After three long weary and dramatic months upon the most remote and hostile seas in the world, the Sea Shepherd ships Steve Irwin and Bob Barker were welcomed by crowds of cheering supporters in the port of Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, on Saturday, March 6th, 2010.
Sea Shepherd just completed the most ambitious and effective campaign to defend the great whales that we have ever undertaken and Operation Waltzing Matilda, the sixth voyage to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary to oppose the illegal whaling activities of the Japanese whaling fleet, was astoundingly effective.
For three straight weeks from February 5th until February 26th we prevented the entire Japanese whaling fleet from killing a single whale. The month before, we had shut the whalers down for twelve days giving us thirty-three solid whaling-free days, which is one-third of their whaling season. In addition, our actions forced the harpoon vessels Shonan Maru 2 and the Yushin Maru 3 to break off from whaling activities to serve as security vessels to oppose Sea Shepherd interventions, and this prevented these two vessels from killing whales for almost the entire season.
We will not know the final results until the Japanese whaling fleet reports back to Tokyo in April, but we cut the kill quotas nearly in half during the three previous years and this year was much more effective, so the results promise to be very satisfying. We know we have cost the whalers tens of millions of dollars in lost profits.
But this achievement was not without cost. We lost one of our three ships when our newly acquired, fast interceptor boat Ady Gil was deliberately rammed and cut in half by the Japanese harpoon vessel Shonan Maru 2. The six crewmembers of the Ady Gil narrowly escaped the collision with their lives and the $1.5 million USD, high-tech trimaran Ady Gil sank and was lost.
This is, of course, something not unexpected when we deliberately sail our vessels into harm's way to defend the whales from their remorseless killers. Our view is that ships are expendable, and that endangered species of whales are not.
The Ady Gil was, in fact, so effective in disrupting whaling operations that after only two days on January 6th, the Japanese whalers made the decision to destroy it in a cowardly act. The Ady Gil was struck while idling in the water. The Shonan Maru 2 made an abrupt and deliberate turn to strike the Ady Gil at full speed while all the time aiming their high-powered water cannons and long-range acoustic weapons on the Ady Gil crew.
Later in the campaign, we lost one of our crew when the Japanese whalers took Captain Peter Bethune of the Ady Gil as a prisoner. He had courageously boarded the Shonan Maru 2 undercover of darkness while the harpoon vessel was underway at 15 knots. He managed to make his way past the formidable anti-boarding spikes and nets on the whaling vessel - and he did so completely undetected. He stayed on the Shonan Maru 2 for over an hour and a half waiting for the sunrise so that our helicopter could be overhead filming when he calmly walked up to the bridge wing door. He knocked and calmly presented a citizen's arrest warrant and an invoice for the value of his sunken ship to the Japanese whaling captain responsible for the criminal and reckless act.
As a result Captain Bethune was seized and taken prisoner - the first New Zealander to be taken as a prisoner of war from the Southern Ocean to Japan.
Amazingly, the Japanese harpoon vessel Shonan Maru 2 left the fleet for the express purpose of taking Captain Bethune back on the month-long voyage to Japan at enormous expense, and even more importantly, it meant that it would not be able to continue participating in whaling operations. By that act alone, Captain Bethune saved dozens of whales. The Shonan Maru 2 is scheduled to arrive in Japan in mid-March, and Sea Shepherd has arranged for expert legal representation for Captain Bethune upon his arrival.
Despite the escalated aggressiveness of the Japanese whalers this year, Sea Shepherd crew was able to disrupt the whale slaughter without causing a single injury to any of the whalers.
We had a powerful secret weapon this year. Thanks to the generosity of American television personality Bob Barker, we were able to purchase a former Norwegian Antarctic whaling ship in Africa. We moved it to Mauritius and quietly prepared it for departure on December 18th for the Southern Ocean.
The Steve Irwin had departed from Fremantle in Western Australia on December 7th and the Ady Gil departed from Tasmania leaving Hobart on December 18th.
The deployment of the Bob Barker effectively countered the Japanese tactic of putting a tail onto the Steve Irwin that prevented our flagship from closing in on the whaling fleet because our position was being relayed in real time to the Nisshin Maru enabling them to avoid us. The Steve Irwin was forced to return to Tasmania to lose the tail. When we returned, the Yushin Maru 3 was assigned to search for the Steve Irwin, at the same time the Bob Barker moved eastward along the ice edge and disguised as a Norwegian whaler moved in on the whaling fleet taking them totally by surprise.
The Bob Barker would have been able to stick with the whaling fleet for all of January if not for the deliberate ramming and destruction of the Ady Gil by the Shonan Maru 2 which forced the Bob Barker to stop to rescue our crew on the Ady Gil.
This season marks the third year for the television series coverage of our Antarctic Whale Defense Campaigns. The Animal Planet show "Whale Wars" caught all of the drama of the conflicts and skirmishes in high definition, so there can be no doubt as to what is going down in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary this year.
In February, the Bob Barker was deliberately rammed by the Yushin Maru 3 and suffered a one-meter gash in the hull on the port stern side. The crew was able to make emergency repairs.
Sea Shepherd crew battled the whalers with water cannons, rotten butter stink bombs, and succeeded in painting over the bogus "RESEARCH" signs on the sides of the ship with blood red paint.
Our campaigns have indeed become a war to save the whales in every sense. From the water cannon battles between our ships, to the high-level diplomatic showdowns between Australia and New Zealand and Japan, this battle is being fought in many levels and in many places. With ships being rammed and sunk, and prisoners of war being taken back to Japan, the conflict was more intense this year than ever before.
But it is down in these cold and remote seas off the icebound coast of Antarctica where Sea Shepherd ships and crew are making the most significant difference by actually saving the lives of hundreds of whale and costing the outlaw whalers from Japan tens of millions of dollars in lost profits.
We also scored major political and media victories. The campaign was covered extensively in all international media and especially in Japan. The polls in Australia saw us receiving a 91% approval for our campaigns. This incredible public support in Australia finally forced Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to make good on his campaign promise to take legal action against Japanese whaling activities.
Now that Operation Waltzing Matilda has been the most effective anti-whaling campaign ever mounted by Sea Shepherd, we must address new strategies and new tactics in preparation of taking our ships back to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in December 2010 to oppose the Japanese pirate whalers once again should they return to those waters.
Our objective is simple - we need to sink the Japanese whaling fleet economically, we need to bankrupt them. It really is the only language that the whalers understand - profit and loss, and our job is to boost their losses and lower their profits.
The secret to success is to never surrender and to never give up the fight and to continue to hit the killers hard year after year until they are bankrupt and politically and economically forced to call it quits.