Sea Shepherd is proud to announce that the Japanese whaling fleet has left the waters of the Antarctic Treaty Zone (ATZ), ending whale poaching in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary for this year.
Today at approximately 0215 AEDT, the Automatic Identification System (AIS) signal of the Nisshin Maru was picked up shortly before the factory vessel of the Japanese whaling fleet crossed 60° S. It can be confirmed that the vessel is on a northerly course, travelling at approximately 10-11 knots, with its destination set for Japan, and arrival scheduled in approximately three weeks.
Since the Nisshin Maru was last seen fleeing on March 2, The Bob Barker and The Steve Irwin have swept across and occupied the only good weather areas that were available to the whale poachers this late in the season. During this time, the Nisshin Maru has been accompanied by only one harpoon ship. This has further hampered the ability of the whalers, adding to the woes of their already disastrous season.
On Tuesday, the Yushin Maru No. 2 and the Yushin Maru No. 3 began dropping away from their positions tailing the Sea Shepherd conservation ships, indicating that the whalers were low on fuel and unable to tail the Sea Shepherd ships any further. The Bob Barker and The Steve Irwin then began running northwards to the boundary of the ATZ, to push the Nisshin Maru out of the whale sanctuary.
In the decade of Sea Shepherd’s Antarctic Whale Defence campaigns, this is the first time that the whalers have activated their AIS while still being in their self-allocated whaling grounds, having always kept their location secret in order to avoid interception by the Sea Shepherd conservation ships.
Captain Siddharth Chakravarty of The Steve Irwin says, “By giving away their location and intent to return to Japan, the whalers are signaling certain surrender. Wanting to avoid further chase by Sea Shepherd that would lead them into massive Southern Ocean swells forecasted as large as 10 metres, and further embarrassment at being located by our ships once again, they have been left no choice but to run and abandon their hunt. I am immensely proud of our efforts, keeping the whalers on the run, and disrupting illegal operations for the entire whaling season.”
Since first locating the whale poachers on January 5, the Sea Shepherd Fleet has actively pursued the Japanese whalers, locating the Nisshin Maru on a record four separate occasions over the three-month period. The whaling fleet’s operations were hampered by Sea Shepherd’s continual pursuit, which included twice exposing the whalers in the process of butchering protected Minke Whales, poached from the waters of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
This is the latest that the Sea Shepherd Fleet has remained in the Southern Ocean to intervene against the illegal operations of the whalers.
Captain Peter Hammarstedt of The Bob Barker said, “The late departure of the whaling fleet is a testament to the fact that they have been delivered a disastrous season by the hand of Sea Shepherd, willing to push into the second week of March despite deteriorating weather conditions rather than face our fleet. Before we started this campaign, we made a promise to our clients, the whales, and to all of our supporters around the world to drive these poachers out of the whales’ waters. We have kept that promise. We are relentless.”
The Sam Simon returned to their homeport of Williamstown, Melbourne, on Saturday to a hero’s welcome. The Bob Barker is now en route to Wellington. The Steve Irwin will return to Hobart to honour Sea Shepherd Chairman and Co-Campaign Leader for Operation Relentless, Bob Brown. Both ships are scheduled to return around March 22.
Sea Shepherd remains the only organisation committed to upholding the sanctity of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, directly intervening against the illegal operations of the Japanese whaling fleet.