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Whale War between Japanese hunters and Sea Shepherd to escalate

June 30, 2009 |  3:15 pm

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

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