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Captain Paul Watson observes the Nisshin Maru.

It’s the end of an era in animal activism. After 12 years confronting and disrupting the activities of Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean, Sea Shepherd says it is calling it quits.

“What we discovered is that Japan is now employing military surveillance to watch Sea Shepherd ship movements in real time by satellite and if they know where our ships are at any given moment, they can easily avoid us,” Captain Paul Watson said recently on the Sea Shepherd website. “We cannot compete with their military grade technology.”

In the last two years, Sea Shepherd ships have only caught glimpses of the Japanese whaling vessels. “Every time we approached them, they would be just over the horizon,” Captain Watson told The Washington Post. “They knew where we were at every moment. We’re literally wasting our time and our money.”

Moreover, Japanese authorities escalated their resistance this year with the passing of new anti-terrorism laws and said they might even send the military to defend their illegal whaling activities for the first time ever.

Captain Watson said his organization will continue its efforts against whaling around the world. “We will never quit until the abomination of whaling is abolished forever by anyone, anywhere, for any reason.”


Photo courtesy of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Photo courtesy of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

The notorious annual dolphin drives are scheduled to begin near Taiji, Japan, on September 1 and will continue until at least March. Every year, fishermen locate pods of migrating dolphins out at sea and herd them into Hatagiri Bay with boats, nets, and long metal rods that crew members dip below the surface and pound to create an acoustical wall that disorients the dolphins’ sonar. The fishermen leave the animals overnight in a narrow cove and return at dawn armed with the knives and spears that will gradually turn the blue tide scarlet. While many dolphins are killed for meat, others are sold to zoos and marine parks worldwide, making the drives an incredibly lucrative business.

Some say this could be the final season for these hunts. The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) has ordered the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA) to stop purchasing dolphins captured in Taiji or be permanently suspended as a WAZA member, and JAZA members reluctantly agreed. If all the Japanese aquariums follow through on their pledges to stop buying Taiji dolphins, it could render the entire Taiji dolphin killing operation uneconomic and unsustainable.

But activists and nonprofits are not waiting. Taiji will still be able to export live dolphins overseas to aquariums and zoos that are not WAZA members, including those in China, Russia, and the Middle East. Groups such as Sea Shepherd and Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project will be in Taiji to monitor the drives and bear witness to the suffering.

What You Can Do:

1. Educate Yourself. Watch The Cove—the Academy Award-winning documentary about the Taiji drives—or read Salt Water Tears by Len Varley. I also examine this issue in my book Bleating Hearts, for which I interviewed renowned dolphin trainer-turned animal advocate Ric O’Barry. Then share your knowledge about this issue with others.

2. Don’t Buy a Ticket. The captive-dolphin entertainment industry gets rich from dolphin suffering and death. By boycotting their profit stream, we can sink them economically. Don’t patronize any parks that keep dolphins in captivity, including places that offer swim-with-the-dolphins programs. Encourage your family and friends to stay away from these businesses, too.

3. Sign Up for Dolphin Day. Join individuals, activists, and organizations around the world by participating in this International Day of Action on September 1. Click here for information.

4. Speak Up. Contact authorities in Taiji, as well as the Japanese Embassy, US Embassy to Japan, US and Japanese Ambassadors to the UN, and the US Senate members of the Committee on Foreign Relations. Call or send them a polite message expressing your feelings about the dolphin hunts and ask them to do everything in their power to help put an end to the misery.

Prime Minister of Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Cabinet Office, Government of Japan 1-6-1 Nagata-cho Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. 100-8914 JAPAN +81-3-5253-2111

Website: Online comment form #1: Online comment form #2:

Japanese Embassies Worldwide: Websites of Japanese Embassies, Consulates and Permanent Missions

List of Embassies and Consulates-General in Japan: List of Embassies and Consulates-General in Japan

Please thank Caroline Kennedy for her defense of the dolphins:

US Embassy in Japan: Caroline Kennedy – Ambassador of the United States to Japan Telephone: 011-81-3-3224-5000 Fax: 011-81-3-3505-1862 Send E-mail to the U.S. Embassy in Japan

Japanese UN Representatives: H.E. Mr Kazuyoshi Umemoto – Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary

