Chasing the Nisshin Maru
Deckhand, Bob Barker
The first time I saw whales while aboard the Bob Barker was way back in mid-September last year. I had just joined Sea Shepherd’s newest ship in Africa along with nine other volunteers. Only a couple days after I arrived we departed on Bob Barker’s maiden voyage and we had frequent finned visitors alongside the ship. The whales kept us company, traveling with us in the warm waters within eyeshot of the coastline.
By the first nightfall however, our journey became difficult. Small, local fishing boats came out in swarms. Although the local fishing boats were considerably less destructive than industrial trawlers, the sheer number of these boats created a minefield of nets for the migrating whales. We struggled to avoid all the small fishing boats even with our radar and binoculars. And if it was so difficult for us, how did the whales avoid all these nets?
The whales, like us, still had many hundreds of miles south to travel before reaching the Southern Ocean. I don’t know if they all made it. But for the ones that did, I knew they couldn’t be left defenseless against exploding harpoons. We had to be there to protect them.
As I write this, sitting on the bridge of the Bob Barker, I’m watching the Nisshin Maru running from our ship. The harpoons have been quietly covered with green tarps. For now, the whales have their sanctuary and can rest before their long return journey that lies ahead.