At approximately 7:36 PM on the 23rd of February, the Japanese whaling fleet launched an unprovoked six-hour night attack on the Sea Shepherd conservation ship, The Bob Barker.
The harpoon ships, Yushin Maru and Yushin Maru No. 3, crossed the bow of The Bob Barker a total of thirty-three times at close range during the assault, dragging 250-metre and 150-metre steel cable, respectively, across the bow of The Bob Barker in an attempt to disable the conservation ship’s propellers and rudders.
The Bob Barker was sailing six nautical miles behind the factory vessel, Nisshin Maru at 73° 08’ S 175° 33’ E when the attack commenced. The assault was an attempt to deter The Bob Barker from blocking the slipway of the Nisshin Maru, where it was preventing the whalers’ ability to load whales poached from the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
The Nisshin Maru was located early on Sunday morning for the third time this season by The Steve Irwin’s helicopter. However, the whaling vessels delayed an attack on The Bob Barker until Sunday night, launching their onslaught on the conservation vessel under the cover of darkness.
Captain Peter Hammarstedt of The Bob Barker reports: “I radioed the harpoon ships to let them know that our operations are completely lawful and that any aggressive action on their part would be reported to the Australian government and New Zealand Search and Rescue, and that Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt had been contacted. I have nine Australians and one New Zealander on board as part of my brave crew who have endured this ruthless assault. We maintain unwavering dedication in the face of an increasingly vicious onslaught from the poachers, the last line of defence standing between these criminals and the protected whales they are targeting to kill.”
The harpoon ships crossed the bow of The Bob Barker fifteen times from port to starboard during the attack in violation of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS).
The whaling fleet’s crew threw ice at the crew of The Bob Barker small boats, which were launched to defend the conservation ship from the onslaught. The whalers also blinded The Bob Barker Bridge with powerful searchlights, impairing vision and endangering navigation. At 0100 AEDT, the Nisshin Maru was lost from The Bob Barker’s radar.
The Bob Barker is currently within close range of the Yushin Maru and the Yushin Maru No. 3, and can confirm that the two harpoon vessels are unable to whale. Since locating the Nisshin Maru early Sunday morning, the Sea Shepherd Fleet was able to chase the factory vessel out of the Ross Sea. The Steve Irwin and The Sam Simon are trail-free and shadowing the Nisshin Maru.
It is the second time this month that The Bob Barker has been attacked by the Japanese whaling fleet without provocation. On February 2, the conservation ship was struck by the Yushin Maru No. 3 in a nine-hour attack on the Sea Shepherd ships, during which the harpoon ships crossed the bows of the Sea Shepherd ships a total of 86 times.
In December last year, the Australian government committed to sending an aircraft to monitor this year’s whaling operations. Earlier this month, New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully, indicated the possibility of “relationship consequences” between New Zealand and Japan as the result of an incursion by the Shonan Maru No. 2, the Japanese whaling fleet’s security vessel, into New Zealand waters.
Managing Director of Sea Shepherd Australia, Jeff Hansen, said, “The Bob Barker is in the Southern Ocean to defend the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary from the illegal Japanese whalers. Both Australia and New Zealand are parties to the Sanctuary. Both the Australian and New Zealand governments have legally challenged the Japanese whaling operations at the International Court of Justice. So where are these governments now, when their citizens and the Sanctuary are under attack from these poachers?”