The fleet and crew of the extremist anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd arrived in Australia on Wednesday, claiming victory in this year’s campaign against Japan’s whalers, and calling for free passage for founder Paul Watson. Three of their four ships, the Steve Irwin, Bob Barker, and Sam Simon docked with an estimated $1.03 million in damages, while the fourth ship, the Brigitte Bardot, remains at an undisclosed location with Watson believed to be aboard, as he is still wanted by Interpol.
Peter Hammarstedt, the captain of the Bob Barker, commented in Melbourne that their campaign had been the most successful, and also the most dangerous, out of their nine previous attempts to impede Japan’s annual whale hunt in the Southern Ocean in the name of “scientific research.” The Japanese fleet usually sets a quota of a little over 1,000 whales on their hunts, but Sea Shepherd says they only managed to take home 75, possibly their lowest catch ever. Bob Brown, a former Australian politician and current director of Sea Shepherd after taking over for Watson, commented that their mission, which saw them set sail in November, had “a great outcome.”
Captain Hammarstedt stated that the group’s ships “carried scars from battle” as they were repeatedly rammed by illegal Japanese vessels. While it was more than clear to those following the struggle between the two sides that there were multiple collisions at sea, the Sea Shepherd member made no mention of the video footage captured from a Japanese ship that strongly indicates the activists’ intentionally sailing into the path of their whaling vessels on at least one occasion.
There were no sightings of Watson in Melbourne on Wednesday, as he most likely remains at bay due to skipping in Germany last summer. Regardless of German authorities dropping their arrest warrant earlier this month, Interpol maintains their call for Watson’s detainment. Bob Brown urged the government of Canberra to allow the Sea Shepherd founder into Australia without the risk of him being arrested and sent to Japan. He added that Japan’s whale hunts were ruled illegal by the Australian Federal Court, and as they violate order, Sea Shepherd is merely trying to uphold Australia’s law. Unfortunately for Brown and Watson, Australia never asked, nor gave Sea Shepherd the authority, to take such action.[via AFP]