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Category: Whales

Sea Shepherd crew engages in water cannon battle with Japanese whaling fleet vessel

The Japanese harpoon vessel Shonan Maru 2 shoots water cannons at the Sea Shepherd vessel Steve Irwin (not pictured) The latest update from Paul Watson, captain of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society flagship vessel Steve Irwin, was posted on the group's website today.

Watson tells of continued run-ins with the Shonan Maru 2, a Japanese whaling fleet ship that has been tailing the Steve Irwin since it left port en route to Antarctic waters to try to disrupt the annual whale hunt.

"The Japanese vessel moved in with water cannons  blazing. As they came closer, they turned on their LRAD's [Long Range Acoustical Device] and surprisingly they began to broadcast the following message over their loudspeaker: 'Steve Irwin, cease your aggressive action. Stop your aggressive action. We have the authority to repel you,' " reports Watson.

Watson contends that it is ridiculous to accuse the Steve Irwin of attacking the Shonan Maru 2, because the Japanese vessel is much faster and the crew of the Steve Irwin has been trying to get the vessel off their trail for 11 days.

The post continued, "The Shonan Maru 2 set off the collision alert system 14 times as it chased and circled the Steve Irwin.

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Sea Shepherd encounters shenanigans by Japanese whalers

The crew of Sea Shepherd's anti-whaling vessel, Steve Irwin, works to secure their helicopter while a Japanese whaling ship readies its water cannons. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society posted an update on its website Thursday stating its flagship vessel, Steve Irwin -- en route to Antarctic waters to try to disrupt the annual whale hunt -- has been followed for most of its 10 days at sea by the Japanese whaling fleet ship Shonan Maru 2.  

When the Steve Irwin sent its helicopter to film the Japanese vessel, the crew of the Shonan Maru 2 activated their Long Range Acoustical Device in an attempt to disorient those on the chopper.

“This was an extremely irresponsible thing to do,” said helicopter pilot Chris Aultman. “That device can cause nausea and disorientation and the use of it against an aircraft is both extremely dangerous and grossly irresponsible.”

While the Sea Shepherd crew was attempting to secure the copter on its return to the ship's landing pad, the Shonan Maru 2 increased speed and aimed their high-powered water cannons in an attempt to destroy the aircraft.

The Sea Shepherd reports that the helicopter and ship are undamaged and the crew is safe.

"The situation is now very dangerous,” said Captain Paul Watson. “We have deliberately led the Japanese ship into thick ice in order to lose them in the ice. The icebergs could easily damage either vessel.”

And so the pursuit, and the drama, continue.

--Kelly Burgess

Photo: The crew of Sea Shepherd's anti-whaling vessel, Steve Irwin, works to secure their helicopter while a Japanese whaling ship readies its water cannons. Credit: Barbara Veiga/Sea Shepherd

Sea Shepherd crew logs season's first clash with Japanese whalers

News_091214_1_3_BV_Shonan_Maru_1065 A prolonged game of cat-and-mouse between the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and a vessel from the Japanese whaling fleet today turned into the first clash this season between the adversaries, according to the group that is en route to Antarctic waters to try to disrupt the annual whale hunt.

Sea Shepherd posted on its website a short story stating its flagship vessel, Steve Irwin, after several days of being followed by the Shonan Maru 2, emerged from its hiding place behind an iceberg and crews on both vessels engaged in a brief fight with water cannons.

The Japanese harpoon vessel was placed on an evasive course and Capt. Paul Watson of the Steve Irwin kept up a pursuit for two hours before resuming a course toward Antarctica. Watson believes the harpoon vessel has been following the Steve Irwin in order to keep the rest of the whaling fleet aware of its whereabouts. Watson is hoping to use the thicker bergs ahead, and the shelter they provide, to lose the shadow vessel.

"We will use the icebergs and the ice floes to our advantage," Watson said. "I’ve observed today that I am a more experienced ice navigator than the Japanese captain chasing us. We need to get him to follow us into the ice fields and let the ice work for us."

