An anti-whaling group searching Antarctic waters for a Japanese whaling fleet with the aim of disrupting its operations said both its vessels will soon be "pirate ships" following a decision by Britain to deregister one its vessels.
SYDNEY -- An anti-whaling group searching Antarctic waters for a Japanese whaling fleet with the aim of disrupting its operations said both its vessels will soon be "pirate ships" following a decision by Britain to deregister one its vessels.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which has offered a $25,000 reward for the location of the Japanese fleet, said Britain was acting on a request by Tokyo after its flagship, the Farley Mowat, was deregistered by Belize.
"We haven't broken any law or regulation, but now we're not registered anywhere -- we're technically a pirate ship without a flag," said Captain Paul Watson from the Farley Mowat.
"It means that we could be attacked and confiscated at will by any nation including the Japanese," he said.
Watson said the Farley Mowat had its registration revoked by Canada in August 2006 without any reason given, and then by Belize in December after only ten days of registration.
Belize officials told the anti-whaling group that Japan had requested its ship be deregistered, he said.
Watson said Japan had also approached Britain, which last week notified the group that its second vessel, the Robert Hunter, would be deregistered in 30 days.
British officials confirmed the Robert Hunter has been given notice that it would be struck off the British Ship Register following a request by Japan based on the use of the ship, The Age newspaper reported.
"We're up against such an economic bully," Watson said. "A lot of countries want to give the pretence of concern for whaling, but in reality they are more concerned with upholding trade relations with Japan."
The Sea Shepherd ships, which hope to intercept the fleet and disrupt whaling operations, have less than three weeks before they must leave the area to refuel and pick up supplies.
"Every day they're killing whales -- every day we're not there, more whales are dying," Watson said.
The New Zealand government has released footage of the Japanese fleet in the Ross Sea harpooning, hauling and processing whales.
"In doing so, we hope to allow the public to make up their own minds about Japan's whaling activities," said Conservation Minister Chris Carter on a government website.
New Zealand has ignored calls to divulge the location of the Japanese fleet to the Sea Shepherd ships .
A global moratorium on commercial whaling has existed since 1986, but Japan kills hundreds of whales each year under a scientific whaling programme. Iceland and Norway are the only countries to ignore the moratorium and conduct commercial hunts.
Japan has called a special meeting of members of the International Whaling Commission this month in an attempt to help lift the whaling moratorium, but 26 anti-whaling nations, including Australia, have said they will boycott the meeting.