Japanese Whalers and Sea Shepherd Skirmish on the Date Line
Sea Shepherd’s ships the Steve Irwin and the Gojira engaged in their second confrontation of the season when Sea Shepherd attempted to shake off the tail of a harpoon vessel on the evening of January 5th, 2011. This engagement took place on the International Date Line as the vessels crossed back and forth from Wednesday to Tuesday and back to Wednesday again.
The Sea Shepherd ships have been pursuing the Japanese factory ship the Nisshin Maru for the past six days ever since finding the Japanese whaling fleet on December 31st, 2010. Since then, the two fleets have covered over a thousand miles as the whalers attempt to shake off the pursuing Sea Shepherd ships.
As the Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker pursue the Nisshin Maru, harpoon vessel the Yushin Maru #2 is tailing the Steve Irwin, while the Yushin Maru #3 tails the Bob Barker. The situation is somewhat complicated because as the Sea Shepherd ships chase the Nisshin Maru, the harpoon vessels chase the Sea Shepherd ships to relay positions ahead to the Nisshin Maru so that the factory ship can avoid being caught. However, Sea Shepherd has the advantage of the high speed Gojira vessel to scout ahead and to continue in pursuit of the Nisshin Maru.
What this also means is that two of the three harpoon vessels cannot whale because they are tailing the Sea Shepherd ships. The third harpoon vessels whereabouts is unknown but is presumed to be with the Nisshin Maru. If the Nisshin Maru stops and attempts to whale, the Gojira will catch up to them and will relay their position to the other two Sea Shepherd ships. Therefore, the two harpoon vessels have been neutralized as whalers, and the factory ship and the third harpoon vessel don’t have much time to stop and look for whales with Godzilla breathing down their backsides.
“What we have down here in the Southern Ocean are seven ships, four on their side and three on ours, engaged in a cat and mouse pursuit over thousands of miles of remote and dangerous seas,” said Captain Paul Watson from the Steve Irwin. “We chase them. They chase us, but the important thing is that we are all running, wasting away the miles, and buying time for the whales. Every day they don’t kill whales is a victory. We can sustain this running confrontation until the end of March, and the end of the whaling season if need be.”
The latest confrontation saw the Gojira attempting to slow down the Yushin Maru #2. The whalers responded with water cannons and Sea Shepherd retaliated with stink bombs.