Paul Watson likened the season to the Star Wars installment, "The Empire Strikes Back." With a massive infusion of money from the Japanese government the whalers were able to get the best of Sea Shepherd.
Watson and his crew members were forced to take satisfaction in having prevented more killing than took place as the Japanese took 267 whales, 700 short of their quota. In the final episode of Whale Wars Watson's ships gave it their all, but without more resources they at a disadvantage.
The Yushin Maru 2 was disabled allowing the Irwin to speed towards the ultimate target of the Nisshin Maru. It was only a momentary victory because a third tail ship, the Yushin Maru 3 appeared making the Steve Irwin turn its attention to disabling it rather than reaching their target.
Prior to the new tail ship's appearance Capt. Paul Watson took great pleasure knowing his small crafts, the Humber and Delta had stopped one harpoon ship.
He mistakenly thought that an unimpeded trip 600 miles south was theirs for the taking. The Bob Barker was already there, having rid themselves of their own tail ship, but it didn't mean they had found the site of the Nisshin Maru.
"If we leave here then that's going to be a free-for-all to allow the harpoon vessel to just go to town taking as many whales as possible. We don't want to see that, so we're gonna keep trying to stop this ship," Capt. Watson declared.
As the Steve Irwin crew strategized a stunning fact came to light. The ship's fuel had reached a level that wouldn't allow it to stop the third tail ship then travel to help the Bob Barker with catching and stopping the mothership.
Even this reduced goal was out of reach. All attempts failed to stop the Yushin Maru 3 and Chad, who captains one of the small crafts that use the prop foulers had trouble getting out of the way of the whaler. The prop lines were spit out by the Japanese vessel's propellers and stopped his craft dead in the water. In the nick of time the boat was able to move enough to avoid a collision.
The crew was all that Sea Shepherd had left to complete the mission, find the mothership and thwart efforts to kill whales. But it still had not caught sight of the Japanese factory ship despite days at sea.
After a trip up to the top of the mast by one of the crew the Nisshin was spotted and the chase was on. The Bob Barker got within eight miles of its target but lost the fight when seemingly out of nowhere came the rejuvenated Yushin Maru 2 and 3.
The ships were speedier and had solved the puzzle of the prop foulers. What transpired was a standoff in the Southern Pacific as the two harpoon ships put the Bob Barker in a sandwich, slowing it down to allow the mothership to pull away.
Undeterred, the crew of the Barker decided that something was better than nothing. They kept moving in the direction of the Nisshin Maru, with a harpoon ship on eigher side, making it flee rather than stop and continue its mission.
"We did find it and we can keep it on the run for the rest of the season," Peter Hammarstedt, 1st mate of the Barker told Capt. Paul Watson by phone. "They can run but they can't hide. I don't think they'll feel comfortable enough to set up camp, plus the weather in each direction is going to be pretty bad for the next couple of days."
The pursuit of the Nisshin went on for two days. On March 7, 2012 the factory ship left the Southern Ocean, ending the whaling season early. "It's a huge, huge victory for the whales," Peter told his crew of the Barker. Only 267 whales were killed, 700 short of the Nisshin's goal.
Capt. Paul Watson's assessment of the mission
Paul Watson continued to use the Star Wars metaphor and reminded everyone that the Death Star was eventually destroyed. With a massive infusion of money from the Japanese government, the whalers were able to thwart many of the Sea Shepherd maneuvers.
Watson has vowed to return each year until Japan stops whaling. First he's got to extricate himself from his legal troubles that rage on. He is still in Germany and might be extradited to Costa Rica on the ten-year old criminal charges.
Sea Shepherd needs to purchase another fast patrol boat to use when one of their other ships goes down, as did the Brigitte Bardot. "Who's coming back next year?" Watson asked his Steve Irwin crew. All hands were raised in the air.
To be continued...
Image: Wikimedia Commons