“No whales killed” during 18-day Sea Shepherd pursuit of Japanese fleet

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2009:
HOBART, Tasmanic, Australia– The
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s fourth
consecutive winter campaign against Japanese
“research” whaling off Antarctica ran out of
fuel–but not before chasing the multi-vessel
whaling fleet for more than 2,000 miles through
the southernmost waters claimed by Australia and
New Zealand.
“No whales were taken,” said Sea
Shepherd founder Paul Watson, during the
pursuit, between December 20, 2008 and January
7, 2009.
The Sea Shepherd vessel Steve Irwin
expected to dock for refueling in Hobart,
Tasmania, on January 15. Japanese officials
reportedly asked Australia to refuse landing
privileges to the Steve Irwin. As prime minister
Kevin Rudd was on vacation, acting prime
minister Julia Gillard ruled that, “The Steve
Irwin will be permitted to dockŠThere is
insufficient reason to prevent the Steve Irwin
from doing that.”


Sailing from Brisbane on December 4, the
Sea Shepherds caught up to the whalers on
December 20, “the earliest we have ever found
the fleet,” recalled Watson. Direct
confrontation came later that day. Encountering
the whale-catching ship Yushin Maru #2, the Sea
Shepherds “chased it into heavy ice where it
received damage to its prop and had to retreat to
Indonesia for repairs,” Watson said, “knocking
it out of whaling operations until early February
or a month and a half.
“The Sea Shepherd Cons-ervation Society
would like to thank Jakarta Animal Aid,” Watson
added, “for organizing a demonstration in
Surabaya to protest the presence of the Yushin
Maru #2,” after it docked on January 5. “Sea
Shepherd has offered a $10,000 reward for anyone
who can non-violently prevent the ship from
departing the harbor,” Watson added. “The
longer we can keep the Yushin Maru #2 away from
the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctu-ary, the greater
the impact on whaling profits and kill figures.”
As the Yushin Maru #2 was caught in
Australian territory, Watson “officially called
on Aust-ralian Environment Minister Peter Garrett
and Foreign Minister Stephen Smith,” he said,
“to order the Japanese fleet to comply with the
orders of the Australian Federal Court,” which
ruled against the whale hunt in 2008, “and to
cease and desist from killing whales in
Australian waters.”
Six days later the Steve Irwin came
alongside the Kaiko Maru. “There was not a soul
on the decks,” Watson e-mailed. “Just one man
on the flying bridge staring straight ahead. We
were alongside and half a length of the ship away
when he turned and saw us. We were close enough
to see his eyes widen as he stumbled out of his
chair and scrambled below to the wheelhouse.
“As soon as the man disappeared below
decks,” Watson continued, “my crew threw a
barrage of rotten butter bombs and bottles of
slippery methyl cellulose mixed with indelible
dye onto their decks: 25 direct hits, leaving
the ship a slippery stinky mess. As we came
along her starboard side, the Kaiko Maru suddenly
steered into us and the suction between the two
ships began to pull us towards her. The two
ships touched lightly without any significant
damage. They lost some paint and we had a
crushed helio-deck railing.
“Jeff Hansen, an Australian citizen from
Perth, Western Australia, then ordered the ship
to leave Australian Territorial Waters, and
informed them that they were operating in
contempt of an Australian Federal Court order
that specifically prohibits whaling in the
Australian zone. The message was relayed in
Japanese over the VHF radio by Kaori Tanaka, our
Japanese interpreter.”
As the Steve Irwin is Dutch-registered,
the Japanese government asked the Netherlands to
de-register the ship.

Man overboard

On January 5, reported Andrew Darby of
the Sydney Morning Herald, “Hajime Shirasaki,
30, an oiler who worked in the engine room,
disappeared from the spotter ship Kyoshin Maru
No. 2 in icy waters too distant to mount an
aerial search.”
“It would take about 12 hours’ flying
time to reach the site,” explained Maritime New
Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre spokesperson
Christi McMillan. “Survival time in waters of
zero degrees and a four meter swell is about one
hour,” McMillan said.
Shirasaki was the third Japanese whaler
lost to an accident at sea in three years.
“We responded to the search-and-rescue
call and we radioed the Japanese fleet to offer
assistance, including the use of our helicopter
and boat crews, and we notified the New Zealand
authorities,” said Watson.
The Sea Shepherd helicopter was the only
helicopter within more than 1,000 miles of the
scene.
The whalers alleged that the Sea
Shepherds interfered with the search, and
released photos purportedly showing the Steve
Irwin close to a whaling vessel, without
navigation lights. Watson said the Steve Irwin
had kept its navigation lights on at all times.
“We were certainly not hiding. We were
in plain view,” Watson said. “We offered
assistance in the search, and their response
was that they did not want any help from
eco-terrorists.”
Watson anticipated that the Sea Shepherd
mission had significantly inhibited the ability
of the “research” whaling fleet to kill the 935
minke whales and 50 fin whales that it claimed as
a self-assigned quota.
“A second trip of intervention will
increase the impact,” concluded Watson, hoping
to refuel and resume the chase.

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