Shots fired at marine protesters

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The Sea Shepherd Conservation Group, known for their extremist approach to protecting marine life, claims their leader, Capt. Paul Watson, was shot by the Japanese Coast Guard, according to an article on Bloomberg.com.

The group claims they were throwing rotten butter from the deck of their ship, named Steve Irwin, at Japanese whalers with harpoons on the Nisshin Maru, the whaling fleet’s factory ship. A member of the Japanese coast guard on board then reportedly opened fire and hit Watson in his bulletproof vest, the slug mangling his anti-poaching badge.

However, Japan is denying that live bullets were fired, according to the release. Sea Shepherd also claims two more of their activists were injured when what appeared to be flash grenades were directed at them.

Japan’s government told the Australian embassy in Tokyo that a crew member had fired “warning shots” during the clash but did not open fire on the activists, according to Stephen Smith, Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister.

Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura for Japan called the Sea Shepherd’s tactics “outrageous,” stating four men on board the Nisshin Maru whaling ship were treated for minor injuries from the 24 bottles of hurled butter and what the Japanese claim to be butyric acid. Watson believes he owes his life to the badge that stood between him and the bullet, according to the Web Site, www.seashepherd.org

Japan has been researching whaling to determine if populations have recovered sufficiently to return to commercial whaling, banned globally since 1986, according to the article.

- Elizabeth Ellis

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