Remembering the Sea Shepherd Vessel, Bob Barker

Thursday, 17 Nov, 2022

After thirteen years of loyal service as an iconic Sea Shepherd vessel, Sea Shepherd Global has made the heart-breaking decision to retire the Bob Barker. Commentary by Captain Peter Hammarstedt.

The Bob Barker preparing for campaign in 2019. Click or swipe right for more images of the Bob Barker.
The Bob Barker on Operation Albacore in Gabon.
The Bob Barker and its small boat, the Gemini, in Liberia for Operation Sola Stella.
The Bob Barker and small boats during inspection of a fishing boat in Gabon.
Captain Peter Hammarstedt on the bridge of the Bob Barker.

Scroll to the bottom to watch Sea Shepherd Global’s tribute video, commemorating the life of a noble ship. 

First built in 1951 as a whaling vessel, the Bob Barker has since spent 71 years at sea including time as a Norwegian Coast Guard vessel, an eco-tourism vessel and as a refueling barge before Sea Shepherd acquired the vessel in 2009.  

Thanks to the generosity of Mr. Bob Barker, Sea Shepherd turned a whaling vessel into an anti-whaling ship.  

For six years, the Bob Barker chased the Japanese whaling fleet around the Antarctic continent. In one year, the hull plates buckled and steel rails bent, as Bob Barker sandwiched between an 8,000-ton floating whale slaughterhouse and a 5,000-ton refuel tanker, successfully preventing the former from bunkering, and forcing the whaling fleet to end their season early. 

The Bob Barker's first anti-whaling campaign in the Southern Ocean, February 2010. Click or swipe right for more images of the Bob Barker.
The Bob Barker sandwiched between the Japanese whaling vessel and its fuel tanker during Operation Zero Tolerance, 2013.
The Bob Barker chasing the rogue poaching vessel Thunder in 2015.
The Bob Barker crashing through the waves.
The Bob Barker in the Southern Ocean in 2014.
A crew member on the bow of the Bob Barker in the Southern Ocean.

In 2015, the Bob Barker set the world record for the longest maritime pursuit in history, chasing the most notorious poaching vessel in the word, an internationally-wanted fishing vessel named Thunder, for 110 days, across three oceans and covering 11,000 nautical miles until the captain of Thunder, unable to shake Sea Shepherd, sank his own vessel to destroy the evidence on board. 

That chase brough Sea Shepherd Global to West Africa, where the Bob Barker has assisted governments around the African continent to arrest dozens of illegal fishing vessels–each one of them a slaughterhouse shutdown–thereby saving countless marine creatures. 

The Bob Barker in the Gulf of Guinea, West Africa, in 2017. Click or swipe right for more images of the Bob Barker.
The Bob Barker on the hunt for poachers on Operation Albacore.

But the collisions and the heavy seas, the thinning hull and the ageing machinery, means that the vessel can no longer be operated safely. Therefore, Sea Shepherd Global has a responsibility to the safety of life at sea, and the marine environment, to retire the vessel permanently. 

The captains and crews who have sailed on board the Bob Barker understandably feel sentimental about the ship. It’s been more than a home and workplace; it’s been a vehicle for change that has meant the difference between life and death for the animals we protect. Thank you, to all of the captains, crews, volunteers and donors, who kept the ship afloat and who stood their ground on the deck of the Bob Barker, on the frontlines of marine conservation.

We also discussed the situation with Mr. Barker’s team and they understand our sadness, and the necessity of making hard decisions when lives are at stake.  

"It is out of an obligation to the animals we must save in the future–as well as a duty to our donors and supporters–that Sea Shepherd Global has chosen to sell the steel of the Bob Barker. The funds raised through that transaction will go directly into the campaigns that the Bob Barker dutifully carried out, thereby continuing the legacy of the vessel and extending the life of the initial donation that purchased the ship."

Captain Peter Hammarstedt

Because it was a former whaling vessel in its past life, the Bob Barker had a karmic debt to repay. At Sea Shepherd Global, we consider the debt repaid. 

If Sea Shepherd had never acquired the Bob Barker, it would have been just another ship. It was not just another ship. Instead, it lived up to its noble mission. 

Watch the video tribute, below:

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