Sea Shepherd’s vessel, M/Y Steve Irwin entering a fjord in the Faeroe islands.
Edit: Updated for August 2012 Gallery Magazine.
The most incredible thing happened the other year.
No, I didn’t win the lottery. No, I wasn’t given the secret to life. Better: I became a crew member for Sea Shepherd.
What’s Sea Shepherd, you ask? Well, Sea Shepherd is a non-profit marine wildlife conservation organisation, lead by Captain Paul Watson, co-founder of GreenPeace.
Their endeavour to protect the marine environment spans across everything from Shark Finning in the Galapagos; the Dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan; Tuna poaching in the Mediterranean; the Seal hunts in Canada; to their most known campaign the Japanese Whale hunt in the Antarctic Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
Fundamentally, their goal is to end habitat destruction and wildlife slaughter in the world’s oceans.
My best friend had introduced me to Sea Shepherd late 2011 and we quickly became avid supporters of the organisation. I never would have dreamed that only a couple months later I would be joining them in their conservation efforts to protect marine wildlife.
I had the tremendous privilege of becoming a crew member for Sea Shepherd when one of their vessels, the Brigitte Bardot, came to Jersey for the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 2011. This rather large figurative jump, and a stomach filled with butterflies, lead me onboard for the most incredible journey I would ever undertake in my life. And, ultimately pursuing my passion for wildlife conservation.
Beautiful high cliffs surrounded the Faroe islands.
The campaign that two of the Sea Shepherd vessels, the Brigitte Bardot and the Steve Irwin, were ready for next was the Faroe Islands Whale Slaughter campaign.
The Faroese view this whale slaughter as a part of their culture, saying that it’s a tradition. But every year they slaughter up to 1,000 Pilot Whales as they’re migrating past the small group of Faroe Islands. The Islanders use speed boats and various other modern technology to trap the Pilot Whales into fiords, forcing the whales to beach themselves ready for the rest of the town’s people to finish them off and the sea water to turn red with blood.
Pilot Whales in the Faeroe Islands
There has been an international ban on commercial whaling since 1982, but the Faroese govern their own whaling, refusing to accept the validity of the International Whaling Commission’s decision to end commercial whaling.
At one point during the campaign, the ship found itself surrounded by a pod of over 200 Pilot Whales.
As the whales surrounded the ship, three in particular stopped just off the bow, we hung over the side in amazement. This single experience incapsulated exactly what we were here for – to prevent these whales from being murdered.
Sea Shepherd’s mere presence during the whale hunt season was enough to stop the locals from attempting a “Grindadràp” (Danish for Whale Kill) simply because the islanders wanted to avoid the bad publicity with Sea Shepherd having Animal Planet on board filming Whale Wars. Not a single whale was killed, It was a very, very successful campaign.
Ryan and Erwin off of the bow, watching the pilot whales.
A few months after the Faroe Islands campaign, while I was onboard the Steve Irwin, we discovered that the Japanese whaling fleet would be returning to the Antarctic southern Ocean for their annual whale hunt.
For the past 8 years, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have continued to go down to the Southern Ocean to prevent the whaling that takes place down there annually by the Japanese Whaling Fleet.
Japan use a very small loop hole in the 1982 commercial whaling ban, that allows them to continue whaling under “research”.
There has never been any published data on such research and the Japan continue to make a profit from it. It’s obviously a very controversial issue, and with the Japanese Whalers continuing to hunt three main species of whales that are nearing extinction, Fin; Humpback and Minke. Needless to say, Sea Shepherd strongly opposes it. And so do I.
The Steve Irwin and an Iceberg.
I had the tremendous privilege of being part of this last Antarctic campaign down in the Southern Ocean with Sea Shepherd. Having been given the ability to be a piece of everything that Sea Shepherd represented in their goal towards shutting down the illegal actions of the Japanese Whaling Fleet.
During this campaign we were extremely successful. Managing to prevent the Whaling fleet from taking home roughly 70% of their quota for the year. With a self-given quota of just over 1,000 whales, the Whaling Fleet left with 267 whales making it our second most successful campaign to date, with the previous year being our most successful when the Japanese Whalers only took home 176 whales.
Sea Shepherd’s Helicopter, Nancy Burnet, in action.
We have recently found out that the Japanese Whaling Fleet plan to, with their 8 ship fleet, return down to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary this year to continue their mission in reaching their 1,000 whale kill quota.
Sea Shepherd will be following them down to Antarctica, and I will be joining them as crew once again.
I have been a volunteer crew member for Sea Shepherd for a little over a year now. After shortly coming back home to Jersey to see family, I shall be returning next month back to Australia where the Steve Irwin is currently in port. From there we will be heading back down to Antarctica to oppose the Whaling Fleet. And I invite you to join me every step of the way.
For more information on Sea Shepherd, please visit their website: www.SeaShepherd.org