by Captain Alex Cornelissen, from Sea Shepherd Global Headquarters in Amsterdam
This is the first year that Sea Shepherd has returned to protect the whales from the Japanese poachers since their new and revised “research” program was started in the 2015/2016 season, when they killed 333 minke whales, more than half of them pregnant females. The Japanese government seems unconcerned by the opinion of the rest of the world and despite tough words from the international community, nothing has been done to put a stop to this “research whaling” charade.
This year the Japanese whalers set out with the same quota, but conditions are not in their favor. Seas are rougher than in previous years, and Sea Shepherd’s ships have kept them on the move most of the time. Despite the difficulties posed by the whaler's new plan and the weather, the Steve Irwin's helicopter was able to find the Nisshin Maru factory ship.
“We have found the Nisshin Maru red-handed killing whales, and therefore we could show the world that the Japanese government does whatever they want despite the ruling of the International Court of Justice and despite the Australian Federal Court,” says Captain Wyanda Lublink of the Steve Irwin. Unfortunately, the Ocean Warrior was searching in another area at the time, but it doesn’t mean the Japanese fleet has been able to hunt without Sea Shepherd’s interference. “Since we found the whaling fleet we have managed to keep them on the run, and because of the pressure from both the Ocean Warrior and the Steve Irwin, the opportunities for them to kill whales have been kept to a minimum.”
As it stands now, of the three harpoon ships one has been following the Steve Irwin for weeks, thus no longer able to kill whales, and at least one other is dedicated to finding the Ocean Warrior. But in the few times we did run into this harpoon ship, the Ocean Warrior simply picked up speed and outran the vessel shadowing us. This has put the whalers in a tough position: if they don’t know where our new fast interceptor ship is, they have to constantly worry about it finding the Nisshin Maru.
“The NEWREP-A whaling scheme the Japanese fleet adopted in 2015 is no more scientific than previous years. It was designed to make chasing and shutting down the fleet more difficult, which it has,” says Captain Adam Meyerson of the Ocean Warrior. “But the whaler's new motto of running rather than fighting may have backfired on them as they have expended all their energy fleeing instead of whaling.”
We are constantly making them burn their fuel reserves and preventing at least two of the three harpoon vessels from whaling at all times. The third harpoon ship can only stop to whale if the conditions are good and if the whalers believe we are too far away to catch them in the act. Considering the weather and the constant movement of our ships, we believe that the results of this year’s slaughter (their kill quota) will prove to be significantly lower than last year.
Obviously every whale killed is one too many. There is still time, so our captains and crew continue to search for the Nisshin Maru, and when they do find that floating slaughterhouse, we will make sure their season has ended.
“Sea Shepherd continues to be the only organization that takes the fight to the whalers and the crew of the Ocean Warrior are proud to play our part in making whaling in Antarctica difficult for the outlaw whalers from Japan,” says Captain Meyerson.
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