The factory vessel, the Nisshin Maru, along with all three harpoon vessels of the Japanese whaling fleet, were spotted by The Steve Irwin’s helicopter. The harpoon of the Yushin Maru No. 2 was uncovered at the time that the fleet was located. Sam Simon Captain Adam Meyerson reported that his crew sighted whale guts in the ocean, confirming that Sea Shepherd has interrupted whale poaching operations.
Captain of The Steve Irwin, Siddharth Chakravarty, says, “For the third time this year, The Steve Irwin’s helicopter has achieved our aim of locating the Nisshin Maru, despite their best efforts to evade accountability for their flagrant disregard of international law. As the whalers run from the Sea Shepherd ships, we are proud that today is a day that we have seized for the whales, restoring peace to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.”
Since being spotted by the Sea Shepherd Fleet, all three harpoon ships have moved into formation to the stern of the Nisshin Maru.
The primary strategy of Sea Shepherd’s Antarctic Whale Defence Campaigns is to sail directly behind the Nisshin Maru, blocking the slipway of the factory vessel and preventing its ability to load slaughtered whales for butchering. All three Sea Shepherd conservation ships, The Sam Simon, The Bob Barker and The Steve Irwin, are within interception range of the Nisshin Maru and are currently closing in on the factory vessel.
Earlier, at 2245 on Saturday, February 22, The Bob Barker encountered the Shonan Maru No. 2, security vessel of the whaling operations, at 74° 00’ S and 176° 19’ W. This alerted the Sea Shepherd Fleet to the likelihood that the remaining four vessels of the whaling fleet would be within 50 nautical miles of the site that the security ship was spotted. The Steve Irwin commenced helicopter operations, and subsequently located the rest of the whaling fleet.
A low-pressure system has been present in the Ross Sea for the last week, producing severe weather conditions that would have made whaling difficult for the whalers. Clearer conditions in the last 24 hours have enabled both the whalers to resume hunting and the Sea Shepherd ships to locate the poachers.
Captain of The Bob Barker, Peter Hammarstedt, said, “We have seen unprecedented escalations in the aggression of the Japanese whaling fleet, and anticipate dangerous moves of desperation as these poachers attempt to maintain a dying industry. Despite the risks and the reckless acts of the whalers that caused a collision with my ship on the February 2, Sea Shepherd will do what we have vowed to do, uphold international law where governments fail, and defend these Endangered and Protected whales.”
The Japanese whaling fleet is operating in the Southern Ocean in violation of the 1986 global moratorium on commercial whaling, and in opposition to the principle of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, established in 1994.