H.E. Mr. Jun Yamazaki – Deputy Representative of Japan to the UN

United States UN Representative: Samantha Power – US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power’s Twitter United States Mission to the United Nations Contact Form

US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations: US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

Wakayama Prefecture Office, Fishery Division: Telephone: +81-73-441-3010 Fax: +81-73-432-4124

International Whaling Commission (IWC) The Red House, 135 Station Road, Impington, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire CB24 9NP, UK. Tel: +44 (0) 1223 233 971 Fax: +44 (0) 1223 232 87 Email:

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) / Convention on Migratory Species (CMP) UNEP/CMS Secretariat Platz der Vereinten Nationen 1 53113 Bonn, Germany Tel: (+49 228) 815 2401 Fax: (+49 228) 815 2449 Email:

5. Join Volunteers in Japan. Sea Shepherd and the Dolphin Project are both looking for people to travel to Taiji. Those who are interested in volunteering as a Sea Shepherd Cove Guardian for Operation Henkaku should email (Please note that volunteer applicants must be able to commit to participating in the campaign for a minimum of one week.) To sign up to join Ric O’Barry and his Dolphin Project team as a Project Cove Monitor, please click here.


Pete Bethune

Sea Shepherd’s 2009/2010 campaign to disrupt Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean will be remembered for two names: the ship Ady Gil and its skipper, Pete Bethune of New Zealand. Pete had been captain of the carbon-composite, high-tech trimaran when it was called Earthrace and purchased for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) by millionaire Ady Gil. The futuristic-looking vessel sank after the Japanese harpoon ship Shonan Maru II rammed it on January 6. A month later, Pete managed to leap from a Jet Ski and board the Shonan Maru II while the whaler was making 14 knots and avoid anti-boarding spikes along the way. His objective was to attempt a citizen’s arrest of the captain of the Shonan Maru II for the destruction of the Ady Gil and attempted murder of the six Ady Gil crewmembers. Or maybe not. Pete was promptly taken into custody by the ship’s crew, held for 24 days and returned to Japan for trial. Charges included trespassing and assault on a whaler (apparently Japanese poachers don’t like being hit with rancid butter). Pete received a two-year sentence, which was then suspended, and he returned to New Zealand in July. He’s now working on a book. The other day I had the chance to chat with him.

What was your involvement in the anti-whaling movement prior to Ady Gil buying Earthrace for Sea Shepherd?

None really, other than being pissed off at the Japanese. In New Zealand, we all know [illegal whaling] happens in our backyard, but we feel powerless to do anything. SSCS gave me an opportunity to do something. Whaling remains deeply offensive to Kiwis and Aussies.

You’ve been writing a book. What it is about?

It is about how I got involved with SSCS, getting to Antarctica, getting rammed, prison in Japan and coming home. It also has a lot of my ideas on how we are stuffing things up these days and my views on energy, the planet and conservation.

When will it be published?

It will be published in New Zealand and Australia in November this year, and then the USA, Canada and UK next year.

There’s been a lot of debate about whether or not Captain Komura of the Shonan Maru II deliberately ran down the Ady Gil. Do you have any doubts it was intentional?

It was definitely intentional. I think he wanted to hit our front and put us out of the campaign, but maybe not hit us so far back. He was a really aggressive little bugger, all through the campaign, and a smack on our bow would have been a great result for him. Get the boat that is wreaking havoc out of the campaign. But he misjudged it, we never went into reverse, and the rest is history. I hope he wasn’t trying to kill us! Incredibly dangerous what he did, regardless.

Paul Watson has said that banning you from Sea Shepherd was a legal ploy, and that you are welcome to rejoin the group. Do you think you’ll go back?

I hope so. I am in talks with them at the moment about joining the next campaign and possible tactics, but nothing definite.

You must have known you would be arrested the moment you set foot on the Shonan Maru II. Was there a larger plan at work?

The plan was always to go to Japan and get media there. The Japanese public are very hard to connect with. By getting to Japan, we hoped to get traction with the Japanese media.


Protester outside courthouse / Getty

How well do you think that worked out?

We got massive media there, but much of it was negative.  But overall it was certainly a success.  You can’t please everyone.

