Sea Shepherd ship, the Sam Simon, docked at Auckland harbour on Thursday morning after its journey from the ship’s operation base in Williamstown, Australia.
Ngati Whatua Orakei peformed a beautiful welcome (powhiri) for the crew of the Sam Simon into Tamaki Makaurau (Auckland). Ngati Whatua acknowledged the work of Sea Shepherd and that both groups shared the same hope that whales of the Southern Ocean be left in peace. They also requested their Japanese cousins to kati (halt) any action against these majestic creatures. In what was sometimes an emotional gathering, Sonja Hyppänen thanked Ngati Whatua Orakei, acknowledged them as Tangata Whenua (people of the land) and presented them with a Sea Shepherd ship’s flag. Ngati Whatua Orakei were then welcomed onto the Sam Simon to share some kai (food) with the crew.
The ship and its 25 crew from around the globe have come to New Zealand to source supplies and prepare for the upcoming Southern Ocean patrol mission, Operation Icefish. If the Japanese whalers fail to return to the kill this year Sea Shepherd ships will conduct a new campaign targeting the illegal fishing of Patagonian and Antarctic Toothfish. The poaching of toothfish has had a devastating effect on their populations of this rare and long lived icefish. Sea Shepherd will intervene where poachers are found, seizing their nets and working with authorities to have boats confiscated.
"Operation Icefish will be the first campaign of its kind, using innovative direct action tactics to fill a law enforcement void exploited by illegal toothfish operators. The Bob Barker and the Sam Simon will leave Hobart, Australia and Wellington, New Zealand, respectively, to patrol the Antarctic. Illegal fishing operations will be documented, reported and confronted. They will be physically obstructed from deploying their illegal gillnets and unlawful fishing gear will be confiscated and destroyed," said Peter Hammarstedt, Captain M/Y Bob Barker, Director of Ship Operations.
“In 2002 a single Sea Shepherd ship left Auckland on the very first Southern Ocean campaign to confront the outlaw whalers and now 12 years later and thousands of whales saved, Sea Shepherd returns with the latest addition to its fleet, the Sam Simon. Come down and welcome the ship and brave crew to our port. Ship tours will operate from Princes Wharf, Auckland from November 1st till November 9th,” said Michael Lawry, Sea Shepherd New Zealand.