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American Environmentalist Group Sabotages Whaling Ship

December 28, 1992 GMT

REKEFJORD, Norway (AP) _ An American environmentalist group sabotaged a whaling ship in the Arctic Circle, to protest Norway’s decision to resume commercial whale hunting, the group said Monday.

Police said the 71-foot Nybraena, used in hunting whales for research, was found nearly full of water Sunday at its berth in the Lofoten Islands.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, based in Los Angeles, said four of its activists, including group leader Paul Watson, sabotaged the ship on Saturday as ″a Christmas gift to the whales of the North Atlantic.″

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″This should be a clear message to Norway that renegade whaling will not be tolerated,″ Watson said in a telephone interview from Amsterdam, Holland. ″We are trying to deliver a message that we can find their boats, even in the winter.″

The Nybraena’s skipper, Jan Olav Olafsen, said pipes had been loosened by ″people who are knowledgeable about ships and motors,″ allowing water into the ship, the news agency NTB reported.

Olafsen said the ship’s electrical system was damaged, but that the vessel should be ready to sail in about two weeks.

Inspector Elisabeth Kaas of the Lofoten Police Department said no decision would be made on whether to file charges until an investigation is completed.

Norway gave up commercial hunting after the 1987 season under pressure from international protests and threats of boycotts. Earlier this year it announced the hunt would resume next year, defying a ban by the International Whaling Commission.

Norway says the whale hunt is a tradition essential to the economies of some coastal villages.

Watson said Sea Shepherd plans to confront Norwegian whaling ships at sea if the commercial hunt resumes.

After the sabotage in the small port village of Steine, police urged whale hunters to keep a close eye on their vessels. Some skippers decided to sleep aboard their ships, news reports said. The Lofoten Islands are located off northwest Norway.

Sea Shepherd said there was no one aboard the Nybraena when it was sabotaged at 3 p.m. under cover of the arctic winter darkness. The group said in a news release that the saboteurs travelled 2,500 miles roundtrip by car and ferry from Stockholm, Sweden, to reach Steine.