A letter to the environment minister– from M/Y Bob Barker

The Sea Shepherd’s (SS) “Operation Relentless” met the relentless Japanese fleet in the Southern Ocean this whaling season– at least three times. As in the past seasons, there are dramas. Expect fleet chasing, water bomb exchanges, and ramming of vessels, for example, like an action-packed, adrenalin-pumping movie scenes. This season, however, the SS claims to have exercised restraint not to fight back during sea encounters. But it’s losing its patience when the Japanese whalers allegedly throw heavy metal objects at My Bob Barker crew and attacked the vessel. The harpoon ships also made repeated attempts to damage My Bob Barker’s rudder and propeller.

Captain Peter Hammarstedt, master of M/Y Bob Barker, said that early this week the Japanese harpoon ships Yushin Maru and Yushin Maru No. 3 trailed hundreds of metres of steel cable across his bow and the attacks nearly hit the vessel’s propeller prompting him to.launch his Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) to defend his ship. The Australian Customs Vessel (ACV) could have help, but to now avail. So here’s a full letter to Environment Minister Greg Hunt:

Sea Shepherd fleet clash with Japanese vessels. (Photo: Adelaide Now)

Sea Shepherd fleet clash with Japanese vessels. (Photo: Adelaide Now)

25th of February, 2014

The Hon. Greg Hunt

Minister for the Environment

Dear Minister,

Every year leading up to the Antarctic whaling season, the Governments of Australia, New Zealand, The Netherlands and the United States of America ask both parties in the struggle over the sanctity of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary to show restraint. It’s an easy way to skirt taking any actual responsibility for the clashes that occur in the Antarctic– why enforce the law against poachers when it’s so much more convenient to just ask them to play nice?

I admit that I had a glimmer of hope when you made a pre-election promise that an Australian Customs Vessel (ACV) would be sent to the Southern Ocean this season. It was a welcome move that gave me great comfort, especially after my vessel, the Bob Barker, was rammed repeatedly by the much larger Japanese factory whaling ship Nisshin Maru last year. But that promise was weathered down by the Abbott Government as the promise of a ship devolved into the promise of an aircraft, transformed into a plane that’s only flown once this entire season.

Well Minister, I believe that I’ve shown restraint this season in the good faith that we had the protection of the Australian Government. But after sustaining two consecutive and completely unprovoked attacks, some of the most ruthless assaults in the history of Sea Shepherd’s Antarctic Whale Defense Campaigns, I’m losing hope.

When the whalers throw heavy metal objects at my crew, I instruct them to not throw anything back – not even in self-defense. When the harpoon vessels attacked my vessel for the first time this season, I sought the sanctuary of Macquarie Island in my bid to lose them, rather than launching small boat action after small boat action in an effort to lose the criminals stalking me. And yet now, I can’t so much as come within sight of the factory whaling ship before the harpoon ships make repeated attempts to damage my rudder and propeller.

On the 23rd of February 2014, when the Japanese harpoon ships Yushin Maru and Yushin Maru No. 3 trailed hundreds of metres of steel cable across my bow, I informed them by radio that their actions were illegal. I told them that I have nine Australian citizens on board and even flew the Australian flag from my foremast to extenuate the point. I stated clearly that the Australian Government had been informed. And yet the attacks were not deterred. Each narrow miss of my propeller reminded me that that ACV could have prevented the attack.

I was left with no other choice but to launch my Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) to defend my ship. The following day you again made a statement calling on all sides to respect international maritime law stating that the facts of what happened are still unclear.

Well, that elusive ACV could have documented every harrowing minute of the blood-chilling ordeal and had they done that, then I’m sure that it would have been equally clear to them that there is a big difference between two poaching vessels towing 250 metres of steel cable with the intent to deliberately damage the rudder and propeller of a conservation ship; and a conservation ship deploying small boats in an effort to defend itself from a sustained attack. The aim of the whale poachers is to subvert the law whereas ours is to uphold the law. I did not launch my RHIBs until after alerting the Government of Australia and New Zealand Search and Rescue that I was under attack.