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Sea Shepherd's anti-whaling vessel, Steve Irwin, with a Japanese whaling ship off its bow. Credit: Barbara Veiga/Sea Shepherd

Japan vows to proceed with controversial whale hunts

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So much for recent claims by Greenpeace that an end to Japanese whaling might be in sight because of its high cost in a bad economy.

Japan's foreign minister, Katsuya Okada, this week stated the country's new government will not review its policy on whaling, which has a powerful cultural significance.

Japan's fleet of harpoon and processing vessels is en route to the Antarctic region to participate in an annual hunt that targets 935 non-endangered minke whales and 50 endangered fin whales. "We do not think there is a need for a policy review," Okada told the Australian newspaper. 

Okada added: "It would be a different story if it were an endangered species.... on the verge of extinction. But if not, I think the average Japanese would like to consume whale meat in the future."

Capt. Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which also is en route to the area to try to disrupt the whale hunt, seized the opportunity to point out that Okada made no reference to research Japan supposedly is conducting in association with the hunts.

"He has made it very clear that this is a commercial operation and the objective is to kill whales for consumption and for profit," Watson said in a post on the Sea Shepherd website.

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Sea Shepherd crew being watched closely by Japanese whale hunters

Watson1 Capt. Paul Watson and his Sea Shepherd Conservation Society crew are only three days into their mission to locate the Japanese whaling fleet and disrupt its annual Antarctic region hunt, and they themselves have been located and are being watched.

Watson reported that an unidentified aircraft -- a possible spotter plane -- had circled the Sea Shepherd vessel Steve Irwin and that a white harpoon vessel began following the Steve Irwin from just beyond Australia's 200-mile boundary.

Watson changed course several times, and each time, he said, the harpoon vessel followed suit. “It looks like we have an escort to Antarctica,” Watson said on the group's website.

Watson added that he believed the fleet of whaling ships was accompanied this year by a security force. If that's true, this season's installment of Animal Planet's popular "Whale Wars" series could be the most dramatic yet.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Paul Watson. Credit: Adam Lau / Sea Shepherd

Note: To follow this blog on Twitter please visit @latimesoutposts

Entangled humpback whale off Maui finally freed

Officials disentangle a juvenile humpback whale from yellow plastic rope caught in its mouth. The 35-foot-long yearling was freed from the life-threatening rope Sunday.

A juvenile humpback whale entangled in hundreds of feet of heavy-duty polypropylene rope was finally freed on Sunday.

As reported last week in Outposts, the mammal was first spotted off Maui by the crew of a whale-watching vessel, Ocean Explorer of the Pacific Whale Foundation.

A team with the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary had been trying to free the animal since last Tuesday, when team members fixed a transmitter to the rope for tracking purposes.

Assisted by members from the NOAA Pacific Islands Regional Office and the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, the team was able to attach a sea anchor to the mammal, slowing it and keeping it near the surface. They were then able to approach close enough to cut the entangling lines using specialized equipment.

After all the gear was removed, the whale appeared to be in good shape, and swam away with its mother and another whale.

Ed Lyman, marine mammal response manager for the sanctuary, said that the rope could have killed the whale because it could interfere with its ability to feed, as it was wrapped around the whale's mouth.

I'm glad this whale tale ended on a positive note, and hopefully the young leviathan did not sustain any life-threatening injuries from its ordeal.

--Kelly Burgess

Photo: Officials disentangle a juvenile humpback whale from yellow plastic rope caught in its mouth. The 35-foot-long yearling was freed from the life-threatening rope Sunday. Credit: NOAA

New 'Whale Wars' season begins as Sea Shepherd seeks Japanese fleet

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Capt. Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society embarked Monday in an effort to locate Japanese whalers in the Antarctic region and disrupt their hunts.

The campaign also marked the beginning of Animal Planet's third season of "Whale Wars." For the third time, a film crew has joined Sea Shepherd in a Southern Ocean campaign that will last into February. The series premiere will be in June.

Is Animal Planet in this for the cause, or purely for the ratings?

