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Whale slaughter? Sea Shepherd has found the Japanese fleet

December 23, 2008 |  9:16 am

Japanese whalers haul in in a minke whale in an AFP / Getty Images file photo.

The anticipated showdown between reputed whale killers and a controversial conservation group began last week in Antarctic waters south of Australia, but a blizzard struck, and since Friday there have been no updates on which side is winning.

Japanese whalers or the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society?

Of course, the only side issuing reports from the confrontation is Sea Shepherd, whose flagship vessel, Steve Irwin, as of Friday reportedly had "intercepted" the Japanese whaling fleet and placed it "on the run."

(Quick recap: Japan kills hundreds of whales annually in the Southern Ocean despite an international moratorium banning large-scale whale slaughter. Japan states research as its primary objective. Few beyond Japan's whaling circles believe any worthwhile research is involved, and the Sea Shepherd annually tries too disrupt the hunts.)

That appears as good news to marine mammal enthusiasts. But in the same story posted on the Sea Shepherd website, Capt. Paul Watson proclaimed, "It looks like `Whale Wars,' season #2 is officially underway."

And that's hardly classic Watson. It makes this season's endeavor seem less heroic and more like a publicity drive for the second season of the Animal Planet documentary series, which profiles Sea Shepherd and its legendary captain.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society crew on a voyage for the series 'Whale Wars.'

Watson is an activist held in high regard by many. He should leave the pitchman role for someone else, lest Sea Shepherd's 2008-09 campaign be perceived as concocted for the benefit of a film crew and TV audience.

Immediately following the gratuitous "Whale Wars" plug was the remainder of Watson's quote:

"We've got them on the run. They are not in the Ross Sea where they said they would be. They are in Australian waters. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is officially calling on Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett and Foreign Minister Stephen Smith to order the Japanese fleet to comply with the orders of the Australian Federal Court and to cease and desist from killing whales in Australian waters."

That's more like Watson, calling for government action while his crew hurls rotten butter bombs at the whalers, and utilizes other means to disrupt their slaughter. That will be compelling footage, but Watson should not be the one who has to sell it.

Photos: Japanese whalers haul in in a minke whale (top) in an AFP / Getty Images file photo; Sea Shepherd Conservation Society crew on a voyage for the series "Whale Wars." Credit: Animal Planet