Minister, I have no doubt that you’re a passionate advocate for the whales and I commend you for your strong statements in defense of them. I even recognize that if the choice had been yours and yours alone, then an ACV may even have been sent. But that aside, in the absence of any kind of law enforcement down here, and as promises are broken, my ship is getting battered and my crew are getting pummeled. On behalf of my Australian crew I have to wonder, how much abuse are we expected to take before it is made clear to Tokyo that the Australian Government will not tolerate unprovoked attacks against its citizens?

I realize that the attack on my vessel occurred outside of the Australian Antarctic Territory, but the safety of Australian citizens, even outside of Australian waters is the responsibility of the Australian Government.

I implore you to make it exceedingly clear to the Government of Japan that unprovoked attacks on Australian citizens, and the vessels that carry them, will not be tolerated by the Australian Government any longer.

The Sea Shepherd fleet has found the factory whaling ship three times this whaling season. We will find them again. And when we do the weather will be rougher and the nights longer. If the Australian Government does not prevent a third attack, then I will have no choice but to resign myself to the reality that the Australian Government has surrendered the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary to Japanese whale poachers.

I cannot in good conscience not intervene if I see a crime taking place before my eyes, in this case the killing of threatened, endangered and protected whales.

Where there is an absence of law enforcement, I will have no choice but to fill that law enforcement void.

Yours Hopefully,

Captain Peter Hammarstedt

Master, M/Y Bob Barker

Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary

Antarctica

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Sea Shepherd chases Jap vessels with bloody whales

An action-packed adventure awaits the Southern Seas. Sea Shepherd Australia’s mission to chase the Japanese whale hunters started with a bang. Re-blogging yesterday’s story:

Former Greens Senator and now Sea Shepherd Australia (SSA) chairman, Bob Brown, spoke in Hobart Monday to confirm the Sea Shepherd Fleet has located all five Japanese whale poaching vessels, including the Japanese factory ship, the Nisshin Maru, inside the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary (SOWS).

SSAThree SSA vessels – The Steve Irwin, The Bob Barker, and The Sam Simon – are now pursuing the Japanese whaling fleet. Their mission is to drive them away from the target poaching grounds, disrupt their hunt, prepare to shut down their whale-killing operations, and to ultimately send them back home.

The Steve Irwin’s helicopter first located the Nisshin Maru at 64°44′ S, 162°34′ W, in New Zealand’s sovereign waters in the Ross Dependency Antarctic region, and inside the internationally recognised SOWS.

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Sea Shepherd claims it has obtained footage and images of three dead protected minke whales on the deck of the Nisshin Maru, taken at the time the factory ship was first located. A fourth whale, believed to be a minke, was being butchered on the bloodstained deck.

SSA managing director, Jeff Hansen, said, the Southern Ocean has been tainted by illegal whaling activities. He said, “No one will ever know the pain and suffering these playful, gentle giants went through from the time the explosive harpoon ripped through their bodies to the time they drew their last breath in a red sea full of their own blood. ”

The group denounced the blood stains on the deck of the Japanese vessel and called it a barbaric act. Captain of The Steve Irwin, Sid Chakravarty, said, “When ‘science’ requires you to grotesquely bloat up the bodies of protected whales, stroll across a deck smeared with their blood, hauling their body parts with hooks and chains, and discarding their remains over the side, then that ‘science’ has no place in the 21st Century.

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“The Nisshin Maru is an out-and-out butcher ship and a floating butchery has no place in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Sea Shepherd will remain relentless in driving these fake, desperate and subverting ‘scientists’ back to Tokyo.”

Captain of The Bob Barker, Peter Hammarstedt, said,

Once again, the Japanese government has shown flagrant disregard for international law by continuing their illegal whale hunt while the world patiently awaits a decision from the International Court of Justice. The Japanese government’s dishonourable attempt the skirt the legal process is an insult to the cooperation demonstrated by people around the world, dedicated to enacting conservation laws out of a shared recognition for the need for environmental protection.

