11 Jan 2010

Consulate staff refuse to meet whaling protesters

10:29 pm on 11 January 2010

Staff at the Japanese consulate in New Zealand have refused to meet with campaigners from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to accept a petition calling for an end to whaling.

Each year, Japan kills hundreds of the mammals in Antarctica's Southern Ocean as part of what it calls its scientific whaling programme.

The Sea Shepherd's New Zealand-registered trimaran the Ady Gil was badly damaged in a controversial collision with a ship from a Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean last week and later sank.

Each side blames the other for the collision.

On Monday, about 20 protesters in Auckland waved banners and collected signatures for the petition asking Japan to end what they call the slaughter of whales.

Sea Shepherd New Zealand representative Bill Watson says when they tried to enter the consulate to give the petition to staff, they were denied entry.

Mr Watson says a security guard told them the staff did not want to meet with the group but that he would pass on the petition that Mr Watson says had about 400 signatures.

He believes an investigation into the collision is essential and Sea Shepherd is in the process of laying an official complaint with New Zealand police.

Ady Gil crew stuck in Antarctica

The skipper of the Ady Gil says crew members are likely to be stuck in Antarctica for up to two months.

Following last week's collision, the crew were transferred to another Sea Shepherd anti-whaling vessel the Bob Barker.

Ady Gil skipper Pete Bethune says crew members, including four New Zealanders, are struggling to find a way to get home.

Mr Bethune says there are few commercial flights from the region and it is a logistical nightmare trying to meet them, as the Bob Barker is always on the move following the whalers.

Mr Bethune says the Sea Shepherd's campaign will end when whaling stops in March.