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Whale war subsides as Sea Shepherd leaves Japanese fleet, heads home

February 9, 2009 | 10:13 am

Sea Shepherd crew in an inflatable boat harass Japanese factory whaling ship, the Nisshin Maru.

It was fun while it lasted, wasn't it?

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's effort to harass and minimize Japan's whale hunt in the Antarctic has come to an end, as the activists have exhausted their fuel and drained their resources.

But it was an entertaining month-long, two-part episode. Tales of hurling rotten butter at the savage whale killers, if that's how you regard them. Blasting water cannons at the criminal eco-terrorists, if that's how you regard the activists.

There were vessel collisions, and the Japanese even lost a crewman overboard in a nonrelated incident.

Now Sea Shepherd's vessel, the Steve Irwin, is leaving antarctic waters and leaving the whalers to hunt minkes unopposed.

But Capt. Paul Watson boasts of having shut down whaling operations for one month and promises an even greater disruption effort next year, with a larger, faster vessel.

"We need to block those deadly harpoons, and we need to outrun these hunter killer ships and to do that, I need a ship that is as fast as they are, and I intend to get one and I intend to return next year," Watson said. "We will never stop intervening against their illegal whaling operations, and we will never stop harassing them, blockading them and costing them money.

"I intend to be their ongoing nightmare every year until they stop their horrific and unlawful slaughter of the great whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary."

And there are many who'll be pulling for Watson, just as some will be critical of the way he conducts business on the high seas. One thing's for sure, it's a compelling story.

-- Pete Thomas

Japanese whalers respond to exploding bottles of rotten butter, hurled by Sea Shepherd crew members from vessel Steve Irwin.

Top photo: Sea Shepherd crew in an inflatable boat harass Japanese factory whaling ship, the Nisshin Maru. Credit: Josh Gunn / Sea Shepherd

Bottom photo: Japanese whalers respond to exploding bottles of rotten butter, hurled by Sea Shepherd crew members from vessel Steve Irwin. Credit: Adam Lau / Sea Shepherd

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