Blog Link: The Green Journal @ Asian Correspondent

Whale hunters, pirates up for another Antarctic clash

The annual whale hunt season has arrived in the Southern Seas, which usually starts in December and lasts up to summer, around June. The “notorious Japanese whalers” embarked on their expedition early this month undeterred by the expected interception of the relentless anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd Australia (SSA). The whale activists launched the 10th Antarctic Defence Campaign (ADC), dubbed “Operation Relentless.”

This year expects more violent vessel clashes between the Japanese and the anti-whaling ”pirates”. SSA claims itself to be a defender of the Southern Ocean and all life forms it contains.

Last year, the 5000-ton My Bob Barker was severely damaged when the 8000-ton Nisshin Maru collided with it. The two groups clashed in exchanges that have seen stink bombs thrown at Japanese crew and water jets trained on protesters.

SSA’s “Operation Zero Tolerance” was able to limit the whalers’ haul to a record low of 103 Antarctic minke whales.

Foreign governments have criticised Japan’s whale hunts, alleging violation of the International Whaling Commission’s ban for commercial whaling which it introduced in 1986. Although Tokyo defended its whaling on grounds of scientific research, activists said “research whaling” is a cover up for commercial whaling that is banned under an international agreement. Tokyo also said the practice of eating whale is part of Japanese culinary tradition, and therefore the whales are studied as part of a bid by its whaling research institute to prove their populations can sustain commercial whaling.

NM-rams-BB-into-Sun-Laurel © Sea Shepherd/ Glenn Lockitch 2013
Japanese-owned Nisshin Maru rams the Bob Barker into the Sun Laurel. Pic: Glenn Lockitch.

Amid international outcry, two Japanese whaling ships and a surveillance vessel left on December 8 for the annual hunt in the Antarctic Sea. The three ships departed from the western port of Shimonoseki to join other ships to hunt up to 935 Antarctic minke whales and up to 50 fin whales through March, The Kyodo News reported.

The news agency said the Fisheries Agency had kept secret the departure date of the whaling fleet as a precaution against Sea Shepherd.

In Australia, three ships left Williamstown in Victoria and Hobart Port in Tasmania: The Steve Irwin ,The Sam Simon, and The Bob Barker departed to sail southward to confront the sea hunters. In the nine previous ADCs, SSA has saved over 4,500 protected whales from illegal slaughter.

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My Bob Barker docks at Docklands in Melbourne for public viewing. Pic: R. Yoon/The Green Journal.

Managing Director of SSA Jeff Hansen said the crew on the ships carry with them the hope, the aspirations, and the expectations of people from across the world who hope to see the end to the annual slaughter.

Captain of The Bob Barker Peter Hammarstedt of Sweden also stated the Japanese whale poaching fleet heading to the south is an offence to an international community waiting on the ruling of the International Court of Justice in The Hague. “Sea Shepherd will now, again, head south as the only authority acting to restore law and order to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary,” the captain added.

Captain of The Steve Irwin, Siddarth Chakravarty of India expects that within a week, he and his crew will be with the whales and will not return until peace has been restored in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

This year, over 100 volunteers from 24 countries around the world join Operation Relentless to guard the gates of the southern sanctuary and to uphold the 1986 ban on commercial whaling.

Sea Shepherd Global Director,Alex Cornelissen of Netherlands said, “Like all poachers we encounter in our global campaigns, we will deal with the whalers the same way we always do: Relentlessly.”

Blog Link: The Green Journal at Asian Correspondent

Anti-whaling ship departs from Melbourne

A brief announcement from my mail box:

Melbourne based Sea Shepherd ships set to depart for Operation Relentless

Sea Shepherd ships, The Steve Irwin and The Sam Simon will depart Williamstown on Monday 16th December.