In court, there was no discussion of why you boarded the Shonan Maru II, and Captain Komura was not called as a witness. Was there ever any question what the outcome of the trial would be?

It was always inevitable I would be found guilty. The conviction rate [in Japan] is over 98 percent! That they sank my boat had no bearing on the trial. It is irrelevant to the Japanese.

You received a two-year suspended sentence. How much jail time did you have to serve?

I did 5 months locked up, which included 24 days on the Shonan Maru II.

How did your fellow prisoners treat you?

They thought I was evil and dangerous and steered well clear of me.

Did anything good come out of the experience for you personally?

Yes. I have a healthier outlook on life. Every day is a blessing now, and I am a little more focused than before. And my tolerance is really high now: I have not been pissed off about anything since coming out.

Update: In January 2013, it was announced that Pete had sold the rights of his book to a movie producer.

I am a warrior, and it is the way of the warrior to fight superior odds.

― Paul Watson

In the battle not only for whales, but for the hearts and minds of the public, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is in a class by itself. With the possible exception of PETA, no other animal-rights nonprofit has attracted so much mainstream media attention ― positive or negative ― while shining a spotlight on a single injustice. For Paul Watson and the rest of Sea Shepherd in the Antarctic right now, guarding the whales from Japanese poachers is a matter of life and death.

This is Sea Shepherd’s sixth campaign to defend endangered whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, and both sides have raised the stakes with high-tech equipment and more vessels navigating the often hazardous waters. While whaling apologists accuse Sea Shepherd of relying on violent tactics and call them “eco terrorists,” it’s the Japanese whalers who have no qualms about using violence. Not only are they killing protected animals, but they’ve deliberately destroyed a Sea Shepherd vessel, injuring a crew member in the process.

Of course, we knew from the beginning that the current anti-whaling campaign, named Operation Waltzing Matilda, would be unlike anything we’ve seen before. Last year, with their whaling hunt still months away, the Japanese revealed that in addition to their factory ship, Nisshin Maru, and its catcher boats, this year’s whaling fleet would include at least two government “security vessels.” Their ships are equipped with such cutting-edge weaponry as photonic disruptors and sonic blasters, along with some good old-fashioned water cannons, and they do love to use them on the protesters.

Sea Shepherd vessels, meanwhile, are also armed with photonic disruptors (lasers that temporarily blind the target), which they have used, and sonic blasters (long-range acoustic devices), which they haven’t. They have most famously lobbed stink bombs (bottles of butyric acid) onto the decks of Japanese ships, while the whalers have retaliated with flash grenades and apparently a bullet that struck Captain Watson in 2008. But it was Sea Shepherd’s futuristic vessel Ady Gil that captured everyone’s attention when it was unveiled late last year. It was sleek, it was fast and it heralded a new age in the fight against whaling. Perhaps that’s why the Japanese rammed and sank it on January 6. “This was close to murder,” declared Captain Watson, demanding an investigation. “It was such an extreme act that if no one takes action now, we may have an even more serious incident in [the] future.”

Photo by JoAnne McArthur/Sea Shepherd

This is clearly the most volatile campaign Watson has waged against the Japanese whalers. Just last Saturday, the harpoon ship Yushin Maru 3 rammed another Sea Shepherd ship, the Bob Barker. The Bob Barker was blocking the slipway of the Nisshin Maru, making it impossible for the Japanese to offload and “process” dead whales. The whaler tore a gash three feet long above the waterline in the Bob Barker’s hull; no one was injured this time.

Watson, who flies the Jolly Roger and keeps his ships vegan, saysOperation Waltzing Matilda is turning out to be a tough, protracted effort, but I am confident we will once again impact their kill quotas despite the new obstacles thrown at us this year by the whalers.” It’s often these new obstacles that get media attention for Sea Shepherd, which then gains more members and volunteers eager to join the fight. The organization is buoyed by international support for the whales, and it’s in no small part due to the efforts of Sea Shepherd that most Americans are now aware of and opposed to the whale hunt.

