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> 'Space age' ship joins whale fight, theage.com.au
eYe-reEs
post Dec 3 2009, 09:22
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Earthrace is joining the fight for the whales.

JAPAN has asked Australia to prevent the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin from leaving port to harass its whalers in the Antarctic next summer, but the plea may have little effect.

The anti-whaling activists plan to upgrade their fleet from an ageing ex-North Atlantic fisheries patrol boat to include another ship, this time out of the future. The global speedboat Earthrace would head south under Sea Shepherd colours next summer, the group's leader Paul Watson said

"It looks like a spaceship," Mr Watson said. "It can do 40 knots and dive under waves completely. We'll be using it to intercept and block harpoons."

Earthrace circled the globe fuelled by biodiesel in 61 days last year. New Zealand owner/skipper Pete Bethune said he decided to get involved because "this is happening in my backyard and it really pisses me off".

He said he was adding half a tonne of Kevlar to the vessel to toughen it up against the ice.

Earthrace's role was unveiled as the International Whaling Commission heard that Sea Shepherd's protests had endangered the lives of whalers last summer when the Steve Irwin was involved in two collisions.

"These are highly dangerous and it can only be described as a miracle that there has been no death or large-scale accident to date," Japanese delegation member Jun Yamashita told the 71-nation meeting.

"We cannot possibly tolerate such audacity. We ask for all appropriate measures, including a ban on the ship from leaving port."

Mr Watson said the Steve Irwin would soon leave Brisbane for Hobart after a $500,000 refit.

Australian Department of Foreign Affairs official David Dutton told the meeting the Rudd Government was deeply concerned about clashes in the Southern Ocean.

He said the Australian Federal Police was now investigating the conflict.

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