese whalers - had boarded the ship to deliver a letter to the captain proclaiming their whaling activity illegal and demanding an immediate cessation of whale-hunting, as per the order made today by the Federal Court.
Seems that Australian concerns about creating a diplomatic incident with Japan pale in comparison to what the whaling fleet are clearly eager to create.