A mid-season whale wars update from the Sea Shepherd

The Sea Shepherd’s Southern Ocean season – dubbed “Operation No Compromise” — is more than half over and reports so far it may be having its best season of protest ever.

How to measure? Very few whales taken by the Japanese whaling fleet and no ships sunk on either side. Yet.

Of course there’s been plenty of verbal slugging since the season began in December, as well as the tossing of some literal bamboo spears, by the Japanese!

Lead-Shepherd Captain Paul Watson accused the Japanese of making a false “Mayday” distress call from the Southern Ocean last Friday, claiming it was “under attack” by the anti-whalers.

Watson admits he and his gang had deployed its typical weaponry: prop foulers (wire ropes intended to damage engines), and a fair number of stink and paint bombs – resulting in the return fire of those bamboo spears — but that they were hardly close to ramming the Japanese whaling ship.

“They said they were in distress and we were standing by,” Watson told the AP. “The ‘Gojira’ [the Shepherd’s new attack ship, named after Godzilla] is right beside them and they refuse to answer our calls.”
Truth is, according to Watson, it was the Japanese ship “Yushin Maru No. 3” which nearly cut the “Gojira” in half, coming just 10 feet from its hull.

Given the remoteness of the battleground, for now all we have is the he-said/she-said issuances of the two fighters. But all will be made clear later in the year, since for the fourth consecutive season a film crew from Animal Planet is on board documenting the campaign for “Whale Wars.”

It would appear that this year’s campaign strategy has paid off. Utilizing thee ships, a helicopter and 88 crewmembers the Shepherd’s have successfully chased the Japanese whaling fleet over 5,000 miles. Early in the season they isolated and cut off its refueling vessel – the “Sun Laurel” – even while being harassed by two of the Japanese’ three harpoon boats – which have focused on trailing the Shepherd’s rather than hunting whales.

Watson checked in from port in New Zealand, where he’d taken the Shepherd’s lead ship, the “Steve Irwin,” for fuel and supplies. He is optimistic about the season, suggesting it may be “our most successful yet.”

“They have taken very close to zero (whales),” he says, hoping this may be the last season the Shepherd’s presence will be required off Antarctica, hoping its non-stop harassment will finally encourage the Japanese to give up its “scientific” hunt.

Where whaling commission edicts and international protest have failed, a combination of the seaborne fights, new Japanese tax laws, falling meat sales and having been caught running a whale-meat black market, may succeed in stopping whaling in the Southern Ocean.

Success has apparently been felt on the fundraising front as well, since the Shepherd’s have recently raised a giant electronic billboard in Times Square depicting a breaching whale about to be harpooned. It is the media savvy non-profit’s first stab at outdoor advertising.

Read more from Jon Bowermaster’s Adventures here.

[Flickr image via gsz]