Outdoors, action, adventure

Category: Whaling

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

Boy, 9, harpoons whale off Barrow, Alaska

Whaling for subsistence is part of the native culture in Barrow, Alaska. Still, news that a 9-year-old boy this week harpooned a 33-foot whale might be unsettling to some.

The Anchorage Daily News reported the story on a blog and details are sparse. But the story implied that it's rare for a boy to be allowed to join a whale hunt, much less deal the telling blow.

Here's the account, shared by Barrow resident Bridget Edwardsen:

On Tuesday around noon, Panigeo crew struck a whale. Pauyuuraq Brower of Barrow shot the whale with the darting gun. Then Paul Patkotak, 9-year-old son of Maria & Ellis Patkotak, harpooned the bowhead whale and officially killed the whale.Whale2_0.img_assist_custom

Paul is a 4th grader at Ipalook Elementary School & is very into his culture. He loves to go whaling with his uncle Qulliuq Pebley, who is the Captian of Panigeo Crew, he loves to go subsistance hunting and camping. The family was overjoyed in tears when they heard that their 9-year-old Paul harpooned the 32' 7" whale.

This is big news for Barrow, usually kids are not allowed on the boat until they are a certain age. I think Paul is the youngest kid to actually harpoon & kill a bowhead whale. Once they arrived & beached the whale, the family was overjoyed. His mother could not believe that her son actually caught the whale.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Paul Patkotak. Credit: Barrow resident Bridget Edwardsen

Sea Shepherd's frustrated Capt. Paul Watson lashes out at Australia


The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's planned mission this winter against the Japanese whaling effort has hit a snag because Capt. Paul Watson and his first officer are experiencing visa issues and so far are not being allowed into Australia.

Outposts reported on this Monday. Australia is the strategic point of departure for Sea Shepherd, which annually hunts and harasses the Japanese harpoon and factory vessels as their crews seek to kill minke whales in the Antarctic region during its summer.

Watson claims politics are behind the stringent visa requirements he's being asked to comply with and on Tuesday posted a letter on the Sea Shepherd website blasting Australia's government for its stance on whaling and for trying to "sabotage" the Sea Shepherd campaign.

Here's the controversial captain's letter:

By Captain Paul Watson

Way back in October 2007, I had urged thousands of Australians to vote for Kevin Rudd and Peter Garrett’s Labor Party. Why? Because they promised to get tough on illegal Japanese whaling. They promised to take Japan to court. They promised to send a ship down to the Southern Ocean to monitor the illegal activities. They had severely criticized the former Howard government for not doing enough.

Since then Rudd and Garrett have demonstrated that they have done far less for the whales than former Environment Minister Ian Campbell had done.

Continue reading »

Whale wars saga begins with Sea Shepherd's Paul Watson under investigation


The hype has begun well in advance of another round of the annual war over whaling between the Japanese  and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

The former group is preparing for its impending seasonal hunt of mostly minke whales, with a quota of about 1,000 specimens it says are being killed for research purposes. The latter group is preparing for "Operation Waltzing Matilda," which will try to thwart the Japanese effort in and near the Antarctic region during its summer season.

Of course, a crew from Animal Planet will accompany Sea Shepherd and Paul Watson, its famous -- or infamous, depending on your viewpoint -- captain, to gather footage for a third season of the popular "Whale Wars" series.

But will Watson's campaign actually get underway? The Brisbane Times is reporting that Watson's police and court records are being evaluated before he's allowed to enter Australia, which is the starting point for his annual campaigns.

Specifically, Watson, who holds a U.S. passport, is being reviewed because of Sea Shepherd claims that it sank whaling ships in Norway. 

Watson claims politics are behind all of this and is quoted as saying, ''I am not wanted on any warrants [and] I have never received a felony conviction.''

Ironically, the Australian government is trying to persuade Japan to halt its commercial whaling effort (research notwithstanding, the meat  is sold commercially). Japan, meanwhile, has been trying to persuade Australia to help prevent Sea Shepherd from disrupting its hunts and endangering the lives of its crews.

The Australian Federal Police is still reviewing seized video and ship records after last year's campaign, which was dramatic and confrontational. That investigation reportedly was prompted by complaints from Japan.

Watson had hoped to be with Sea Shepherd and its flagship vessel, Steve Irwin, this week as it begins a promotional tour of capital cities. He still plans on being along for the campaign, but it will be no waltz.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo of Capt. Paul Watson courtesy of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Note: To follow this blog on Twitter visit @latimesoutposts

Sea Shepherd boat to tour Australia before mission against Japanese whaling

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

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

Japan's new government stands by whaling, not eager for bout with Sea Shepherd

Sea Shepherd crew members are blasted by water cannons from the Japanese whaling ship Yushin Maru No. 1 as the Sea Shepherd helicopter flies alongside during last year's campaign against the Japanese effort.

