Controversial conservation group Sea Shepherd – the group that has been very active against Japanese whaling – said on Monday that it was preparing for increased aggression from Japanese whalers in its annual campaign to stop the slaughter of the giant mammals off Antarctica. Three Sea Shepherd boats are due to leave from Melbourne and Hobart, Australia within days to harass and deter the Japanese harpoon ships which hunt minke, fin and humpback whales in the southern hemisphere summer.
“We’re definitely ready to leave,” said Siddharth Chakravarty, captain of the Steve Irwin, the boat formerly skippered by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society founder Paul Watson, who is prohibited from taking part this year due to a US court injunction. The Steve Irwin had been due to leave Melbourne early Monday but was held up by a delayed fuel delivery and is now aiming to depart later in the day. Fellow Sea Shepherd vessel the Sam Simon is set to depart the city Tuesday while the Bob Barker will leave from the southern island state of Tasmania on Wednesday. Sea Shepherd’s campaigners have continually harassed the Japanese fleet for almost ten years now, trying to stop whales being slaughtered – Chakravarty has said that the violence was escalating. “What can definitely be expected is that there will be a lot of aggression from the Japanese whaling side,” Chakravarty said.
“Every year there has been escalating their violence against Sea Shepherd. We are obviously there to stop them from whaling and they are frustrated and angry about this,” he added. High-seas clashes between the groups are common and last year Sea Shepherd claimed that a Japanese boat had rammed its vessels on multiple occasions — destroying masts and a radar on the Bob Barker and leaving it without power. The Japanese claimed their boats had been rammed by the campaigners in what was the worst confrontation in the Southern Ocean since the January 2010 collision in which Sea Shepherd’s Ady Gil sank. Chakravarty said the Japanese vessels were expected to reach Antarctica sometime between Christmas and New Year’s Day.