And so it begins.
The Yakusa owned and controlled Japanese whaling fleet has left Japan in a very low key manner, without the traditional celebratory send-off, with fewer crewmembers and with less support than years before. They are also departing on the threshold of a major recession in the Japanese economy.
And as President Bill Clinton once said, "It's the economy stupid."
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship Steve Irwin is scheduled to depart at the end of November which should put both the whaling fleet and the Sea Shepherd crew on a course that will bring them together somewhere in the remote and hostile waters off the Antarctic coast in mid-December.
"We have them on the ropes economically," said Captain Paul Watson. "We intend to make this yet another year of profit loss for the whalers. It is the one language they understand and it is the only thing that is going to shut down whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary."
Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett has announced that Australia will invest millions into whale research to prove that non-lethal methods are sufficient and that Japan does not need to employ lethal research to secure their research objectives.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society certainly supports any non-lethal research that will further our understanding of the great whales but does not think that Australia's initiative will convince Japan to cease their slaughter.
"Japan is not interested in research," said Captain Watson. "We all know that this whale hunt has absolutely nothing to do with research. It's about killing whales for meat to send to market in Japan. It's a sham, a facade, in short it is a whale of a lie. They will never participate in non-lethal research for the simple reason there is no profit in it."
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society also does not believe that whaling will be ended by efforts to convince Japanese citizens to pressure their government to end whaling. Such a campaign could take decades and the whales need to stop dying now.
"The argument that we should not interfere, that we should not take direct action and instead lobby for change in Japan is absurd," explained Captain Watson. "Would this approach have worked against the Nazis? Would the German people have made the decision to not kill Jews and other people they did not like on their own? Would we have counseled the allies to not interfere? I don't think so. Did the appeasement by Jewish leaders in the Warsaw ghetto work? No, the people died. And the whales will continue to die as we wait for some miracle within Japan that may or may not eventually arrive."
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society believes that only direct intervention will work in a world where governments refuse to take action and refuse to uphold international conservation law.
The simple solution is for governments to demand that illegal whaling be ended and if not they should invoke economic sanctions. U.S. law already has provisions to implement sanctions but these sanctions are being withheld for political and trade reasons. It is because governments are not upholding their responsibility that Sea Shepherd is being forced to intervene.
In December, Sea Shepherd will once again engage the Japanese fleet and once again, the lives of whales will be saved and the whaling fleet will lose a great deal of money.
"We intend to give a Christmas gift to the whales this year," said Captain Paul Watson. "We intend to give as many of them as possible - the gift of life."