Marjorie Kaplan, president and general manager of Animal Planet, said in a news release being issued today: "The issues surrounding whaling in the southern ocean are important and complex. The majesty of these beautiful creatures and the lengths to which the Sea Shepherds will go in order to prevent whaling has made WHALE WARS intense and vital television. 

"We are excited to be on the Sea Shepherd boats again this season for what looks likely to be an even more dramatic campaign than in years past.  And, as in prior seasons, we wish we could capture the experience on the Japanese boats as well but our request for access continues to be declined.”

Japan, which employs a "lethal research" loophole in the wording of an international moratorium to justify its hunts, annually targets nearly 1,000 minke whales and about 50 endangered fin whales.

It will take awhile for the Sea Shepherd's flagship vessel, Steve Irwin, to reach the whaling grounds and locate the whalers, but Outposts will follow the story and provide updates as warranted.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Sea Shepherd's ship, Steve Irwin, collides with the stern of Japanese harpoon whaling ship Yushin Maru No. 2, while the factory ship the Nisshin Maru, background, processes a minke whale. Credit: Adam Lau/Sea Shepherd

 Note: To follow this blog on Twitter please visit @latimesoutposts


Humpback whale remains entangled, but with less rope, off Maui

A young humpback whale, pictured on Tuesday, is being tracked by experts after becoming entangled in up to 500 feet of heavy-duty polypropylene rope off Maui.

Humpback whales that migrate into Hawaiian waters for the winter support a thriving whale-watching industry, but it seems that every season there's a heart-wrenching tale involving a whale -- or multiple whales -- paying the price for so much human activity around the islands.

This usually involves vessel strikes; there are a few each season, sometimes even involving whale-watching vessels. But there also are occasional entanglements, including one that currently has a young whale in dire straights but under close watch between Maui and Molokai.

It involves a 30- to 35-foot humpback, believed to be 2 to 5 years old, discovered Tuesday wrapped with up to 500 feet of heavy-duty polypropylene rope, part of which is still in the whale's mouth, making the situation life-threatening. The entangled whale was spotted by the crew of a whale-watching vessel, Ocean Explorer of the Pacific Whale Foundation.

A team with the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary on Tuesday fixed a transmitter to the rope for tracking purposes. Attempts to free the whale failed Tuesday because of rough conditions and on Wednesday the tracking device came off the whale with a clump of rope, Ed Lyman, marine mammal response manager for the sanctuary, told Outposts.

The good news, Lyman added, is that the whale was relocated and another transmitter package was placed on the mammal, and it appeared to be trailing significantly less line than before, thanks to grapple efforts during the previous rescue attempt.

The bad news was that the line was still wrapped around the whale's head. Another attempt to free the whale will occur today, conditions permitting.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: A young humpback whale, pictured on Tuesday, is being tracked by experts after becoming entangled in up to 500 feet of heavy-duty polypropylene rope off Maui. Credit: Associated Press

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

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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

Japan embarks on annual whale hunt--can Sea Shepherd be far behind?

Seashepherd

Whaling ships from Japan left today for Antarctic waters on an annual five-month voyage in pursuit of about 1,000 minke whales and a small number of endangered fin whales.

The seasonal hunts, during the Antarctic summer, are highly controversial. They're carried out in the name of research but the meat is sold in Japanese markets and restaurants and whatever research is conducted has been deemed questionable and unnecessary by many scientists outside Japan.

Australia and New Zealand, closest to the whaling region, have spoken out against the hunts, but to no avail.

Enter the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and its devoted captain, Paul Watson, who himself is controversial and labeled a terrorist by the Japanese. Sea Shepherd is making final preparations for "Operation Waltzing Matilda," its name for this year's harassment campaign against the whalers.

It will again involve a crew from Animal Planet for its popular "Whale Wars" series. The series has thrust Sea Shepherd into the spotlight and made a hero of Watson and his vegan crew, in the eyes of some. Watson has won many volunteer recruits because of the series.

But with another potentially violent and dangerous conflict soon to begin, Greenpeace International is claiming that an end to Japanese whaling is close on the  horizon because of the bad economy.

