Commentary by Captain Paul Watson
On Board the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin
"Who are those guys."
- Butch Cassidy to the Sundance Kid
The captain of the Fukuyoshi Maru No. 68 had only one job in the Southern Ocean this year. It was a rather easy gig really. Keep chasing Steve Irwin.
All he needs to do was take his big ugly stern trawler down to the coast of Antarctica with some Japanese Coast Guardsmen as passengers. No need to set any nets or haul gear- just tool around following any protest ships that happen along.
My crew and I on the Steve Irwin first saw the Fukuyoshi Maru No. 68 on January 15th when they arrived mysteriously in the midst of our stand-off with the Japanese whaler Yushin Maru No. 2.
From that day on they have followed us everywhere we we have gone like an unwanted shadow. If we moved towards them, they moved away. They tended to keep a distance of 6 nautical miles between themselves and the Steve Irwin.
We knew why they were there. Their job was to keep the Japanese fleet updated in real time on the coordinates of the Steve Irwin.
Sea Shepherd has acquired our very own official Japanese government shadow. We were flattered. This had to be expensive. A large ship like this has to be using 10 to 15 tons of fuel a day plus a large crew to feed and maintain plus the Coast Guard officers and all of it dedicated to little old us.
From January 15th until February 1st the Fukuyoshi Maru No 68 followed our every move. They even followed us to the 200 mile limit off Tasmania and returned to the whaling fleet when we carried on to Melbourne to refuel.
During that time we had some fun with them. One day we dropped off two inflatable boats and our helicopter behind an iceberg. As the Japanese ship following us reached that point our crew swooped out from behind the ice and ambushed them. The Sea Shepherd crew captured them on camera and then returned to the Steve Irwin.
When we returned the Fukuyoshi Maru No. 68 was waiting for us. Once again the Japanese fleet was able to prevent our closing in on them as their escort boat kept them posted on our every movement.
For the last seven days the Fukuyoshi Maru No. 68 has been tailing the Steve Irwin for over a thousand miles - east then south then north then west and back to the east again.
Nine ships are down here going in circles with the Steve Irwin chasing a fleet and being chased in turn by the Japanese Coast Guard on the Fukuyoshi Maru No. 2.
We knew that we would never be able to close in on the Japanese fleet with this Japanese spy ship glued to our stern. We had to ditch them. But how? They were much faster than us.
Early this morning we got our chance. The weather was nasty, visibility was zero with dense fog and there were dozens of icebergs all around. We turned and circled an iceberg and then stopped.
We watched the Japanese ship approach on radar. They passed close by and continued onward in pursuit of where they last saw us heading. We have not seen them visually or on radar for the last twelve hours.
And so we set out once again to track down the Japanese whaling fleet hoping the Fukuyoshi Maru No. 68 does not pick up our trail again.
I can imagine the scolding the Captain of the Fukuyoshi Maru No. 68 must have gotten. "What do you mean you lost them? You had one simple job down there and you lost track of them!"
We now have seven more whale safe days under our belt. The Steve Irwin is heading towards the Japanese fleet waiting for them to stop and kill whales. Once they stop we will be on them and the decks of the Nisshin Maru will once again stink with rancid butter as they hustle to get away from us once more.
One thing we have discovered down here is that these "macho" men who kill the defenseless whales are cowards. They are afraid of a confrontation with Sea Shepherd. They run like little school girls every time we approach. For a Yakuza controlled union, these sailor boys are milquetoast little wimps and it is difficult to have any respect for them at all.
They have no problem pulling the trigger to send a blunt nosed explosive harpoon into a whale's back but they run scared from a boatload of vegetarians. Put these boys in a small open whale boat and a hand-held harpoon and they would pee their pants.
The Captain of the Nisshin Maru has not had a very good last few years. We chased him 3,000 miles along the Japanese coast in 2005/2006. He fell 85 whales short of his quota. Last year during the 2006/2007 season, the Nisshin Maru was chased by Sea Shepherd, hit with our stink bombs and then suffered an accidental fire that cost million of dollars and killed one of his crew. He also fell to only half his quota. The campaign was a financial disaster. This 2007/2008 season will also prove to be a financial disaster. They will not get their quota and may not even reach half their quota again.
And if they return next year we will be here waiting for them, ready to diminish their profits and cause them further embarrassment.
Woody Allen once said that "90% of success is just showing up."If we keep showing up, if we keep chasing them, harassing them, blockading them, embarrassing them, and most importantly if we keep costing them profits, we will win this war to save the whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.