‘Sea Shepherd: defending the integrity of the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary’

Posted on February 18, 2013

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Today (18th February), an item was posted on guardian.co.uk titled ‘Sea Shepherd: defending the integrity of the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary’, written by Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

‘… Our Antarctic campaign has become stronger and more efficient – but the Japanese whalers are getting recklessly aggressive –

I don’t think that there is a more isolated, more remote, or more forbidding place on this planet than where we find ourselves at this moment.

Draw a line due south from Sri Lanka for 4,404 nautical miles and it will bring you to Prdyz Bay, deep in the Cooperation Sea, close to the massive Amory ice shelf.

Some 2,632 nautical miles to the north-east is Perth, Western Australia and 2,632 miles to the north-west is Cape Town, South Africa.

In contrast, we are only 1,380 miles to the south pole.

It is summertime in Antarctica and outside on the deck, the wind is blowing at 30 knots and the temperature has dropped to -10C.

On our port beam at a quarter of a kilometre, and just barely discernible through the misty swirling snow is the Sea Shepherd ship Bob Barker. I can see her taking white water over her bow and hoar frost clinging like bleached algae on her blue, grey, and black mottled hull.

Ahead of us another quarter of a kilometre, a massive black hull plunges and bucks in a frothing sea. And as if the sea spray was not enough, the ship fires six high-powered streams of sea water in different directions. Briny icicles hang from her rails.

I can see the stern slipway, that awful maw that literally swallows whales whole, wasting nothing, they say, except for the whales themselves.

The beautiful creatures get dragged onto the flensing deck to be mutilated and cut into pieces, to be frozen and boxed below deck as streams of steaming blood pour into the sea from the scuppers.

The Sea Shepherd Crew call that floating mechanised abattoir the cetacean Death Star. It is the Japanese whale-processing factory ship the Nisshin Maru, and for nine long years we have hunted her down in these waters with the single objective of interfering with her primary activity – the slaughtering of whales.

I suppose in a way, I am the mirror image of the fictional Captain Ahab. Instead of a white whale, it is a whale-killing death ship that I have been obsessed with stopping.

Nine voyages I have spent in these hellish cold waters, totalling near 30 months. This voyage is now in its 105th day, a voyage that began in Melbourne, went north to American Samoa, then south again to New Zealand, and further south still, to the Ross Sea; and for the last 18 days a pursuit of some 2,500 miles westward to this forsaken place …

This season, with four ships, the campaign is stronger but facing more challenges. The injunction imposed on Sea Shepherd USA weakened the finances of the campaign, but it did something even more threatening to the crews of these four ships. It has emboldened the Japanese whalers.

The Japanese whalers have never before been more recklessly aggressive. The Sea Shepherd ships have been forced to yield to uphold our primary operational concern and that is to not cause any injuries to either side.

The whalers destroyed the Ady Gil in 2010 and did not have to answer for it. They were not even questioned. They have interpreted the US court injunction as de facto permission to be more aggressive. They have the total support of the Japanese government, and although Australia and New Zealand are taking Japan to the international court in the Hague this year, both countries have not done anything to actually stop the slaughter of whales.

Thus it has been left to a small band of international volunteers to protect and defend the whale sanctuary, despite being marginalised and given labels ranging from extremists to eco-terrorists.

Yet after nine year of confrontations Sea Shepherd have not caused a single injury or inflicted any damage on the Japanese ships; whereas they have injured Sea Shepherd crew, damaged Sea Shepherd ships, and completely destroyed one vessel.

These whalers are poachers and no different than elephant and rhino poachers in Africa, except for the fact that the African poachers are generally black and poor and they are shot for their crimes.

The whale poachers on the other hand are encouraged by their own government to continue their crimes.

This is a strange battle down here in the Southern Seas. Within two days we expect that the three harpoon vessels, along with the armed government vessel Shonan Maru #2 and the Korean tanker Sun Laurel, will catch up with the Nisshin Maru. That will pit a whaling fleet of six against three Sea Shepherd ships.

The Sea Shepherd crews are committed to blocking the illegal whaling operations, and it appears the whalers are under orders to kill as many whales as possible. This is gearing up for a major showdown, and the challenge for the Sea Shepherd volunteers is to save as many whales as possible while ensuring that no one is injured by an increasingly hostile and aggressive crew of whalers, made all the more dangerous by the extreme remoteness and intense weather and sea conditions …’

Read the item in full, view image and video, and add your comment online at www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/feb/18/sea-shepherd-defend-southern-ocean-whale

Please support the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and all their campaigns.

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