Greenpeace, Sea Shepherds chase whalers

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2006:

Zealand, nor the United Nations defends the Antarctic whale
sanctuary declared in 1974 by the International Whaling Commission,
so Greenpeace and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society did it
themselves in December 2005 and January 2006, while the Japanese
whaling fleet sought to kill 935 minke whales and 10 fin whales
within the sanctuary limits –which Japan does not recognize.
Greenpeace pursued the whalers with two ships, the Esperanza
and the Arctic Sunrise, a helicopter, and combined crews of 60
people, including two photographers and two videographers. For
Greenpeace, wrote Geoff Strong of the Melbourne Age, “the most
important weapon is not the water spray designed to confuse the
harpoonists’ aim,” a new tactic used to reported great effect, “but
the new satellite Internet link that allows them to send fresh
broadcast-quality images.
“Sea Shepherd has a different method of disseminating the
message,” Strong continued. Aboard the Farley Mowat were “an
embedded contingent of independent media, including representatives
from Australia’s Seven network, National Geographic, and
documentary filmmakers from the U.S., France, Brazil, and Canada.
“The whalers have a public relations machine too,” Strong
noted. “For the first time they too have been releasing images.”

The most intense action of the campaign started on January 8,
according to a chronology pieced together by Andrew Darby of the Age.
Minutes of high seas drama spun out into almost a week of competing
“Greenpeace expedition leader Shane Rattenbury, in the
middle of an interview to Australia by satellite phone, suddenly
described the [8,000-ton] Nisshin Maru taking a 360-degree turn after
breaking away from the resupply ship Oriental Bluebird, heading for
the [1,000-ton] Arctic Sunrise, and the ships colliding,” Darby
recounted. Ratten-bury did not mention, and perhaps did not know,
that the Farley Mowat was on the far side of the much larger Oriental
“A New Zealand public relations firm acting for Japan’s
Institute of Cetacean Research distributed the first still images,”
Darby wrote, “showing the Arctic Sunrise ramming the Nisshin Maru
and unidentified activists throwing wires into the water near the
ship’s propellers. Next, Greenpeace posted edited video showing the
Nisshin Maru alongside the Oriental Bluebird, then moving at speed
across the Arctic Sunrise’s bow before the collision. Sea Shepherd
first released details and pictures of its attacks on the Nisshin
Maru, claimed to have just occurred,” on January 9,” Darby said.
On January 10, “Sea Shepherd posted on its website an
account of its attack on the Oriental Bluebird the day before, using
a metal spike to rip along the side of the re-supply ship. A weblog
revealed that the Sea Shepherds were attempting to entangle the
propellers of the Nisshin Maru before the collision with the Arctic
“On January 11,” Darby said, “the whalers released edited
video from the Nisshin Maru, showing the last minutes before the
collision. The Arctic Sunrise maintained course at slow speed until
seconds before the collision, when it clearly powered full astern,”
trying to reduce or avoid the impact.
The Japanese Institute for Cetacean Research used the Sea
Shepherd photos on January 12 to argue that the Farley Mowat and
Arctic Sunrise attacked the Nisshin Maru together before the
collision–a dubious theory, in view of 28 years of bitterness
between Greenpeace and Farley Mowat captain Paul Watson. Watson, an
early Greenpeace leader, broke away to form the Sea Shepherds in
1978, after the Greenpeace board reprimanded him for seizing a seal
hunter’s club.
There was further drama on January 14, when Arctic Sunrise
second mate Joe Constantine was knocked into the freezing water by
the line on a harpoon shot over a Greenpeace inflatable boat by the
catcher vessel Yushin Maru #2. His survival suit saved him.
“Greenpeace was doing what we have been doing for three
weeks–putting our inflatables between whales and harpoons,”
Greenpeace Australia Pacific chief executive Steve Shallhorn told the
Sydney Morning Herald. “The harpoon impacted on the whale, but the
towing rope got caught on our boat. As the whale began to sink, our
boat was in jeopardy.”
“The Greenpeace campaign was into its 25th day of direct
contact with the fleet,” reported Darby. “In six previous
campaigns, the Japanese ships have been able to outrun protesters
after a few days.”
This year the Greenpeace vessels proved able to keep the
whalers close, but the Farley Mowat had to rely on stealth.
“The Farley Mowat has been forced to leave the Southern
Oceans,” e-mailed Watson on January 16. “We are disappointed to
have to leave, but have over stretched our fuel and have just enough
to reach the nearest port. Sea Shepherd had arranged to refuel from
a tanker near the French Kerguelen Islands,” Watson added, “but the
delivery was cancelled. The Japanese whaling fleet illegally–and
with impunity–refueled from a tanker inside the Antarctic Treaty
“We have spent 40 days at sea,” Watson continued, “and have
chased the Japanese over 4,000 kilometers. We cannot match their
speed, so it has been a case of catching up and forcing them to run,
then catching up again. We have been able to keep them from killing
whales,” Watson said, “for over 15 days in total.”
Shallhorn said the Greenpeace ships would be able to stay
close to the Japanese for at least two more weeks.
Greenpeace communications director Mike Townsley put the
Greenpeace campaign budget at about $1.6 million. Sea Shepherd
operated on about $750,000, Watson said.

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