The crew of 100 from 24 nations are ready to confront the Japanese whale poachers and halt their planned illegal slaughter of more than a 1,000 whales. The proposed kill includes 935 protected Minke, 50 endangered Fin and 50 Humpback Whales.

We have invited all of our supporters to come down to see the ships and crew head off on this critical mission to defend the great whales of the Southern Ocean.

When: Monday 16th of December. Press Conference at 9am (The Sam Simon will depart at 5:30am and The Steve Irwin at 12pm).

Where: Sea Shepherd Australia Operations Base – Seaworks, 2 Ann Street, Williamstown, Victoria.

Who: Captain Siddharth Chakravarty, Captain Adam Meyerson and Sea Shepherd Australia Managing Director, Jeff Hansen. Others in attendance include Sea Shepherd crew and hundreds of local supporters

For background on Operation Relentless please see the new campaign website:

http://www.seashepherd.org.au/relentless/

(Photo: Sea Shepherd flagship, Steve Irwin)

(Photo: Sea Shepherd ship, My Steve Irwin)

Sea activists celebrate win against anti-whaling

Sea activists are celebrating the defeat, for now, of Japanese whale hunters who have ”left” the Southern Ocean.

Sea Shepherd Australia announced the success of Operation Zero Tolerance (OZT), a campaign to drive the Japanese whalers out of the seas near the Antarctic.

The conservation group welcomed the return of three ships commissioned to carry out the anti-whaling campaign. The ships, Steve Irwin, Sam Simon, and Bob Barker, with 110 international crew members, arrived at Seaworks Pier in Williamstown, Wednesday, amid a throng of anti-whaling fanatics.

The euphoric return is considered a victory for the whale conservation. Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, earlier hailed his group’s success and said the Japanese had the lowest catch in history with “no more than 75″ of the mammals culled, the Japan Times reports.

The Japanese claims whaling is for scientific research purposes to justify the trade. Pic: News Ltd.

Watson, who is wanted by InterPol, calculates “the figure is a meagre total that contrasts with the 267 caught last year — 266 minke whales and one fin whale — and is dramatically below the Institute of Cetacean Research’s target this year of 935 minke whales and up to 50 fin whales.”

The three vessels embarked on the voyage in November last year to combat the Japanese whale killers. After four months, the OZT is considered as the most successful campaign so far in sending the Japanese back home.

A Japanese ship (right) collides with Bob Barker. Pic: AP.

The sea battle was fierce. Steve Irwin and Bob Barker collisions with Japanese vessels. In February this year, the 8,000 ton Nisshin Maru rammed into the Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker. Watson “accused Japanese coastguard personnel of throwing concussion grenades at their protest ships during a confrontation in the frigid waters near Antarctica and said the Bob Barker was taking on water in its engine room.”

Bob Brown, a co-chair of the OZT was alerted during the confrontation and had called on Australian government to dispatch a naval ship to the area to ease the tensions.

“It is illegal to be ramming ships in any seas anywhere on the planet. It is illegal for a tanker to be carrying heavy fuel oil into Antarctic waters under international law,” Brown said.

Three ships and 110 crews arrived in Williamstown, VIC, but not Captain Paul Watson. Pic: Sea Shepherd Australia.

Jeff Hansen, Director Sea Shepherd Australia, however, acknowledged with “heavy heart” that Captain Paul Watson has not arrived ashore.

Watson has disappeared after skipping bail in Germany amid allegations by the Costa Rican government that he endangered the lives of shark finners back in 2002. Watson strongly denied the allegation. He also faced extradition requests from both Costa Rica and Japan against whom Sea Shepherd have waged a long and bitter war over whales in the Antarctic.

A whale being hauled by a large Japanese vessel. Pic: Australian Custom Service.

While sea activists are celebrating, the Japanese Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi earlier said that whaling has been part of a long historical tradition in Japan.

Sea Sheperd may have won the battle, but the war is not over.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent