The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship Steve Irwin has departed Hobart, Tasmania to return to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. The Steve Irwin left the dock in Hobart at 1600 Hours on Wednesday, January 21st, local time.
"It's back into the Whale Wars for us," said 1st Officer Peter Hammarstedt of Sweden.
Hobart welcomed the Steve Irwin very warmly. Tasmanians brought down all the food needed to replenish the pantries of the ship. The dollars and cheques handed over the rail to the crew more than paid for the berth, the pilotage, and port costs.
"There is no doubt that Australians love whales," said Captain Paul Watson. "And we love Australia. It's hard to believe but back in 1978 we were fighting to stop Australian whaling at Cheynes Beach near Albany in Western Australia. And today we now have a former whaling nation as the most passionate defenders of the great whales on the planet. It gives me great hope that eventually Japan will become as passionate about protecting whales as their government now is dedicated to slaughtering them."
During the five days that the Steve Irwin was in Hobart, the ship took on 220 tons of diesel, 20 barrels of lube oil, 12 barrels of helicopter fuel and 5 barrels of petrol. A few volunteer crew departed and some new volunteers joined from the U.S., Spain, Dubai, and Australia Some engine and helicopters parts were taken on in addition to 60 tons of water and more than enough provisions to last another two months.
The crew are energized and eager to return to the Southern Ocean.
"We've got whales to save and whaling ships to chase," said Emily Hunter from Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
It's a long haul back to where the Japanese whaling fleet is presently engaged in their illegal plundering of the whale sanctuary. The weather reports look bleak, the swells look intimidating and the winds are increasing.
"This is not some fair weather voyage," said Pedro Monteiro from Florida. "This is a sea trip at its most extreme, in the most remote and hostile waters on the planet. We have no illusions about how much danger is involved. But knowing that we are saving hundreds of whales makes it all worthwhile."
Captain Paul Watson has informed the Australian government that Sea Shepherd would be willing to back off from confronting the whaling fleet for a year if either Australia or New Zealand mount a challenge to Japan to defend their actions before an international court.
"Our critics say that the risks we take are unacceptable," said Captain Watson. "I disagree, the saving of a species is more important than risking your life for oil or territory. However we should not be taking these risks. Governments should be upholding international conservation law. We take these risks because governments are not acting responsibly to protect the resources of this planet. If the government of Australia decides to take action, we can step back and allow them to do their job. Calling us eco-vigilantes or pirates does not bother us. What would bother us is to be doing nothing at all when laws are being broken, endangered species are dying and the criminal killers are being ignored."
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship Steve Irwin should arrive on the whale killing grounds around January 29th and will pursue the Japanese whaling fleet into the month of March.