The Japanese whaling fleet has gone to a great deal of effort and expense to insure that Sea Shepherd crewmembers will not be able to board their ships this year.
Sea Shepherd crew were able to document the extensive measure taken on the Yushin Maru #3 on January 7th. The harpoon vessel was tailing the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin when Sea Shepherd Helicopter pilot Chris Aultman flew back with photographer Eric Cheng to take photos of the ship.
Captain Paul Watson also deployed two fast boats to pursue the harpoon vessel to examine their anti-boarding measures. He called them back when the harpoon vessel turned and fled at top speed upon seeing the approach of the small boats.
"It really is quite amazing," said Captain Watson. "The effort and expense that has gone into preventing us from boarding is ambitious. The ships can literally cover themselves with a net that can be deployed like a shower curtain around the vessel. Large fenders and sharp spikes protrude from the sides of the ship. It looks very formidable and very expensive."
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society had no plans to board any of the Japanese ships this season. Captain Watson was amused and flattered that they had gone to such an expense in response to last year's boarding episode that had created an international incident and brought the story of illegal Japanese whaling into the headlines in Japan.
The crew of the Sea Shepherd has observed this anti-boarding device on the Yushin Maru #2 on December 2nd but it had not been deployed. When the Steve Irwin caught them unaware, the Japanese crew scurried across the deck to begin untying the net to deploy it. The two ships were separated by dense fog and heavy ice conditions before the net was deployed.
The Japanese harpoon boat Yushin Maru No. 3 deployes anti-boarding nets,
floats, and spikes. The nets run nearly the entire length of the
vessel from bow to stern on both port and starboard sides.
Photos: Eric Cheng / Sea Shepherd Conservation Society