Alisa Manzelli, Global Animal
November 5, 2012 marked the official launch date of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s (SSCS) ninth annual Southern Ocean campaign, Operation Zero Tolerance (OZT). The extremely successful mission to stop Japanese whalers in their tracks consisted of the organization’s strongest fleet yet, including four ships—Steve Irwin, Bob Barker, Brigitte Bardot, and Sam Simon—as well as a helicopter, eight small RIB’s, three drones, and over 100 international volunteers.
Now, Sea Shepherd volunteers can pack up their bags after Captain Paul Watson announced late last week that the Operation Zero Tolerance campaign has prematurely come to an end.
After Sea Shepherd Australia pushed the Japanese whaling fleet out of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, the stubborn poachers made an impractical move back south in a bleak attempt to show pride in their cruel and illegal practices. However, severe weather and diminishing fuel stores have made poaching an impossible task for Japanese whalers.
“Adverse weather has put an end to the whaling season,” Watson said on Facebook. “The whalers returned South more for show than practicality. Monitoring the weather and it is joyfully stormy. The Sea Shepherd ships have just enough fuel to reach Melbourne and should arrive in 12 days. This has been the most successful campaign undertaken and Sea Shepherd Australia has done an incredible job of coordinating it. A very courageous job by the three crews of the Steve Irwin, Bob Barker and Sam Simon.”
Watson’s Facebook post continued, “The Australian Federal Police are expected to raid the ships but they do that every year because Japan asks them to. Not sure why Australia never asks the police to raid the Japanese vessels. Sea Shepherd always cooperates with the authorities. Japan never does. They can destroy a boat and get away with it without having to answer questions while Sea Shepherd is expected to justify saving endangered whales in an internationally established whale sanctuary from whalers who are in contempt of an Australian Federal Court ruling.”
The Sea Shepherd fleet is currently on its way to Seaworks Pier in Williamstown, Melbourne and is expected to dock on Wednesday, March 20th.
Thanks to SSCS efforts, the crews of the Steve Irwin, Bob Barker, Sam Simon, and Brigitte Bardot have saved the lives of hundreds in what is being coined as the most successful Antarctic Whale Defense Campaign yet.
“Because of Sea Shepherd Australia and its brave crew, hundreds of whales will be swimming north alive instead of being transported to Tokyo as lumps of meat,” said Bob Brown, Chair Sea Shepherd Australia.
“This is an historic victory for Sea Shepherd Australia and our supporters. We have been honored to manage and lead this campaign for the whales, defending the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and in the absence of the Australian authorities, upholding the Australian Federal court ruling. I have been amazed at the bravery of all our ships crews and captains and disgusted with the whale poachers and Japanese Governments’ complete lack of respect for any life and Australian and International law,” said Sea Shepherd Australia Director, Jeff Hansen.
Hansen added, “Sea Shepherd Australia would like to send out a heartfelt thank you to all those people that have made this campaign possible, from our donors and supporters, to our on shore support bases, to all the children and school groups that have toured our ships and given notes of encouragement and thanks to our crew and of course to our wonderful staff and the legendary and inspirational Bob Brown, our co campaign leader. I look forward to seeing everyone for a hero’s welcome and after-party with the captains and crew at Seaworks in Williamstown.”
It is unclear how many more whales the Japanese poachers might be able to kill between now and the official end of whaling season on March 31st, however Watson predicts it is unlikely the whalers will be able to successfully resume their hunt this season due to stormy seas.
“They couldn’t go up north and refuel again. It’s all over and done with I think for this year,” he said.