Sea Shepherd takes a Japanese ship into fight for whales | Pacific Beat

Sea Shepherd takes a Japanese ship into fight for whales

Sea Shepherd takes a Japanese ship into fight for whales

Updated 13 December 2012, 13:09 AEDT

The anti-whaling group Sea Shephard has unveiled its new ship, the SSS Sam Simon.

The ship was bought with funds donated by the co-creator of the Simpsons, whom the ship is named after.

The new ship was unveiled in Hobart, Tasmania this week, and will take part in Sea Shepherd's 9th Antarctic whale defence campaign -- due to begin soon.

Presenter:Geraldine Coutts

Speaker: Lockhart MacLean, captain, SSS Sam Simon, Sea Shepherd

MACLEAN: A company from the States bought the vessel first and we bought it from them, we didn't feel that we probably wouldn't get a shot at buying the ship ourselves directly in Japan. So we got assistance from another company who sold it on to us afterwards when the ship arrived in Australia. 
COUTTS: Well it's a bit cheeky isn't it to do this through a third party so the Japanese wouldn't know, because of course you've had huge battles and contests with the Japanese over whaling. Now to buy one of their own ships to conduct your campaign is a little cheeky isn't it?
MACLEAN: Well look we were looking for a vessel, we'd been seeking out a ship for several months, basically since the end of the last campaign, and this ship ended up being the best ship on the list, and it was for sale fair and square on the internet through brokerages and that sort of thing. So we decided this would be the best ship for us. 
COUTTS: And has there been any response or reaction from the Japanese once they discovered who they'd sold the ship to?
MACLEAN: Well the only signal we've had was that we were actually in dry dock up in Brisbane recently, we were up there last week, and we did get a visit from a Japanese consular official who tried to get into the dry dock and access the vessel. But that's the only signal we've had so far. 
COUTTS: Alright now you bought the ship for around two-million dollars. What can you tell us about it, explain the vessel itself?
MACLEAN: Well the ship was originally owned by the Japan government for meteorological work. It participated in the JARPN program which was collecting data for the north Pacific whaling program. It had large transponders on the bottom to collect ocean current data, very powerful eco-sounder to do deep-sea survey and that type of thing. So it's a very interesting ship, a real research ship.
COUTTS: And what does the SSS stand for?
MACLEAN: That's something that our founder Paul Watson's come up with, it's a Sea Shephard Ship, so that's the prefix he's putting on all the ships now.
COUTTS: Now you're about to set sail, well in ten days time, where are you heading?
MACLEAN: Well basically we're just waiting on the whaling fleet, they're leaving very late this year. Hobart will be out jump-off point to head down to Antarctica.
COUTTS: Now this ship isn't a stealth vessel like you've had in the past, but you've got four ships, a helicopter, drones, and more than 120 volunteer crew. Will the drones be a game-changer, will that assist in the process in ways that you've not been able to do before?
MACLEAN: Anything we can use down in the Southern Ocean to minimise the time it takes to find the whaling fleet once they reach the Australian Antarctic territory, whether that's radar, extra ships, sometimes we even get tip-offs from cruise ships. One time we had a cruise ship tell us that they'd just passed a fleet and gave us the location. So yeah anything that assist us in seeing longer range cuts down the time we have to burn fuel to find the whalers. 
COUTTS: And the operation's called Operation Zero Tolerance, so the goals are pretty evidence from the title, but are they that obvious your goals?
MACLEAN: Yes it's an ambitious goal but I think it's feasible. Basically every year that we add a ship they also have to add a ship to match us. Basically they've now got three security ships, meaning that each one of our vessels has to be tailed by one of their vessels. So last year rather than having four harpoon ships out there whaling, they only had one ship whaling and the three ships tailing our vessel. So with four ships we'll be tieing up four of their vessels as well, so costing them a lot of money and preventing them from catching whales. 
COUTTS: In 2010 you lost the two-million dollar stealth boat, the Ady Gil, which was hit by the Japanese Shonan Maru 2. Given the way you bought the SSS Sam Simon from the Japanese, might it be risking a similar fate?
MACLEAN: I don't think so. The Sam Simon's very strong, it's got a very strong hull, I don't think they would be foolish enough to try to ram this one. Obviously they sliced the Ady Gil in half, if they were to try something similar on this vessel they would end up with a big hole in the front of their ship. 
COUTTS: Well there have been reports that the Japanese intend to scale back or scale down their whaling program. What do you know about that, what's the extent of it do you think for this season?
MACLEAN: Well it's a dying industry, there's no place for it in our world anymore. It's been proven that whale stocks have never recovered from the original whaling that happened in the 1800s. So it's definitely got no place any longer. But as far as scaling the whaling industry back, we feel that we've significantly assisted in doing that over the last nine years that we've been heading down to Antarctica. But the fact that they're leaving so late this year is another proof that they are scaling it back. There will be no whales killed in December this year, which is great.

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