Pressure on Korean Refuelling Vessel to Enter Australian Antarctic Territory.
Whaling fleet in chaos as scattered Japanese poachers abandon harpoon ship dangerously low on fuel.
An anonymous source within Korea has reported that the Japanese whaling fleet is in total disarray, with Sea Shepherd Australia’s ship the SSS Sam Simon tailing the refuelling tanker for the Japanese whaling fleet, the Panamanian-registered and South Korean-owned vessel Sun Laurel. The Sam Simon plans to follow the Sun Laurel in hopes to track them straight to the Nisshin Maru.
The source detailed that the Sun Laurel was only contracted to refuel the Japanese whaling fleet until mid-February, but because Japan's Whaling Program is so closely connected to their commercial fishing interests, they are using their clout within the fishing industry, attempting to pressure the Sun Laurel to refuel the whalers below 60° in Australia's Antarctic Territory, with the threat of blacklisting the Sun Laurel from future contracts if they don't abide.
Sea Shepherd Australia Director, Jeff Hansen states, "The Yushin Maru is in a desperate situation, quite possibly unable to get to safety in the event of an emergency. The Japanese whaling fleet wouldn't be in this predicament if they weren't pariahs for their illegal whaling; unwelcome to refuel in any land-based port without scrutiny and banned from Australian ports, they must hire a refuelling vessel simply to be fuelled for their illegal poaching. These poachers are in contempt of an Australian Federal Court ruling and should not be in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in the first place. The South Korean vessel, the Sun Laurel is supplying fuel to the illegal operations of the Japanese whaling fleet, which is akin to supplying equipment to elephant poachers in Africa."
Operation Zero Tolerance Co-Campaign Leader, Bob Brown stated, “Once again, Japan's whaling fleet is flouting international law. Now it is drawing in the Government of South Korea, which so wisely decided against whaling last year. South Korea should order this tanker to turn around and go home. Otherwise it invites world condemnation instead of the praise it so recently enjoyed.”
The source reported that the Yushin Maru is separated from the fleet by hundreds of miles, very low on fuel and unable to proceed unless refuelled. This indicates that the Yushin Maru has been totally abandoned by the Nisshin Maru and the rest of the Japanese whaling fleet in their hour of need.
Captain of the SSS Steve Irwin, Siddharth Charkravarty recounts: "While in pursuit of the Nisshin Maru, the Steve Irwin picked up the Yushin Maru as a tailing vessel, riding extremely high out of the water, indicating that they were very low on fuel. A few days later when the whalers tried to swap the Yushin Maru with a fully fuelled Yushin Maru No. 3, the Steve Irwin instead chased the Yushin Maru in the opposite direction of the whaler's factory ship for 150 miles. During this chase, the Yushin Maru was unable to reach their full speed of 20+ knots, but was barely able to eke out 16-17 knots, confirming that they were low on fuel and hence running at a more fuel-saving speed." Since then, this Korean source reports, the Yushin Maru is conserving their meagre fuel stores and is unable to cover the ground between them and the Nisshin Maru.
Rather than remain with their sister ship, or even transfer fuel to them, the Yushin Maru No. 3 instead chose to abandon the Yushin Maru in the treacherous waters of the Southern Ocean in order to chase the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin.
Sea Shepherd Founder, Paul Watson says, "This action shows the negligence of the whaling commander, not only for the sanctity of the whales of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, but an utter and total disregard for the life and safety of the crews who work on these death ships. Last year, on Operation Divine Wind, when one of Sea Shepherd's ships, the Brigitte Bardot, was compromised, we stopped our entire campaign to escort them to port and ensure their safety. It's not surprising that the whalers share no such camaraderie for one another, since their entire motive for being in these waters is ruthless greed."
Captain Peter Hammarstedt, aboard the SSS Bob Barker said, "Operation Zero Tolerance has had victories in so many forms, from intercepting the whalers' fuelling vessel, and thus cutting their season, to pulling two-thirds of the fleets' harpoon ships entirely out of operation, and keeping the sole remaining harpooner with the factory ship running, stunting their progress, and severely limiting their ability to poach Antarctica's pristine waters. We also intercepted the whaling fleet before they had a chance to fire a single harpoon."
The Bob Barker continues to chase and hunt the whalers' butchering ship, the Nisshin Maru, unencumbered by a tail, and aided by a fleet of aerial scouting drones.