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This week Sea Shepherd completed its most ambitious and effective campaign yet against illegal Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. The three month mission - called Operation Waltzing Matilda - was the stuff of epic seafaring adventures, which included having a $1.5 million boat rammed and sunk by a Japanese whaler, a mid-sea collision, and one protester being detained aboard a whaler to be taken to Japan. The campaign managed to stop any whaling for 33 days of the three month whaling season.

Previous years stopped the killing of half the whaler’s quotas, but this year will definitely better those results and cost the whalers tens of millions in profit.

This year Sea Shepherd started with three ships - the Steve Irwin, the Bob Barker - a former Norwegian whaling boat, which was initially able to sail incognito - , the hi-tech trimaram interceptor boat the Ady Gil, and a helicopter. On January 6th the Ady Gil was rammed by the harpoon vessel Shonan Maru 2, cutting it in half. The six crew members made a narrow escape with their lives (See SchNEWS 705).

The captain of the Ady Gil, a New Zealander called Peter Bethune, later responded by riding a jet-ski under the cover of darkness and boarding the Shonan Maru 2 with the intention of issuing a citizens arrest warrant to its captain for the destruction of the Ady Gil and attempted murder of its crew, and slapping them with an invoice for the cost of the ship. He managed to remain on the ship overnight undetected, then approached the bridge of the ship in the morning. Bethune was then taken prisoner and, unbelievably, the harpoon ship was taken out of the whaling operation and sent back to Japan to deliver him to the authorities. It will soon arrive in Japan. Sea Shepherd have a legal team ready to represent Bethune. Every effort to sabotage the whalers amounts to more whales being saved and to tie up a whaling vessel like this is a great result for the campaign. Already the Shonan Maru 2 and another harpoon vessel, the Yushin Maru 3, were taken out of whaling roles and used as security for the larger giant floating whale abattoir, the ship Nisshin Maru.

After losing the Ady Gil, it became harder to track the movements of the whalers in the vast ocean, but, as the Bob Barker was able to masquerade as a Norwegian whaler, it was used to catch the whalers by surprise. Together with the Steve Irwin it was able to get in behind the Nisshin Maru to prevent harpooners loading their catches. There were running water cannon fights as well as volleys of rotten butter stink bombs. Sea Shepherd protesters also sprayed red paint over the ‘research’ signs which the whalers had painted on their sides (cos of course the Japanese are killing hundreds of giant whales for research purposes only). At one point the Yushin Maru 3 rammed the Bob Barker causing a one-metre gash, which was later repaired.

Events unfold on the weekly reality tv documentary, Whale Wars, on Animal Planet cable channel - see

* See

* For a great first-hand account see


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