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Sea Shepherd boat to tour Australia before mission against Japanese whaling

September 25, 2009 |  1:02 pm

Steve Irwin docked in Hobart, Australia.

Capt. Paul Watson and his ragtag vegan crew are about 90 days from embarking on another controversial campaign against the Japanese whaling fleet in and near the Antarctic.

But early next month, to drum up support for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's sixth such mission, Watson will guide the group's flagship vessel, Steve Irwin, on a tour of Australian ports.

The vessel will open for tours and the crew will share stories about what these campaigns entail; perhaps they'll discuss the controversial methods employed while trying to spare whales from exploding harpoons--like tossing bottle of rancid butter at the whalers.

For those who live Down Under, tour dates are as follows: Sydney–Oct. 5-12 at Circular Quay; Hobart–Oct. 16-22 at Macquarie Wharf; Fremantle–Nov. 4-Dec. 7 at C Berth.

For anyone considering joining up with Sea Shepherd, here's the job description: "No pay, long hours, hard work, dangerous conditions, extreme weather. Guaranteed: Adventure, fulfillment, and the hardest work you will ever love. The experience of a lifetime."

These campaigns have gained widespread notoriety thanks to Animal Planet and its "Whale Wars" series. The shows take viewers along for the ride as the Sea Shepherd crew hunts down the Japanese fleet and disrupts hunts that annually target about 1,000 minke whales and a small number of endangered fin whales.

The series also has served as a valuable recruitment tool for Sea Shepherd, a group that seems to be either despised or admired. Critics point out that Japan's hunts are legal and that Watson's questionable antics will get someone killed. But supporters maintain that Japan is hunting whales via a research loophole in the wording of an international moratorium on whaling, and that profit, not research, drives the whaling effort. If most of the world is against whaling, why is Japan still slaughtering the intelligent mammals?

From the sidelines, these annual confrontations are entertaining, to say the least. That's why Animal Planet jumped aboard two campaigns ago. Season 1 was boring, Season 2 was action-packed and it's anyone's guess how Season 3 will turn out, but it will not be lacking in drama.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Steve Irwin docked in Hobart, Australia. Credit:  Adam Lau / Sea Shepherd

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