This season, according to a rep for the Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR), a front group for the commercial whalers, the whaling fleet is targeting 850 minke whales and 50 fin whales. Though most observers recognize that Japan’s hunting of whales has nothing to do with scientific knowledge (the nation’s foreign minister has confirmed the hunts are motivated by an appetite for whale flesh), they’re still keeping up with the research charade. And what exactly has Japan learned after all its “research”? Last year they discovered that — wait for it — whales eat krill. Apparently, no one in Japan has access to marine reference books, Wikipedia or old Jacques Cousteau documentaries. And after killing hundreds of whales in 2008, ICR announced that injecting whale sperm into a cow does not produce a whale-cow hybrid creature.

Directly challenging the notion that you must kill an animal in order to study her, 18 scientists from Australia, France and New Zealand are currently taking part in a 6-week program to research whales, their food and their interaction with the environment. Their non-lethal research techniques include biopsy sampling using retrievable darts, satellite tag tracking, photography, acoustic surveys and whale feces recovery. The Japanese should just scrub that ridiculous “RESEARCH” label from its whaling ships right now.

Despite the hazards of the annual campaigns against the whalers, Captain Watson remains resolute. “Will we win this year?,” he asks. “Perhaps we won’t, but if not we will be back again next year and the year after that if possible. For the Japanese whalers we intend to make this a never-ending trip to the dentist. … Our objective is to sink the Japanese whaling fleet, economically, to bankrupt them and to humiliate them.”

A minke whaler in Iceland. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.

A minke whaler in Iceland. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.

When most people think about the global whaling industry — if they think of it at all ― they probably imagine Japanese whalers, who have been the target of a long-running campaign led by Sea Shepherd. But other countries have thriving whaling industries, too; in fact, Iceland’s 2009 whaling season began today.

That the world’s whales are still hunted comes as a surprise to many people, though international pressure on whalers is helping to raise awareness around the planet. Iceland has had an on again, off again moratorium on commercial whaling since 1990, when it began honoring guidelines set by the International Whaling Commission. It broke away from the global moratorium in 2006. In January of this year, Iceland’s outgoing minister, Einar Gudfinnsson, decided to resume whaling and announced that 100 minke whales and 150 endangered fin whales could be hunted each year until 2013. About half of the whale meat Iceland plans to bring in will be sold to Japan.

But Iceland’s new government could shift the country’s whaling policy, and animal groups are working hard to ensure that happens. The new government, which consists of Social Democrats and the Left-Green Movement, was elected in April and has indicated that the country’s whaling industry will be reassessed based on its “sustainability and importance for national economy as a whole as well as Iceland’s international obligations and Iceland’s image.” 

Among the groups working to end Iceland’s whaling industry are Campaign Whale, Environmental Investigation Agency, International Fund for Animal Welfare, World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS). Today campaigners from these groups carrying a 25-foot inflatable minke whale have gathered outside the Icelandic embassy in London in protest at the country’s whaling policy. In a 20-minute meeting with the Icelandic ambassador, Sverrir Haukur Gunnlaugsson, activists presented highlights of a new UK opinion poll suggesting that 82% of the British public are opposed to Iceland’s whaling and that 64% are prepared to boycott Icelandic products because of its commercial whaling.

“Iceland’s decision to resume large-scale commercial whaling is a desperate attempt to secure income from whale meat sales to Japan,” says Kate O’Connell of WDCS. “It is a sad day for whales that they now become the latest potential victims of the world economic crisis. We have not seen a hunt of this scale in the North Atlantic since the 1980s. And there is still a ban on whaling in place.”

What You Can Do

  • Get the facts. Most people don’t realize there is still a whaling industry. Visit the sites of groups like WSPA, Save the Whales and Sea Shepherd to learn about whaling around the world.
  • Speak up. Let people know that the Danish Faeroe Islands, Iceland, Japan, Norway and the tiny island nations of St. Lucia and St. Vincent & the Grenadines still engage in whaling. Send letters to editors. Please share this post on social media sites or email it to friends and ask them to speak up, too.
  • Visit this link on WSPA’s site and take part in their effort to influence representatives of more than 80 governments who will meet on June 22 to decide the fate of the world’s whales.
Greenpeace activists Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki with their lawyer, Yuichi Kaido, at a press briefing.

Greenpeace activists Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki with their lawyer, Yuichi Kaido, at a press briefing. Photo: Greenpeace, Greg McNevin

For years, they’ve thumbed their nose at the world, taking advantage of a loophole in international law. But the Japanese whaling industry may soon have its nose tweaked, if prosecutors proceed with their case against two Greenpeace activists.

