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Sea Shepherd Heads for Antarctic Battle With Japanese Whalers
FRIDAY HARBOR, Washington, November 8, 2008 (ENS) - The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is heading to the Southern Ocean in December for its fifth year defending whales in the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary against the harpoons of the Japanese whaling fleet, Captain Paul Watson has announced.

Sea Shepherd's flagship vessel, the Steve Irwin, is in Brisbane, Australia and is scheduled to depart for Antarctica on the first of December.

By the time the Steve Irwin departs from Brisbane, television viewers across North America will know the ship, its mission and Captain Watson from the new Animal Planet documentary series "Whale Wars" about their fight against the Japanese broadcast by the Discovery Channel.

In the first episode broadcast November 7 in the United States and November 9 in Canada, Watson's native land, the ship and its crew travel to frozen waters at the ends of the Earth intending to frustrate the Japanese whaling fleet and meeting with some frustrations of their own.

Established in 1977, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is an international non-profit conservation organization whose mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world's oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species.

The Japanese whaling vessel Yushin Maru 2 is watched by members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in the Southern Ocean January 15, 2008. (Photo courtesy Sea Shepherd)

Sea Shepherd uses innovative direct-action tactics to investigate, document, and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities on the high seas.

"We intend to sink the Japanese fleet economically," said Watson. "Our strategy is to prevent whales from being killed, to force the Japanese whalers to spend money on fuel without killing whales."

"We have been the cause of the Japanese whaling fleet losing profits for three years in a row. We intend to make it a fourth year of red ink for the whaler's books," he said.

The campaign's name Operation Musashi was chosen to reflect Sea Shepherd's approach of aggressive, yet nonviolent, confrontation and the increasing global awareness of Japan's ongoing illegal whaling activities. Musashi's "Book of Five Rings" includes the approach of the Twofold Way of Pen and Sword.

"As with all Sea Shepherd campaigns, all strategies and tactics are designed to avoid any physical injury to the whalers," Watson declared.

Watson will arrive in Australia next week to oversee the last minute preparations required for a two month journey to the Antarctic.

As Sea Shepherd's founder and president, Watson will be speaking at several events around the country shoring up the final support needed for the campaign.

His first stop will be Steve Irwin day at Australia Zoo on November 15th. There he will join Terri Irwin, wife of the late Australian animal expert and broadcaster, in commemorating her husband's life.

Through the last two weeks in November, Watson will be appearing in Sydney, Perth, Gold Coast, Byron Bay and in Brisbane for a big send-off benefit concert hosted by musical performers the Red Paintings on November 2 at the Arena.

"We look forward to having the camera crews from Animal Planet document our campaign once again this year," said Captain Watson.

Captain Paul Watson (Photo courtesy Sea Shepherd)

"By watching "Whale Wars" on Animal Planet, thousands of people will be able to join us in one of the most hostile, remote and beautiful places on Earth," Watson said. "During Operation Musashi, we will once again do everything we can to defend the magnificent whales from the deadly harpoons of the whaling fleet. We will not stand by and watch whales die. We will once again intervene with the intent to shut down the whaling fleet - for good."

The Japanese whaling fleet is currently berthed in Shimonoseki, Japan and is due to depart shortly for the Southern Ocean on what Japan calls research whaling. Japan intends to kill more than 1,000 whales over the next four months.

Berthed with the fleet is its supply ship Oriental Bluebird, although this ship was last month de-flagged and fined by the Panamanian Registry after being found guilty of using the ship for purposes it was not licensed for - carrying whale meat rather than oil - and violating the MARPOL Convention by refueling whaling vessels in Antarctic waters.

The MARPOL Convention is a treaty designed to eliminate the deliberate, negligent or accidental release of oil and other harmful substances from ships into the marine environment.

If the Oriental Bluebird were to remain in port, the Japanese fleet would be without a supply ship to offload the thousands of tons of whale meat from the Nisshin Maru.

Watson says he anticipates that the whalers will utilize the Oriental Bluebird nonetheless under either the Japanese flag or another flag of convenience.

Reportedly, the Japanese government will be investing US$8 million to send a Japanese Coast Guard gunboat down to the Southern Oceans this year to defend its whaling activities.

"This will also be a violation of the Antarctic Treaty that prohibits armed military forces from operating in the treaty zone," says Watson.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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