Anti-whaling activists said they were injured by Japanese whalers with iron grappling hooks off the coast of Antarctica on Wednesday, CNN reported.
In a clash between the activists and whalers, the environmental conservation group Sea Shepherd claimed two of its crew were struck in the shoulder with grappling hooks and another person was hit twice in the face with a long bamboo pole.
The group was on the anti-whaling ship, the Steve Irwin, in the Southern Ocean, when the incident happened at about 3 a.m.
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"Our small boats were attempting to slow down the Japanese harpoon vessel Yushin Maru No. 2, which is aggressively tailing the Steve Irwin," Captain Paul Watson said on the Sea Shepherd website, the AFP reported.
According to the statement, American crew member Brian Race suffered lacerations above his right eye and on his nose from the bamboo pole, and cameraman Russell Bergh of South Africa and photographer Guillaume Collet of France suffered bruising from the grappling hooks, Reuters reported.
But the Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research said on its website the activists used knives to cut ropes and tried to tangle the ship’s propellers with ropes.
"Two of the deployed ropes had iron weights attached to both ends. The SS activists threw ropes with hooks attached to their ends several times," said the Institute, adding the anti-whaling protesters also hurled 30 bottles of paint, Reuters reported.
"When the activists started using a knife to cut the YS2 float fender rope and net, the Japanese vessel crew used bamboo poles as a measure to push the boat back," said the statement, the BBC reported.
Although there has been a ban on commercial whaling for the last 25 years, Japan still catches 1,000 whales annually for what it says is a scientific research program, the BBC reported. But many critics say they are just using this as a front for commercial whaling.
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Here's raw footage of the whaling skirmish: