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Sea Shepherd to embark next week on mission to thwart Japanese whale hunt

November 30, 2009 | 11:46 am


The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society will launch "Operation Waltzing Matilda,"  its name for this season's campaign against Japanese whaling, next Monday from Fremantle, Australia.

Sea Shepherd will hold a fundraiser in Fremantle on Wednesday to garner support for the controversial group's sixth mission against whalers from Japan, who are currently en route to the Antarctic region for a prolonged assault that will target 935 minke whales and 50 endangered fin whales.

Past Sea Shepherd campaigns have led to tense confrontations and this year's will feature a new twist in the form of a futuristic-looking trimaran named Ady Gil. The speedy vessel, which can travel at 50 knots, will operate from the mother ship Steve Irwin and be used "to intercept and physically block the harpoon ships from illegally slaughtering whales," according to a Sea Shepherd news release.

It'll be interesting to see how the whalers respond to this sleek weapon being utilized by Sea Shepherd Capt. Paul Watson, who claims his group saved 305 whales last season with harassment techniques carried out largely aboard inflatable outboard vessels. 

Japan's annual hunts are conducted as scientific missions and the whalers operate under a "lethal research" loophole in the wording of an international moratorium against commercial whaling, enacted in 1986.

(It may or may not be coincidental that Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research was established a year later, in 1987.)

Operation Waltzing Matilda, like the past two campaigns, will be filmed for Animal Planet's popular "Whale Wars" series.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo of the Ady Gil courtesy of Sea Shepherd