Japan's new government this week urged Australia to help thwart the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's effort against whaling and at the same time implied that it supports the nation's longstanding tradition of hunting whales.

The conversation Tuesday at the United Nations was between Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, who was appointed last week after Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama was sworn into office, and Australian foreign minister Stephen Smith.

As one might expect, Smith answered that he'd like to resolve the issue through dialogue without straining relations. That could be construed to mean Australia, which is a whale-friendly nation, will not physically prevent Sea Shepherd from using Australia as a base for pursuing Japanese whaling vessels into Antarctic hunting grounds this winter (their summer).

If in fact Japan's new government supports the annual slaughter of about 1,000 minke whales -- that was Smith's perception -- it comes as distressing news to environmental groups around the world. The hunt is carried out within a loophole in a 1986 international moratorium against whaling. The loophole allows whales to be killed for research purposes, but whale meat is sold commercially.

Though few outside of Japan believe lethal research is necessary or legitimate, Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research has posted some scientific findings on its website.

Meanwhile, Sea Shepherd is promising a stepped-up effort this season under the campaign slogan "Operation Waltzing Matilda." An Animal Planet crew will  be aboard filming for a third season of the popular series, "Whale Wars." 

Last year's record-setting series included dramatic footage of whale kills, vessel-ramming and tense confrontational measures and countermeasures. Surely, Sea Shepherd Capt. Paul Watson will be expected to provide more theatrics this time around.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Sea Shepherd crew members are blasted by water cannons from the Japanese whaling ship Yushin Maru No. 1 as the Sea Shepherd helicopter flies alongside during last year's campaign against the Japanese effort. Credit: Stephen Roest / Sea Shepherd

Note: To follow this blog on Twitter visit @latimesoutposts.com

'Whale Wars' season finale sets viewership record; third season announced

The Sea Shepherd vessel Steve Irwin collides with the stern of a Japanese harpoon whaling ship in the Antarctic during last season's campaign.

A record 3.2 million viewers tuned into the season finale of Animal Planet's "Whale Wars" series last Friday night and, to no one's surprise, the network announced there will be a third season.

The second season of "Whale Wars," which profiles the exploits of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society as it campaigns against Japanese whalers in the Antarctic, was Animal Planet's second-best performing series in network history. The shows were viewed in an average of 779,000 homes.

The series pits an unwilling subject -- Japanese whalers -- versus Capt. Paul Watson and a ragtag vegan crew that engages in disruptive techniques such as tossing bottles of rancid butter (butyric acid) aboard the whaling vessels. Last season there were collisions and numerous other dicey situations.

Japan's annual whaling effort is legal, thanks to a loophole in the wording of an international moratorium. The primary targets are minke whales, which are not endangered. Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research has labeled Watson and his crew terrorists.

This winter's campaign (summer in the Antarctic) is called "Operation Waltzing Matilda" and will be an escalated effort sure to further rile the Japanese but please the show's producers.

Said Marjorie Kaplan, president and general manager of Animal Planet: “It’s been terrific to see the success of this groundbreaking series, and its growth creatively and with audiences from the first to the second season. I'm proud to be able to announce the third."

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: The Sea Shepherd vessel Steve Irwin collides with the stern of a Japanese harpoon whaling ship in the Antarctic during last season's campaign. Credit: Sea Shepherd

Humpback whales off Santa Barbara are big on people watching

If you appreciate marine mammals and you have not taken a trip this summer aboard the Condor Express out of Santa Barbara, you're missing out.

Not only are majestic blue and gregarious humpback whales concentrated in the same area in the outer channel, some of the humpbacks seem to truly enjoy the company of the vessel's passengers.

In fact, veteran Capt. Mat Curto is sure of it.

"They just want to be friendly with the boat," he says. They will stay with you up to two hours at a time, circling the boat, looking up at you while they turn on their side.

Humpback whales mingle with passengers aboard the Condor Express.

"They have a real big interest in whale watchers and I seem to find that the more the whale watchers react to the whale, the more the whale will react to the whale watchers. If you get people clapping and yelling and whistling and cheering for the whale, the whale just feeds off of it."

Continue reading »

Sea Shepherd's Paul Watson bides time in calm before anti-whaling storm


The L.A. Times Dish Rag blog today breaks news that many already know about: Capt. Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society runs a vegan ship. DR also provides Sea Shepherd recipes for those interested in learning how these anti-whaling operatives dine.

