Report from the Antarctic Front

By Captain Paul Watson On board the Farley Mowat, in the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary, South of 60 Degrees.

The Sea Shepherd ship Farley Mowat has patrolled the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary for over a month, from 140 Degrees East to 165 Degrees West and from 60 Degrees South to 70 Degrees South.

We did not see a single Japanese whaling ship. The U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker, Polar Sea and the icebreaker, Nathaniel Palmer did not see any sign of the Japanese. Nor did the French research station supply vessel, nor did the Russian exploratory fisheries vessel Yentar, or the New Zealand exploratory fisheries vessel Janus. Not a word has been heard of the location of the Japanese by any of the scientific research bases that we have been in contact with. Our contacts in the know have heard nothing. The area covered by the Farley Mowat and the other ships in this region has been extensive but not a single sighting of the five ship Japanese fleet has been seen.

Japan has gone to a great effort to avoid detection and there are two possibilities. The first is that the Japanese fleet using satellite tracking technology and radar detectors has managed to avoid detection by anyone.

The second possibility is that the Japanese fleet is not even in this sector and has instead moved to another area to pursue their illegal whaling activities.

If it is the first possibility, then it is very difficult to compete with satellite tracking ability. This means that the Japanese can know our every move and we can only guess at their movements.

The so-called "scientific research" whaling by Japan produces over seventy million dollars from the sale of whale meat to Japanese markets and restaurants. When is a commercial activity not a commercial activity? When the Japanese whaling industry says so.

Seventy million dollars provides a great deal of technological superiority. We are certainly outmatched. But still we came here. We came to challenge illegal Japanese whaling with the means at our disposal. We came with volunteers willing to risk their lives to stop the cruel and illegal slaughter of whales. We made the attempt to find the Japanese fleet and it was our objective to shut them down.

The Japanese knew that we were a threat. They knew that we would do what was necessary to end their illicit business.

Considering the threat we represented, it would not be surprising if they moved to another location. They were supposed to operate in the area between 130E and 165 West, but then again this is the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary and they are not supposed to be whaling here in the first place.

When there is no respect for the rules, it is certainly easy to change the rules. It will be interesting to discover just where they have been operating. We may not be able to find out for weeks or months, but we will eventually find out the truth.

Meanwhile, we have learned a great deal. We learned that when we return in the future, we would need to carry an aircraft with us. Aerial surveillance is something we must have to succeed. We have also learned much about the conditions, both weather and ice conditions.

We leave the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary today. We are now searching for illegal vessels engaged in the unlawful taking of Patagonian toothfish. If we find them, we will intervene.

As we search we move north to return to Tahiti, to drop off crew and pick up new crew, to refuel and to continue across the Pacific.

Sea Shepherd needs to be in Eastern Canada in March to challenge the ruthlessly cruel sealers. We need to continue our patrols against poaching in the Galapagos and we need to implement our campaigns to protect the waters around Colombia's Malpelo Island and Costa Rica's Cocos Island.

We have much to do. We will return to the Antarctica, better equipped and more determined than ever to stop the pirate whalers of the Japanese fleet.

Our battles are never won quickly. Our victories are never permanent. We began the campaign against illegal Makah whaling in the United States in 1995, and despite apparent setbacks and losses, we ended the hunt in December 2002.

I have been fighting whaling for my entire adult life. For nearly thirty years I have been battling whalers. We have documented and exposed their illegal activities, embarrassed them, taken them to court, and fought them in the media.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is in a war against the evil of whaling and we will never retreat from the conflict.

Did we fail this year in Antarctica? No. It is simply another effort in a long series of efforts spanning many years. It is the cumulative impact of all these efforts that will triumph in the long run.

This past month we searched and probed. Now we regroup. There is no rest, no respite - there is simply the war to end the horror of whaling. It is a war that must be fought on many fronts and the only alternative is to do nothing, and in doing nothing, we will lose the whales. That is not an option and so we continue.

My crew of forty-two have given their time freely to be hear. They missed the holidays and the New Year's celebrations with their families to be here in the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary for the whales. They have no regrets. They gave it their best and they will continue to do so.