A radical conservation group that has vowed to disrupt Japan's
annual whale hunt launched its Antarctic campaign today in
Melbourne by renaming one of its ships after Steve Irwin, the late
environmental campaigner and television personality.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has pledged to do whatever
it takes to stop Japan from harvesting up to 50 humpbacks, 935
minkes and 50 fin whales from the Southern Ocean in what Japan's
Fisheries Agency says is its largest-ever scientific whale
The group's hulking black-and-red steel vessel has been docked
in the southern city of Melbourne for weeks as it prepares for this
year's expedition, dubbed Operation Migaloo after a rare albino
humpback that is tracked by whale watchers and local media as it
migrates up the Australian coast each year.
Once named for the Canadian anti-whaling campaigner and
Greenpeace co-founder, Robert Hunter, Sea Shepherd joined with
Irwin's widow, Terri, today to re-dub the vessel Steve Irwin.
"Whales have always been in Steve's heart, and in 2006 he was
investigating the possibility of joining the Sea Shepherd on part
of its journey to defend these beautiful animals," Terri Irwin said
in a statement.
Sea Shepherd said Irwin, who was killed in September last year
in freak stingray attack, shared the group's passion for saving
whales, and would have been "extremely honored to be acknowledged
in this way."
The ship was due to depart Melbourne later today.
Sea Shepherd has come under heavy criticism in recent years for
engaging in violent tussles with the Japanese whaling fleet in the
normally tranquil waters of the Antarctic.
In February, Sea Shepherd clashed with a Japanese vessel,
leaving the Robert Hunter with a 1-meter gash in its stern, during
a violent confrontation that both sides blamed on the other
Japanese officials said the activists threw ropes and nets into
the water to entangle the Japanese ship's propeller and prevent it
from maneuvering, and threw smoke canisters and garbage onto the
During the clash, two Sea Shepherd crew members went missing for
several hours in a small inflatable boat but were later found
The confrontation drew protests from Japan, and even sparked
strong rebukes from the strongly anti-whaling governments of
Australia and New Zealand.
(Shanghai Daily via Agencies December 5, 2007)