At the center of the case is 23.5 kilograms of minke whale meat, which Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki, both campaigners with Greenpeace Japan, intercepted after the meat was smuggled from the Nisshin Maru whaling vessel and passed through a delivery depot in Aomori Prefecture, where many of the whalers live, in a box labeled “cardboard.”

Japan has taken advantage of a controversial provision in the International Whaling Commission’s 1986 ban on commercial whaling that allows member states to kill whales for scientific purposes, such as researching the whales’ breeding and migration habits (not sure why they have to kill them to do that). But as animal advocates have long claimed ― and as Greenpeace’s investigation shows — Japan’s “scientific” whale hunts are merely a smokescreen for selling whale meat on the black market: the meat Junichi and Toru intercepted is worth up to US$3,000. The activists have been charged with theft and trespass and face ten years in jail if convicted in the trial planned for early 2010.

Junichi and Toru had taken the box of whale meat as evidence of corruption within Japan’s whaling industry, which this year claimed the lives of 551 minke whales (though that’s a far cry from the 850 they had hoped to kill; whalers were constantly on the run from ― or running into ― Sea Shepherd and its anti-whaling ship). Junichi and Toru turned the smuggled meat over to the Tokyo Public Prosecutor’s Office, which said it would investigate the scandal before dropping its investigation a month later. Greenpeace’s offices were then raided, along with the homes of five of its staff, and the two activists were arrested in June 2008. Junichi and Toru say they were strapped to chairs and interrogated for up to 12 hours a day, without lawyers present. Needless to say, Amnesty International has voiced their concern as well, suggesting the police actions are “aimed at intimidating both activists and non-governmental organizations.”

The two men plan to use the trial to expose whaling-industry corruption and the denial of human rights in their country. “I did [over]step the boundary,” says Junichi, “but I don’t think that’s bad. I think this needs to be done. I’m very sure this arrest was politically motivated.” He told the UK’s Guardian newspaper that the Japanese public doesn’t know the truth about whaling. “We need international pressure, but that’s not enough,” he said. “We also need people inside Japan to speak out against whaling. The media here doesn’t report the truth, so the Japanese people have no idea about the negative impact it’s having on our diplomatic relations with countries like Australia and New Zealand.”

Whistleblowers who alerted Greenpeace to the meat smuggling said most of the crew of the Nisshin Maru took home 200 or 300 kilograms of whale meat. One informer said that dozens of crew take as many as 20 boxes each and that this lucrative practice had been going on for years with the tacit agreement of the whaling company, Kyodo Senpaku.

Jun Hoshikawa, executive director of Greenpeace Japan, says the whaling program in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is funded by the Japanese taxpayers, including the Greenpeace activists who have been arrested, and they have a right to know who is profiting from their money. “The Japanese whaling program has been shamed internationally for its lack of scientific credibility; now it is being shamed at home as well for trying to hide the corruption, and now for taking revenge on those who have exposed it,” he says. “The Greenpeace activists should be immediately released.”

What You Can Do

Greenpeace is asking people to contact the prosecutor in this case. In addition, you can sign an unusual “arrest me” petition, which says that if the Japanese authorities can arrest Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki for helping whales, everyone who helps whales deserves to be arrested. If you’d like to help Sea Shepherd in their efforts to save whales from Japanese whalers, you can find details here.

steveirwin_hobartOn Friday, February 20, as the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship Steve Irwin arrived in Hobart, Tasmania, Australian Federal Police served a search warrant and seized records and videos shot for the Animal Planet series Whale Wars. According to a statement on the Sea Shepherd site, the warrant authorized the seizing of “all edited and raw video footage, all edited and raw audio recordings, all still photographs, producer’s notes, interview transcripts, production meeting minutes, post production meeting minutes as well as the ship’s log books, global positioning system records, automatic radar plotting aid, purchase records, receipts, financial transaction records, voyage information and navigational plotted charts.”


The statement adds: “The Animal Planet series Whale Wars was very embarrassing to the Japanese government and the Japanese whaling industry in 2008. Japan does not wish to see the airing of the second season of Whale Wars and is putting as much diplomatic pressure on Australia as they possibly can to prevent further exposure of their illegal whaling operations in the Southern Ocean.”


