After twelve days of repairs, refueling, re-crewing, re-supplying and re-provisioning, the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin is returning to the Southern Ocean. The estimated time for departure is 2000 hours Melbourne time on Thursday February 14.
"A special thank-you to Australia," said Captain Paul Watson. "You helped to send the Steve Irwin back to sea as a Valentine's Day gift to the whales."
Donations of money for fuel, donations of food and supplies flooded onto the decks of the whale conservation ship during the brief stay in Victoria docklands.
"We are anxious to return to the coast of Antarctica," said Sea Shepherd cook Amber Paarman from South Africa. "Every moment that we are not on the tail of the Japanese fleet means that the lives of the whales are in peril."
The Steve Irwin intends to harass and intervene against illegal Japanese whaling for the next four to five weeks. This should stop them to the end of the whaling season. The fleet's operations were shut down for more than three weeks in January. Sea Shepherd intends to shut them down again.
"In January we prevented them from slaughtering whales for three weeks, we cost the Japanese over two million dollars in fuel during the pursuit and we exposed their illegal whaling activities worldwide and most importantly we got the story into the Japanese media. This provoked a real debate in Japan on the cost of whaling to Japan's reputation," said Captain Paul Watson.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society does not intend to surrender the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary to the poachers. After this season, Captain Paul Watson is working to secure a 2nd ship with the objective of mounting a non-stop pursuit for the 2008/2009 whaling season.
The Steve Irwin dropped off 16 volunteer crewmembers in Melbourne on February 2nd and 19 volunteers have joined the crew. Eleven crewmembers have been with the campaign from the beginning.
The 32 crew, 8 women and 24 men returning to the Southern Oceans represent 10 different nationalities. In addition to 15 Australians, crewmembers have joined from New Zealand, Canada, the U.S.A., Sweden, South Africa, the Netherlands, the U.K. Spain, and Japan.