Japanese Whalers Using 'Military' Sonic Device: Activists

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Anti-whaling activists accused Japanese fishermen Friday of using a military-type sonic device and water cannon against their helicopter as risky skirmishes in Antarctic seas escalated.

The Sea Shepherd animal rights group said the whalers used a Long Range Acoustical Device (LRAD) to repel the activists’ helicopter, and then blasted the aircraft with water after it landed back on the anti-whalers’ ship.”This was an extremely irresponsible thing to do,” helicopter pilot Chris Aultman said of the sonic equipment.”That device can cause nausea and disorientation and the use of it against an aircraft is both extremely dangerous and grossly irresponsible.”

LRAD is a device sometimes used for crowd control and also by US forces in Iraq. It has also been used by ships to repel pirates in waters off Somalia, according to reports.A Sea Shepherd statement said the Japanese Shonan Maru No.2 also fired water cannon “in an attempt to destroy the helicopter on the landing pad”.Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research, which runs the whaling operations, said the sonic device was meant to warn the activists, not to hurt them.

“We are using a long range acoustic device only for the purpose of delivering our warning message to them,” said an official at the institute.”It is not meant to harm people or hurt their hearing.”

When the activists come too close, he told AFP, “we spray water to prevent them from approaching us”.The Japanese also accused the activists of pointing a laser-like device at them, saying there was “no word for this but regrettable”.
“As usual, we are protesting through diplomatic channels to the parties concerned,” said Shigeki Takaya, an official with the fishery agency’s whaling section.The activists have pursued the Japanese fleet over the past six hunting seasons and claim to have saved the lives of hundreds of whales.

Japan killed nearly 700 whales last year using a loophole in an international moratorium that allows “lethal research”.Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands have called for restraint on both sides after a collision last year and incidents when the activists hurled rancid butter and stink bombs.”The situation is now very dangerous,” said Paul Watson, the captain of the anti-whaling ship the Steve Irwin.”We have deliberately led the Japanese ship into thick ice in order to lose them in the ice. The icebergs could easily damage either vessel.”

He said the latest incident took place in French Antarctic waters and had been reported to French authorities.

(source)

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