Sea Shepherd Crewmen Rescued After Confronting Whalers

ABOARD THE FARLEY MOWAT, Southern Ocean, February 8, 2007 (ENS) - Two crewmembers from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship the Farley Mowat were found and safely rescued eight hours after being lost at sea following a confrontation with the Japanese whaling fleet.

Sea Shepherd is in Antarctic waters to protect endangered whales from the Japanese fleet which has plans to kill over 900 whales in the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary this year. They are mainly targeting minke whales, but have stated their intention to take up to 10 endangered fin whales.

The Zodiac inflatable carrying 2nd Officer Karl Neilsen, 29, of Australia, and Engineer John Gravois, 24, of the United States, fell back from the other two Sea Shepherd ships after its fiberglass hull cracked and filled with water.

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Sea Shepherd vessel Farley Mowat approaches the Japanese whaler Nisshin Maru this morning. (Photo courtesy Sea Shepherd)
The damage was caused when the inflatable struck the steel hull of the Nisshin Maru in heavy seas. The two were lost as heavy fog, snow, and sleet conditions suddenly occurred.

Captain Paul Watson immediately put the Farley Mowat into a search grid and then issued a maritime distress call and was joined by the Sea Shepherd ship Robert Hunter.

Because it was an official distress call, the Japanese factory vessel was obligated to participate and joined in the search. The search lasted eight hours.

Finally, the crewmembers were spotted by Farley Mowat Quartermaster Jaime Brown of New Zealand. Both men were wearing wetsuits under survival suits so they survived the ordeal unharmed.

Captain Watson called the Nisshin Maru to thank them for their assistance in the search and then said, "We're all back on schedule."

Then the two Sea Shepherd ships resumed their pursuit of the Japanese whaling fleet in worsening weather conditions with building winds and swells.

The Sea Shepherd ships Farley Mowat and Robert Hunter had been searching for the Japanese whaling fleet for five weeks and finally located them at 0500 hours Auckland time this morning near the Balleny Islands.

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Sea Shepherd founder Captain Paul Watson (Photo courtesy Sea Shepherd)
On first encountering the whaling fleet, Captain Watson identified himself and his ship and sent the Japanese this message. "Please be advised that you are killing whales in the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary. You are targeting endangered species of whales in violation of international conservation law. You are killing whales in violation of the IWC [International Whaling Commission] global moratorium on commercial whaling."

"Please cease and desist your illegal whaling operations and leave the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary. We are acting in accordance with the principles of the United Nations World Charter for Nature. The Charter authorizes non-governmental organizations and individuals to uphold international conservation law," Watson said.

When the ship Robert Hunter first approached the Nisshin Maru there were three hunter killer vessels with the mother ship. These vessels fled northward. There was a pod of whales near the whalers, but these whales swam safely out of the area.

The Sea Shepherd crew has delivered six liters of butyric acid onto the flensing deck of the Nisshin Maru. This nontoxic obnoxious smelling substance cleared the flensing deck and stopped all work of cutting up whales.

Sea Shepherd crewmembers in Zodiacs have nailed plates to the drain outlets on the Nisshin Maru that spill the blood of the whales from the flensing deck into the sea. This is backing up the whale blood onto the flensing deck. The plates are secured by Hilt nail guns that drive steel nails through solid steel.

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A Japanese whaler with freshly harpooned whale in the Ross Sea. January 26, 2007. (Photo courtesy Government of New Zealand)
The Japanese Institute for Cetacean Research says the Sea Shepherd tried to destroy the Nissan Maru's propeller, and that a smoke bomb thrown from the Sea Shepherd ship Robert Hunter exploded on the deck of the Nissan Maru.

The Japanese position is that the IWC regulations permit the taking of whales for scientific research. But the Japanese have killed hundreds of whales each year since 1987 for a total of at least 8,137 animals taken under the guise of research.

Anti-whaling activists and dozens of anti-whaling countries continually protest, but their words have had no effect on the Japanese attitude.

The Greenpeace vessel Esperanza is on its way to the scene of the whaling fleet's activities. Captain Watson says the Sea Shepherd has relayed the location of the whales to the Esperanza. "Despite Greenpeace's refusal to cooperate with the Sea Shepherd ships, the whales need every anti-whaling ship in the area," he said.

Aboard the Greenpeace ship, Dave Walsh of Ireland writes that the Esperanza began heading toward the Sea Shepherd to assist in the rescue. "We're still well out of range, about a day's sail away," Walsh wrote, "but we're currently steaming towards to co-ordinates given to us by the Sea Shepherd ship, Robert Hunter."

Then, when news that the crewmen were found was communicated to him, Walsh wrote, "Good news - the missing Sea Shepherd people have been rescued. Now we're no longer steaming to help with the rescue, we will return to our original mission - to find and stop the Japanese fleet from whaling."