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Sea Shepherd: Two ships to Challenge Japanese whaling fleet
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have launched their sixth campaign against Japanese commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary - Operation Waltzing Matilda - at the Internatonal Whaling Commission meeting in Portugal.
The anti-whaling activists have vowed to send two ships this coming southern summer - the upgraded and fully repaired Steve Irwin and possibly the fast bio-diesal fuelled New Zealand powerboat Earthrace which broke the world record for circumnavigating the globe in 2008, knocking almost two weeks off the old record.
"This is a research project," said Captain Paul Watson. "We’ve decided to demonstrate our solidarity with the Japanese, Australian, and New Zealand Research projects. Our primary objective is to research non-lethal means for defending whales. Of course this may include research into Japanese ship’s hull plate thickness, vessel stress tests, and paint chip analysis, as well as observation of whaler behavior in response to olfactory stimulation."
As part of the launch of Operation Waltzing Matilda, Sea Shepherd Netherlands Director Laurens de Groot and Sea Shepherd UK Director Steve Roest donned inflatable boats marked “research” and armed themselves with Styrofoam harpoons to chase IWC delegates. They couldn't locate any Japanese whaling delegates to collect "tissue samples" for research purposes from, but they did find Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett. He was considered a legitimate target because Australia is apparently voting to support the slaughter of Humpbacks in Greenland.
A campaign has been set up on a petition site for Peter Garrett to Step Up or Step Down over commitments to "enforce Australian law banning the slaughter of whales in the Australian Whale Sanctuary".
The next Southern Ocean campaign will sail from Fremantle, Western Australia with an Animal Planet Crew on board to document a 3rd season of Whale Wars. "We are taking the most powerful anti-whaling weapon at our disposal: a film crew," said Laurens de Groot, a Sea Shepherd Netherlands Director. "The cameras are more powerful than cannons and our ammunition is the naked truth about illegal whaling. We intend to keep the focus on Japanese crimes and we intend to sink the Japanese whaling fleet – economically."
In launching the campaign Captain Paul watson said "Australians are the most passionate whale defenders on the planet. Operation Waltzing Matilda will reflect our gratitude to Australia for the incredible support we have received from the people of this wonderful nation since 2005. The Steve Irwin will depart in December from Western Australia with the majority of the crew being Australians."
The logo adopted for the campaign features a kangaroo with a pirate patch over one eye holding Neptune's trident. Kylie Herd, a Sea Shepherd crewmember from Perth attending the IWC Conference said, "Our logo this year is modeled on the art that adorned the fighter planes of the legendary Flying Tigers who fought the Japanese Imperial forces in China. The colors of the Aboriginal and Australian flags have been incorporated into the design with the pirate kangaroo holding Neptune’s trident of justice. We intend to waltz down to the Southern Ocean to dance dangerously with the Japanese whaling fleet and we intend to unroll a Matilda full of defensive tactics for the whales against the Japanese whale poachers."
The Steve Irwin has been undergoing a major refit in Brisbane. According to a report in the Age Earthrace owner Pete Bethune decided to negotiate the use of Earthrace with Sea Shepherd as whaling "is happening in my backyard and it really pisses me off". It is likely the powerboat will be modified with half a tonne of Kevlar to the vessel to toughen it up against ice conditions found in the Southern Ocean near Antarctica.
Paul Watson was detained for 4 hours on arrival in Portugal, arising from a 30 year warrant when Sea Shepherd rammed and later scuttled the pirate whaler the Sierra. The warrant had expired in 2008. Watson had visited Portugal on several previous occasions without incident.