Another bit of Sea Shepherd news: The controversial skipper and his ragtag crew will be at the Riverside Municipal Auditorium on Aug. 29 for an art auction fundraiser entitled "Sea No Evil." It will begin at 7 p.m. and feature more than 60 works of art, including original pieces from Shepard Fairey and Jeff Soto.

A $5 donation is required and proceeds will benefit Sea Shepherd, which is in off-season preparations for yet another campaign -- and perhaps another Animal Planet "Whale Wars" series -- against Japanese whale hunters in the Antarctic.

To be sure, that's what people want to know about. All this blase news about fluffy vegan pancakes and art shows does is whet the appetite for the meat-and-potatoes activity that includes dramatic confrontation and what the Japanese refer to as outright terrorism.

Watson will have more and faster boats for what he promises to be an escalated campaign. Those who followed last season's campaign may recall the collisions and other close calls. Surely, Japan and its Institute of Cetacean Research (Japan suggests to the world its minke and fin whale hunts are in the name of research) are plotting countermeasures for when both groups take to the whale grounds in about four months, during the Antarctic summer.

Many of the few hundred people who have commented on Outposts about this issue -- Watson has lots of supporters, but as many critics -- claim it's only a matter of time before someone is killed or seriously injured during these confrontations. Will this be that kind of season? Stay tuned....

-- Pete Thomas

Photo of Paul Watson courtesy of Sea Shepherd

Note: To follow this blog on Twitter visit @latimesoutposts.com

Whale War between Japanese hunters and Sea Shepherd to escalate

Earthrace, which is powered by biodiesel and can reach speeds of 40 knots and deflect harpoons, will be used in Sea Shepherd's campaign against Japanese whalers next season in the Antarctic. News item: Japan requests that Australia prevent the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship Steve Irwin from leaving port this December to harass its whalers in the Antarctic.

Reaction: Isn't a similar request made every year, to no avail? Japan may not like it, but Capt. Paul Watson and his ragtag band of whale-loving vegans will remain a proverbial thorn in Japan's side as long as it has funding and, thanks to the popularity of Animal Planet's "Whale Wars," there appears to be no shortage for next season's campaign.

And that Southern Ocean campaign, which will launch Dec. 1, figures to  resemble something out of this world, thanks to a swift new boat that looks like a space vessel, can travel at 40 knots and plow through waves and deflect harpoons.

The boat is named Earthrace and its New Zealand owner/skipper, Pete Bethune, told the Sydney Morning Herald he was lending his support because he can't stand the thought of whales being slaughtered in "my backyard."

When I talked to Watson recently he said he had something special up his sleeve and was planning a seasonlong, rather than partial campaign against Japan, which annually targets about 1,000 minke whales in what it claims is a research effort.

With the extra boat (Sea Shepherd plans on using three vessels for the campaign) the group does not have to worry about leaving the whalers on their own while returning to Australia for a lengthy refueling process. Of course, the escalation might be dangerous because Japan is weary of what it refers to as acts of piracy against its fleet.

At a recent International Whaling Commission meeting, Japanese delegation member Jun Yamashita said, "It can only be described as a miracle that there has been no death or large-scale accident to date."

Yamashita added: "We cannot tolerate such audacity. We ask for all appropriate measures, including a ban on the ship from leaving port, so that we can prevent these acts from being repeated."

In case you're wondering, a film crew from "Whale Wars" will be with Sea Shepherd shooting for Season Three of the series.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Earthrace, which is powered by biodiesel and can reach speeds of 40 knots and deflect harpoons, will be used in Sea Shepherd's campaign against Japanese whalers next season in the Antarctic. Credit: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Norway whale hunting season suspended


Norwegian whalers have suspended this year's hunt of minke whales, citing lack of product demand.

According to an Agence France-Presse article, industry officials state that the suspension is due to capacity problems at processing plants.

"The number of whales killed so far is enough to meet the known demand," Willy Godtliebsen, head of sales at the Norwegian Fishermen's Sales Organization said. "They may resume the hunt later if new buyers turn up."

The environmental group Greenpeace, however, claims that it is proof of a growing disinterest for whale meat among consumers and that the meat is being shunned.

Norway's whaling season, which defies an international ban on commercial whaling, begins in spring and usually runs until fall. With a quota of 885 minke whales, approximately 350 have been harpooned thus far.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Minke whale. Credit: Eric Martin / For The Times


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...

About the Bloggers
Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.