Sea Shepherd and the Steve Irwin Prepared to Return to Save Whales

The Sea Shepherd Conservation ship Steve Irwin is prepared to return to the Southern Oceans Whale Sanctuary.

"I think we have found the means to save these whales," said Captain Paul Watson. "We simply need to keep the Japanese fleet on the run. We need to chase them relentlessly. They cannot kill whales with us on their tails constantly dogging their every movement."

The Japanese fleet still has two months of killing whales ahead of them. The Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin has been chasing them for close to three weeks and not a single whale has been taken since January 8th.

"Our objective now is to keep the hunt from resuming before the end of January. Unfortunately our fuel reserves will not allow us to stay longer than that," said Captain Watson. "Within a few days we will have to head northeast to Melbourne."

The Japanese fleet has moved from the far western end of their hunting zone south of South Africa to the extreme Eastern end near the Ross Sea. They are now moving back to the Eastern side of the zone. The Japanese fleet has used up an incredible amount of fuel moving eight large ships thousands of miles back and forth.

The Nisshin Maru burns 20 tons of fuel per day. The Oriental Bluebird burns 25 tons of fuel a day and each of the smaller ships burns between 5 and 10 tons of fuel a day. The Fukuyoshi Maru No. 68 burns between 15 and 20 tons per day. In total the Japanese whaling fleet has used well over 2,000 tons of fuel at a cost in excess of two million dollars without killing a single whale.

Since the departure of the Greenpeace ship Esperanza, the Nisshin Maru has moved 300 miles east. Accompanied by the Oceanic Viking the whaling fleet is situated east of the 100 Degrees line of Longitude 1800 miles southwest of Fremantle. In addition to the six ships of the Japanese fleet, there is the supply vessel Oriental Bluebird and the vessel Japanese mystery vessel Fukuyoshi Maru No. 68 which has been assigned to exclusively tail the Steve Irwin.

In order to return this season, the Steve Irwin needs support to refuel. The ships needs some repair work done on one of the main engines, a replacement helicopter blade, fresh provisions and some new volunteers.

"Unfortunately we don't have the kind of budget that Greenpeace has," said Captain Paul Watson. "Each year we exhaust our resources on this campaign. We need support to purchase 200 tons of marine diesel fuel. If we can get that support, we can refuel and return."

The Steve Irwin has used 200 tons of fuel since the beginning of the campaign. Sea Shepherd is also looking to recruit new volunteers with mechanical, navigational, medical, seamanship, and cooking skills.

"If there is the will there is a way," said Captain Paul Watson. "We need to make every effort to keep the pressure on the Japanese whaling fleet, to keep them on the move and to keep them from killing whales. Given the fuel, we can keep up the pressure."