Danish police firing machine guns and tear gas drove away a boat cruising near the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic to protest the killing of pilot whales, a spokesman for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society said Saturday.
Scott Trimingham, president of the Los-Angeles based group, said the 200-foot trawler was in international waters seven miles from Torshavn, capital of the islands, when it came under attack from three inflatable rafts and a larger vessel.
But police in Torshavn told the Associated Press that the boat had sailed within the islands' three-mile territorial limit in defiance of an order to stay farther out to sea.
Police said the environmentalists fired pistols at officers who tried to board the Sea Shepherd and that police responded with tear gas. Trimingham denied that the Sea Shepherd had any weapons aboard.
He said Capt. Paul Watson told the group's headquarters by radio that there were no injuries but that the hull of the Sea Shepherd was dented and that the boat was taking refuge in the Hebrides Islands off Scotland.
The Sea Shepherd had been in place off the Faroes for two weeks to protest the yearly killing of more than 2,000 pilot whales by residents of the islands, which lie between Scotland and Iceland and are part of the Danish kingdom.
Trimingham said that two members of the crew of 15 were beaten when they went ashore in late June.
While pilot whales are not threatened with extinction, Trimingham said that the traditional yearly hunt is inhumane and unnecessary. It involves rounding up the whales at sea and driving them into shallow bays where they are speared and butchered.
The Sea Shepherd group was founded by Watson in 1977, when he was expelled from Greenpeace.