Radical environmental activists have accused a Japanese whaling vessel off the coast of Antarctica of attacking them with a high-tech device that shoots an ear-shattering wave of sound at its targets.
Activists from the controversial Sea Shepherd Conservation Society say they were battered by sound as they tried to block the launch of a harpoon boat from the whaling vessel, Nisshin Maru. The activists believe the whaler used the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) against them, a weapon that has also been controversially sold to the Chinese government, according to Foreign Policy's Passport blog.
The LRAD is a nonlethal weapon used for crowd control by security forces, as well as by ships traveling through pirate-infested waters. It consists of a round disc that directs a beam of shrill sound, extremely loud and off-putting at a range of several hundred yards, and capable of causing permanent ear damage at close range.
The Japanese Government's Fisheries Agency acknowledged the incident occurred but said that "beeping warning tones" had been used against the radical environmentalists as well as water sprays.
Glenn Inwood, a spokesman for the government-funded Institute of Cetacean Research, did not deny the use of LRAD. “All legal means available will be used to ensure these pirates do not board Japanese ships or threaten the lives of the crews or the safety of the vessels," said Inwood.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is one of the most militant environmental organizations in existence. Their tactics, which some describe as violent, have been roundly denounced by Greenpeace as well as the governments of Australia and New Zealand.
The Japanese Whaling Association is demanding the Netherlands pull it's flag from Sea Shepherd vessels and that Australia and New Zealand close their ports to the environment organization's vessels because "the actions of the Sea Shepherd crew committing violence under the Dutch flag are no longer a whaling issue, but an issue of human life and safety at sea," said the JWA's president Keiichi Nakajima in January.
"Australian and New Zealand ports are presently closed to Japanese whaling vessels and not Sea Shepherd vessels," countered Captain Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd, "for the very good reason that Japanese whaling activities are illegal in the Southern Ocean and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has not committed a single criminal offense."
The problem, as Watson points out and the Telegraph confirms, is that Japanese whalers are also breaking the law. The International Whaling Commission banned the hunting of the world's largest mammals in 1986 to save them from extinction. Japan, however, continues to whale under a loophole that allows scientific research permits.
For more on the LRAD, watch this product advertisement.