The Sea Shepherd fleet has caught up with the Japanese whaling vessel, Nisshin Maru, and one of its harpoon ships in the Ross Sea. Unfortunately, a whale was being butchered on deck at the time of the discovery.
After a 26-day pursuit covering over 4,000 miles, the Steve Irwin caught up with the Nisshin Maru at 1800 hours on January 25th, 2011 AEST.
“We finally have this serial killing death ship where we want them, and from here on in, we intend to ride their ass until the end of the whaling season,” said Captain Paul Watson from onboard the Steve Irwin. “This whaling fleet belongs to us now – lock, stock, and smoking harpoon gun.”
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ships the Steve Irwin, Bob Barker, and Gojira originally found the Japanese whaling fleet on December 31st, 2010 before the whalers had an opportunity to kill a single whale. Unfortunately, two of the harpoon vessels blocked the approach to the Nisshin Maru and the factory ship was able to flee with the faster harpoon vessels tailing the two larger Sea Shepherd ships to relay Sea Shepherd movements to the fleeing Nisshin Maru. The Gojira was prevented from immediately pursuing the Nisshin Maru due to risky ice conditions…
…Unfortunately, the Japanese whaling fleet appears to have just begun their illegal whaling operations. There is a whale presently being butchered on the deck. Sea Shepherd’s objective now is to make sure that whale is the last one taken this season.
The whaling fleet has been caught in an ice bay in the Ross Sea and is fleeing eastward into thick ice. The Steve Irwin intends to follow.
There is no doubt that this season will be a financial disaster for the Japanese whaling fleet.
Recently, it was learned via US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks the Japanese government requesting the removal of Sea Shepherd’s tax exempt status.
In a State Department cable on whaling: request for political engagement the US was willing to concede continuation of whaling at reduced levels in exchange for taking action against Sea Shepherd:
(Excerpted from 09STATE117709 Created 2009-11-14)
– We fully appreciate that, for these negotiations to be concluded successfully, all participants will need to show maximum flexibility. If agreement on some reduction in Japan’s catch levels can be reached, the United States believes that an overall interim agreement would be within reach.
– The United States stands ready to work with Japan and all other IWC members toward such an interim agreement. We understand that there is an important related issue regarding safety at sea of the Japanese research vessels that must also be addressed.
A cable on January 27, 2010 from the US Tokyo embassy of discussions with MOFA State Secretary Fukuyama and Fisheries Agency Deputy Director General Yamashita was about pressing Iceland to lower its proposed quota for whaling in order to facilitate an overall agreement on whaling. The US wanted Japan to talk to and pressure Iceland to reduce the number of fin whales killed as the kill numbers is greater than the demand in Japan. Japan was reluctant to do this. Again Japan raised the issue of pressuring Sea Shepherd :
(Excerpt from 10TOKYO171 Created 2010-01-27)
Turning to harassment of the Japanese whaling fleet by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS), Yamashita said the NGO’s actions have kept the fleet from reaching its quota the last few years. Yamashita said the GOJ would come under pressure domestically if SSCS harassment continues to keep Japanese whalers from filling their quota after an agreement on reduced numbers is reached within the IWC. EMIN said the USG is concerned about the safety of life at sea and is looking at the activity of the SSCS.
Happily, Australia was not keen to compromise on the continued slaughter of whales in the sanctuary.
It seems Peter Garrett, the Australian Environment Minister, stood his ground against the compromise deal (10CANBERRA93 created 2010-02-05), although it appears the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade were keen on the compromise deal as a way of reforming the IWC (and perhaps earning some brownie points with the US). Environment Department Chief of Staff David Williams gave a small amount of ground when he outlined a negotiating position for the Australian Government that “delivers a much lower level of whaling, but it has to be accompanied by signals of commitment to address other key issues – sustaining the commercial moratorium, keeping whaling out of the southern sanctuary areas and Australian antarctic waters, bringing all whaling under the control of the IWC, and preventing future scientific whaling.” Even this small degree of compromise would be found politically objectionable to many conservation minded Australians.
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