*UPDATE* As of 5:15pm AEDT, the Japanese whaling fleet haslaunched an attack on The Bob Barker, with the Yushin Maru and Yushin Maru No. 3 towing steel cable across the bow of the Sea Shepherd ship in attempt to disable their propeller and rudder. The Nisshin Maru was 40 nautical miles away from The Bob Barker at the time the attack commenced. The previous two attacks lasted nine hours and six hours, so the crew of The Bob Barker is preparing for a long night.
Today, Sunday March 2, at approximately 10:05 AEDT, Sea Shepherd located the factory vessel of the Japanese whaling fleet, the Nisshin Maru, at 74°23’ S, 178°55’ W inside the Ross Sea Dependency, with a dead, protected Minke Whale onboard, and blood running from the side of the ship. Slabs of whale meat were also photographed on the deck, along with the severed head of a recently butchered whale.
The factory vessel was located by The Steve Irwin’s helicopter, which has found the whaling fleet on four occasions this season. The Steve Irwin and The Bob Barker are now closing in on the factory vessel.
Captain of The Bob Barker, Peter Hammarstedt, said, “Each time we have located the Nisshin Maru, the Sea Shepherd Fleet has been attacked by the whalers in night time ambushes. With darkness just a few hours away, as we close the distance to the slipway of the Nisshin Maru, we are well aware that we are soon likely to have harpoon ships crossing our bows towing steel cables, and the strong possibility that our ships could become disabled in the treacherous and frigid Antarctic waters. After sustaining two grueling assaults, we believe a third attack by the whaling fleet is imminent. We have thirty-eight Australians and three New Zealanders on board the Sea Shepherd ships. We call on the governments of Australia and New Zealand to stand up to the Japanese government and send a clear message that they will not tolerate another unprovoked attack on their citizens upholding international law.”
It is the second time this whaling season that Sea Shepherd has documented the Japanese whaling fleet in the act of poaching whales within the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. On January 5, Sea Shepherd released damning images and footage of the Nisshin Maru with three dead, protected Minke Whales killed in the Sanctuary. The blood-stained decks of the factory ship were smeared with the remains of a fourth whale, including a head and spinal column.
It is the second time in six days that Sea Shepherd has located the Japanese whaling fleet. The whalers have remained outside their preferred self-allocated hunting grounds of the Ross Sea due to Sea Shepherd’s relentless patrolling and monitoring of the region. Sea Shepherd believes that, at the first opportunity that the whalers have had to resume operations, they have successfully interrupted whaling once again.
In July 2013, the governments of Australia and New Zealand challenged the legality of Japan’s so-called “scientific research” whaling at the International Court of Justice. A decision on case is pending.
Captain of The Steve Irwin, Siddharth Chakravarty, said, “It is not enough for the politicians, whose obligation it is to keep these whales alive and protected, to ignore their international responsibilities and the wishes of their constituents. I urge the Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt and the New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully, to look at this dead Minke Whale, brutally killed in an internationally recognised Whale Sanctuary that both Australia and New Zealand claim a commitment to uphold, and ask themselves if they truly believe that they and their governments have done everything within their power to stop this illegal slaughter.”
Sea Shepherd remains the only organisation in the Southern Ocean committed to upholding the sanctity of the Whale Sanctuary, directly intervening against the illegal operations of the Japanese whaling fleet.
All photos: Eliza Muirhead