TOKYO (majirox news) — Crewmen aboard the Japanese Fisheries Protection vessel Shonan Maru 2 on Jan. 11, raised the ante of violence by hurling stun grenades at Sea Shepherd crew members who were dogging the whalers in an inflatable boat. The incident happened in the frigid seas off Antarctica, where Sea Shepherd has been trying to to interfere with Japanese whalers who kill whales in the name of “scientific research.”
According to Slate magazine, “Stun grenades create an intense flash — as bright as 1 million candles burning at once, along with a boom that registers at upwards of 175 decibels.” Supposedly, victims of stun grenades are both blinded and deafened for five seconds, but the magazine says that some people report hearing and vision loss for days afterwards.
“Soldiers who use stun grenades are advised to wear earplugs and visors as well as taking cover once the device has been thrown,” the magazine noted. Though now a standard item in both military and police arsenals, particularly for use in hostage situations, stun grenades have already been responsible for the deaths of two people.
The Japanese Coast Guard reported that a Sea Shepherd inflatable boat was attempting to disrupt whaling and two members of the Guard threw stun grenades at them in an attempt to drive them off. Two Sea Shepherd boats approached the Japanese whalers at around 11 a.m. and continued their harassing action for more than an hour, including dragging a rope near the Shonan Maru 2 in what the Japanese Coast Guard saw as an attempt to foul the ship’s propellers.
After the Sea Shepherd boat refused to heed warnings issued over a bullhorn to veer off, the crewmen aboard the Shonan Maru 2 threw two stun grenades at the boats. The Japanese Coast Guard claims that though this was the first time on this particular research voyage that stun grenades had been thrown at Sea Shepherd boats, they have used them a number of times before.
The portion of the Southern Ocean where Japanese “research whaling” takes place is within the Australian-claimed exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and Australia currently has a case before the International Court of Justice in The Hague seeking a stop to whaling there. Although the Japanese are sensitive about any foreign economic operations in their own EEZ, such as by Chinese or Korean fishing boats, they appear to believe that they operate under a different standard when it comes to fishing within Australia’s EEZ.
The Southern Ocean bordering Antarctica, where Japanese “research whaling” takes place, is one of the most storm-driven and dangerous oceans in the world. Under these conditions, the use by the Japanese of potentially fatal weapons to drive off anti-whaling protestors marks what many would consider a dangerous and unnecessary escalation, in a dispute where there is little sympathy for their side.