An Australian federal agent said the raid resulted from a formal referral from Japanese authorities and that police were undertaking preliminary inquiries into this summer’s Southern Ocean confrontation. Sea Shepherd says two crew members were injured when Japanese whalers used water cannon, concussion grenades, acoustic weapons and threw brass and lead balls at Sea Shepherd boats. Japanese whalers claim the Steve Irwin rammed them.


The seized videos, which reportedly depict the clashes between Japanese whalers and Sea Shepherd activists, may be turned over to the Japanese government. According to Don Rothwell, an Australian National University law professor quoted in the media, legal obligations mean evidence of alleged maritime offenses could be forwarded to Japan.


The Japanese government-owned fleet’s president, Kazuo Yamamura, is calling on Australian authorities to impose international agreements. “These maritime laws are not options,” Yamamura said. “If they are not applied, they are of little value.” This is highly ironic coming from a group that openly flouts the international ban on whale hunting in the Southern Ocean. Japan circumvents the ban by using an International Whaling Commission loophole that permits research of the whales.


Captain Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd said the Steve Irwin had never been searched before, but he welcomes any charges that led to the crew facing a court. “My position is that if they want to put me on trial for anything connected with this, then I am happy to do it,” he said. “We are not there protesting; we are down there to stop a blatantly criminal activity, to stop whaling in a whale sanctuary. These actions have to go to court somewhere, so let’s start it here.”

Sea Shepherd is reporting today that three Japanese whaling ships moved in on the anti-whaling vessel the Steve Irwin in the Ross Sea off of Antarctica. “At 0500 Hours Sydney, Australia, time on February 4th, the three harpoon vessels of the Japanese whaling fleet literally attacked the Steve Irwin,” a statement reads.


Sea Shepherd accused the Japanese whalers of them of cutting dangerously close to the bow of the Steve Irwin in rough waters and fog. “If their intention was to intimidate us, it did not work,” said Captain Paul Watson. “When it comes to playing chicken on the high seas, we have much more experience than the whalers.”


Captain Watson also accused the whalers of throwing hunks of metal and golf balls at Sea Shepherd activists, slightly injuring two Steve Irwin crew members.


The Yushin Maru 2 has now rejoined the fleet after leaving the area on December 20th with propeller damage. The three harpoon ships converged to flank the Steve Irwin as the Sea Shepherd ship pursued the Nisshin Maru. “As long as we’re chasing them they’re not going to kill whales,” Captain Watson said. “Every day we can keep them from whaling and on the run is a victory for us.” He estimates the fleet has killed about 300 fin and minke whales this season, compared with almost 600 last season. “I know that they’re not going to get their quota again this year; they’re one vessel short.”


The Sea Shepherd statement adds: “The whaling fleet is crisscrossing the Ross Sea erratically. The whalers appear to becoming increasingly frustrated and angry that Sea Shepherd has shut down their whaling operations.”

Japanese whaling vessel the Nisshin Maru fires its water cannons as the Steve Irwin chases in Antarctica's Ross Sea. A harpoon whaling vessel sails nearby in the background. Photo by Adam Lau/Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Japanese whaling vessel the Nisshin Maru fires its water cannons as the Steve Irwin chases in Antarctica's Ross Sea. A harpoon whaling vessel sails nearby in the background. Photo by Adam Lau/Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

A coalition of Sea Shepherd and Jakarta Animal Aid is ratcheting the pressure on Japanese whalers.

    Fleeing the Sea Shepherd ship the Steve Irwin on December 20, the harpoon vessel Yushin Maru 2 suffered heavy damage from ice floes in the Southern Ocean and was forced to limp north to Surabaya, Indonesia, for repairs (amid much cheering from the Sea Shepherd activists, I’m guessing).

    “They only had two choices,” says Captain Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd. “They could have gone south with the Steve Irwin into the lighter ice or they could have gone north to avoid the Steve Irwin into the thicker ice floes. They chose the more dangerous route and it looks like they suffered damage for that decision.”

