On Friday, February 4th, the Japanese harpoon vessel the Yushin Maru No. 3 issued a Mayday distress signal from the Ross Sea (71 degrees 58 minutes south and 176 degrees 48 minutes east). At the time the distress signal was issued, the Sea Shepherd ship the Bob Barker was eight miles away from the whaling ship. The Sea Shepherd vessel Gojira and two inflatable boats from the Bob Barker were alongside the Yushin Maru No. 3.
Captain Locky MacLean on the Gojira and Captain Alex Cornelissen on the Bob Barker immediately radioed the Yushin Maru No. 3 to inquire as to the nature of their distress. This call was made in both English and Japanese. The calls were documented on film by Animal Planet’s crew onboard Sea Shepherd’s ships, and monitored by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.
The Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR) issued a statement claiming the distress call was made because the Yushin Maru No. 3 was “under attack” by Sea Shepherd. During the skirmish, the Yushin Maru No. 3 suddenly stopped dead in the water. Since that time, some 48 plus hours later, it has not moved.
The Bob Barker successfully broke away from being tailed by the Yushin Maru No. 3 and is presently hunting for the Nisshin Maru.
In accordance with maritime law and protocol, Captain MacLean of the Gojira stayed with the Yushin Maru No. 3 for more than 48 hours to offer their assistance, if necessary. However during this period of time, the Japanese whalers refused to acknowledge any calls inquiring as to the nature of their “distress.”
Finally, Captain MacLean was contacted by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and notified that the Yushin Maru No. 3 was not in distress and did not require assistance. With that confirmation, Captain MacLean elected to leave the area to continue the search for the whaling vessels.
The Yushin Maru No. 3 is no longer tailing the Bob Barker, and is also not participating in whaling operations. It may be suffering mechanical problems.
The Steve Irwin arrived in Wellington, New Zealand on the evening of February 5th to refuel and take on supplies for all three Sea Shepherd ships in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.