It reports that a government review committee has proposed substantial cuts in subsidies to various programs, including the whaling research program. Without government subsidies, Greenpeace maintains, "the whaling program would be doomed."

Time will tell. Meanwhile, exploding harpoons will tear into the flesh of unsuspecting cetaceans, water cannons will blast from ship to ship, bottles full of rancid butter will be heaved aboard the whaling vessels, and collisions might occur.

Watson will again be hailed and chastised; people seem to either cherish or despise him. He routinely brushes aside the criticism, saying that he's only interested in costing the whaling fleet money and saving as many whales as possible each year.

My guess is that he has come to enjoy the "Whale Wars" spotlight, also.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Sea Shepherd crew members are hosed by crewmen aboard a Japanese harpoon vessel during last year's effort to harass the whalers. Credit: Stephen Roest / Sea Shepherd

Note: To follow this blog on Twitter please visit @latimesoutposts

Surfers kayak for a month with humpback whales to raise awareness against whaling

Transparentsea environmental campaigners protest the actions of Japanese whalers from aboard kayaks in Sydney Harbor.

Renowned Australian surfer Dave Rastovich and three others are nearing completion of a monthlong kayaking expedition with humpback whales and their calves in an attempt to bring attention to the dangers marine mammals face as they migrate past Australia en route to the Southern Ocean for the Antarctic summer.

Commercial fishing methods, industrial runoff, noise pollution, ship strikes and human interaction are some of the dangers. Other whales, notably minke whales, also are migrating and they'll soon be targeted by Japanese whalers, who in turn will be harassed by Capt. Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Rastovich, co-founder of the group Surfers for Cetaceans, spearheaded a 435-mile journey that includes San Diego's Chris Del Moro. Musician Will Conner and photographer Hilton Dawe are also part of the odyssey.

The crew, sailing aboard red trimaran kayaks, began Oct. 1 at Byron Bay and arrived today in Sydney Harbor. It will officially conclude its mission Thursday at nearby Bondi Beach. The campaign is called Transparentsea.

Said Rastovich: “The primary intention of our journey has been to highlight the plight of whales that are destined for the Southern Ocean and the inevitable visits by Japanese whaling fleets. As surfers, we have a direct connection with these amazing creatures and during the past 30 days, we’ve had the fortune of interacting with them, almost on a daily basis.
 
“Now we are calling on people to show their support and to join us in putting pressure on the Australian government, lead by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and our Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett, to uphold their pre-election promise to challenge Japanese whaling in international court and to protect the Southern Ocean sanctuary.”

The surfer and his group plan to celebrate with Sea Shepherd crew members, who are in Australia preparing for their sixth campaign against the Japanese whalers. Japan's whaling effort is carried out under a research loophole in the wording of an international moratorium on whaling.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Transparentsea environmental campaigners protest the actions of Japanese whalers from aboard kayaks in Sydney Harbor. Credit: Fetch/Transparentsea

Sea Shepherd unveils futuristic vessel as weapon against Japanese whaling

Earthrace, now named Ady Gil, will be used during Sea Shepherd's upcoming campaign against Japan's annual whaling effort. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society held a fundraiser in Los Angeles on Saturday and unveiled the Ady Gil: a sleek and speedy trimaran that is expected to bolster the group's effort against Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean below Australia.

Formerly named Earthrace, the vessel is powered by biodiesel and can reach speeds of 50 knots and deflect harpoons. It was renamed to reflect its benefactor, Ady Gil, who helped acquire the futuristic-looking boat.

Sea Shepherd will launch its sixth campaign against the Japanese whalers in December from Australia, using the flagship Steve Irwin and the Ady Gil to disrupt efforts by whalers to kill and process minke and fin whales. 

It would be interesting to see the expressions on the faces of the whalers when they first glimpse the Ady Gil.

Japan hunts the whales annually in the Antarctic region using a research loophole in the wording of an international moratorium on whaling.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Earthrace, now named Ady Gil, will be used during Sea Shepherd's upcoming campaign against Japan's annual whaling effort. Credit: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

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Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.



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