    The whalers had to retreat to Indonesia because their illegal whaling activities have gotten them barred from the much-closer Australian and New Zealand ports. But the Japanese crews’ woes haven’t ended. The Jakarta Animal Aid organization has been demonstrating in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city, protesting the presence of the Yushin Maru 2. Jakarta Animal Aid activists are also organizing another protest at the Japanese embassy.

    The Yushin Maru 2 is expected to leave Suryabaya on January 16, the day the Steve Irwin will likely arrive in Hobart, Tasmania, for refueling. Once refueled, the Steve Irwin will be able to return to the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean before the Yushin Maru 2. Other vessels in the fleet include the Kaiko Maru, the Nisshin Maru and the Yushin Maru 3.

    The crews of the whaling vessels have gone to considerable trouble and expense to outfit their ships with anti-boarding measures, including spikes and nets around the ships. “It really is quite amazing,” says Captain Watson. “The effort and expense that has gone into preventing us from boarding is ambitious. The ships can literally cover themselves with a net that can be deployed like a shower curtain around the vessel. Large fenders and sharp spikes protrude from the sides of the ship. It looks very formidable and very expensive.”

    The Japanese also recently tried to have Australian authorities ban Sea Shepherd from the country’s ports for refueling the Steve Irwin. Australia rebuffed the request, and now Sea Shepherd is working to get the Japanese fleet banned from ports in Indonesia because of their illegal whaling activities in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

    “We have demonstrated that the whalers can be physically stopped,” says Captain Watson. “If we had just one more ship down here, we could stop them by 90 percent, and we could bankrupt them totally. Shutting down illegal whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is a very doable task. We are doing the best we can with the resources available to us. With more support we could win this war to save the whales.”

    Sea Shepherd is offering a $10,000 reward to anyone able to non-violently prevent the Yushin Maru 2 from departing the harbor for the duration of this year’s whaling season.

    You can bet all this high-seas drama will make for a winning season of Whale Wars.







Saying they are prepared for their most violent confrontation yet with the Japanese whaling fleet, campaigners from the animal-rights group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have set off from Brisbane, Australia, heading toward the Southern Ocean. “We believe the Japanese will be more aggressive and more violent than last year because they are getting desperate, but we feel we have to take these risks to keep the pressure on,” said Captain Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd.


The organization’s four-month campaign will be carried out in the Antarctic waters. Japan uses a loophole in a 1986 global agreement that allows lethal research on whales (which is why you see Japan’s whaling ships labeled “Research”).


paulwatson_darrylhannahJoining the anti-whaling crew this year is US actress Daryl Hannah, who said the killing of whales would come to an end if governments enforced the anti-whaling laws and Greenpeace worked in unison with the Sea Shepherd. “They are hunting endangered species in a marine protected area,” she said. “It is surprising and shocking to me that governments are not doing this work ― that it is up to individuals and non-government organizations to uphold international law and protect endangered species. If Greenpeace would join forces with Sea Shepherd they would shutdown the whaling industry right away. If they were really serious and held their convictions they could accomplish this.”


Captain Watson said there was a need for a second fast ship, which he said would help more than halve the quote of kills and sink the whalers economically. “How much longer can [the Japanese whalers] keep losing profits?” he asked. “Last year they made a $70 million loss. For three years they have been making losses.”


Last year’s hunting season saw the Japanese return home with 551 minke whales — almost 300 less than their planned quota, thanks to activists.


This year, Sea Shepherd’s campaign has been named “Operation Musashi” in reference to the legendary Japanese strategist Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645), known as a great samurai warrior, strategist and tactician and a role model and hero to Captain Watson.


Musashi’s Book of Five Rings includes the approach of the Twofold Way of Pen and Sword. Sea Shepherd has thus adopted a campaign logo of the crossed feather pen and katana (sword) under the skull with the imbedded sperm whale and dolphin yin-yang symbol with a Banzai flag background, which gives reference to the ecological imperialism that the Japanese whalers are committing against the whales of the Southern Ocean.


The Japanese fleet, run by the so-called Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research, set sail from the port of Innoshima, near Hiroshima, last week. The whalers plan to catch up to 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales but no humpbacks, Japanese fisheries officials said.


Rest assured that all the drama of this year’s high-seas animal activism will be played out on the new television series Whale Wars.

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