Commentary by Captain Paul Watson
Founder and President of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
"Sail forth - steer for the deep waters only,
Reckless O soul, I with thee and thou with me,
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go,
And we risk the ship, ourselves and all."
Sea Shepherd's Operation Musashi is under assault by the full weight of the Japanese government. They are coming at us with threats, intimidation, political manipulation, public relations flacks and wildly hysterical propaganda.
At the same time they are working to organize secret meetings to undermine the authority of the International Whaling Commission and to set up an international support group to legitimatize their illegal whaling activities.
Our response to Japan is simply: "Shin-ken shō-bu."
We are not going down to the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary for a fifth voyage just to submissively protest illegal whaling activities. Sea Shepherd does not hold banners and shout protest slogans and we don't back down to whale killing bullies.
Our objective is aggressive intervention to uphold international conservation law to protect endangered whales in an established whale sanctuary protected under a global moratorium on commercial whaling that was imposed by the International Whaling Commission in 1986.
Shin-ken shō-bu literally means a contest with real swords and it means that something is done in deadly earnest.
In other words we are serious about saving whales. We will not be deterred. This is not a game. We are not posturing and posing like Greenpeacers. Our intention is to save the lives of as many whales as possible.
Last year, we had a couple of crew-members who balked at intervention, who were afraid to take the risks required to defend the lives of whales.
That will not happen this year. We have interviewed our crew and every crewmember was asked if they are prepared to risk their lives in defense of the whales and every crewmember that will be participating responded in the affirmative.
No wimps, no malingerers, no malcontents!
The new crew of Operation Musashi have the resolve to defend and protect and they have the discipline to do so without causing bodily harm to the whalers we oppose.
The risks are considerable. First, because we are voyaging into one of the most remote areas of ocean on the planet. The Southern Ocean can be cruel and unforgiving and does not suffer fools or mistakes. The seas are exceptionally cold, the weather is horribly unpredictable.
Secondly, our opposition, the Japanese whalers are becoming increasing more violent and aggressive. Last year they threw concussion grenades at us and they shot at us. One bullet struck me in the chest and I was saved only by the fact that I was wearing a Kevlar vest. Two of my crew were slightly injured by exploding concussion grenades.
We knew going into this conflict at the beginning that we would have no choice but to endure year after year if need be. We knew that retreat and surrender were out of the question. Our commitment is as passionately strong today as it was when we began.
And because of our commitment we have already saved over a thousand whale lives and we have cost the Japanese whalers tens of millions of dollars in losses.
This year we fly the rising sun crossed sword and feathered pen Jolie Rouge battle flag of Operation Musashi. We have named our campaign in honour of Miyamoto Musashi, one of the greatest and most heroic figures in Japanese history, a master strategist, superior swordsman and cultural icon.
Musashi is to Japan what Robin Hood is to England, Ned Kelly is to Australia and Jesse James is to America - part hero, part outlaw - and 100% legendary icon.
We of Sea Shepherd are samurai. This word comes from the Japanese verb saburau and means "to serve as an attendant."
We serve the whales. We fight for their survival and for their interests. We fight for whalekind. The whales are our clients. It is as simple as that.
According to Samurai tradition the way of the warrior is a "resolute acceptance of death."
My crew and I accept and understand that when we head out to sea we will be placing ourselves, as we have so many times before, in harm's way.
In over three decades of high seas conflicts, we have never injured anyone and we have never suffered any serious injuries but we recognize that disaster is always a mere heartbeat away.
The drumbeats of our impending engagement have begun and the rhythms of preparation are laying the groundwork for a battle of strategy between our small band backed by our small group of loyal supporters and that of our wealthy opposition backed by one of the most powerful and proudest nations on Earth.
We will set forth in November on a voyage southward towards the ice bound shores of Antarctica - our one ship against an entire fleet, our small crew of international volunteers against hundreds of seamen who are members of a Yakusa backed trade union. With them will be an armed Japanese military unit. They have guns. We do not. They have concussion grenades. We have rotten butter stink bombs.
What we do have however is the Law. The whalers are breaking the laws and we are committed to enforcing the laws.
And we also have the most powerful weapons on Earth - cameras!
Anything the Japanese whalers do to us will be transmitted worldwide. We will not only speak truth to power we will document truth to power.
One thing we can say for certain is that we will not bear witness to the death of a single whale. No whale will die within out sight. I have not seen a whale die since I was 1st Officer on the Greenpeace ship James Bay in 1976. When we arrive, the whalers run and they don't kill whales.
We have rammed and sunk enough whaling ships over the years to convince the whalers that we are not some namby-pamby protest group. Our objective is to police the regulations and to defend the lives of the whales.
There are some who ask; how can you ask people to risk their lives to defend whales?
I can only reflect that in the last century, millions were asked to sacrifice their lives in defense of real estate, property, oil wells, religion, and the abstraction of patriotism. How much more noble is it to risk one's life to defend living beings, to defend species and habitats and to protect the natural legacy of this planet?
When soldiers are asked if they are willing to die for their country, we do not find it odd that they say yes.
So why would it be strange to expect that a passionate person would be willing to die to save a whale or any other living creature?
I do know that my life is richer for the risks that I have taken over the years. The knowledge that because I intervened, whales are now swimming in the sea, that would otherwise be dead leaves me with a deep seated feeling of contentment and achievement.
I do not measure success by material acquisition. I measure success by achievement.
I have been on the high seas fighting for whales since 1975. Three decades and three years, and despite the many confrontations, skirmishes, and engagements, I am remarkably still very much alive, and very much active.
I don't see any retirement from this life nor do I desire to ever retire from this mission of saving lives and defending and protecting oceanic eco-systems. I intend to see that Sea Shepherd leaves a mark in the Galapagos, in the waters of the North and South Atlantic, the North and South Pacific, The Indian and Southern Oceans and in the high Arctic.
And when I fall, I know there will be others who will pick up our flag before it falls, to carry on this great mission to serve and defend the citizens of the sea.
These gentle warriors are with me now. They sail as crew on the ships, work on the islands in the Galapagos, in our office in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, on the beaches of Brazil, on the coast of Western Australia, on the shores of Southern France, from the Cape of Good Hope to Cape Horn, from the far-flung Aleutians to the Ross Sea and from the coast of Labrador to the Greater Antilles.
This incredible flood, this great wet cradle of all life on this planet, this wilderness paradise of aquatic wonderment has guided me throughout my entire life. From sitting on the pier of Passamaquoddy Bay as a young boy watching the Fundy tides recede, to standing on the deck as Captain of my own ships navigating through ice and storms, surveying the fragile vastness and diversity of the one great planetary ocean - I have been privileged to serve as one of Poseidon's knights in defense of the great blue realm.
So with respect to the nation of Japan and contempt to Japan's cowardly and ruthless pirate whalers I say "shin-ken shō-bu."
We'll see you down there in those cold remote waters and we will do all within the capacity of our strength and resolve to prevent you from extinguishing the lives of some of the most intelligent, gentle and socially complex sentient beings on the planet - the great whales!