The battle for the preservation of whales is ramping up, documented in the Animal Planet series “Whale Wars,” featuring the derring-do of Captain Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society who works alongside him.
There is real tension between Japan and the West over this contentious issue of a nation’s pursuit of a perceived cultural “right” and the rest of the World blowing the whistle, trying to end an antiquated, barbaric slaughter of an endangered intelligent mammal.
The series kicks off June 5th for a second season, as we rejoin the Sea Shepherd team on the open oceans.
Recently the team responded in the media to Japanese authorities who had admitted their fleet had turned hoses on the whale activists, who had hurled bottles of paint or rotten butter, but rejected claims that brass and lead balls were thrown at the protesters.
“If our crew can hit them, then they would be better off quitting the research vessel and joining a professional baseball team,” Shigeki Takaya, an assistant director of the Far Seas Fisheries Division at Japan’s fisheries ministry, said.
Captain Paul Watson responded: “When the next season of Whale Wars airs, these baseball player wannabes will be given their opportunity to show just why they could not be professional baseball players. Baseball is generally a gentle sport and there would be no room for thugs like the ones pelting our small boat crew with golf balls, brass bolts, and lead balls.”
For 30 years, Captain Paul Watson has been at the helm of the world’s most active marine protection non-profit organization – Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
His path began in 1968 as a seaman with the merchant marines and with the Canadian Coast Guard.
In 1972, Watson was a co-founder of the Greenpeace Foundation in Vancouver, British Columbia. From 1971-77, Watson served as first officer on all Greenpeace voyages, and on a campaign against Russian whalers, he implemented his idea of putting activists in a zodiac between the harpoon and the whale.
From 1976-77, he led all of the Greenpeace expeditions to protect harp seals on the ice floes of eastern Canada. Watson left Greenpeace in 1977 because he felt the original goals of the organization were being compromised, and because he saw a specific, global need to continue direct-action, conservation activities on the high seas.
In 1977, Watson founded Sea Shepherd Conservation Society – dedicated to research, investigation, and the enforcement of laws, treaties, resolutions and regulations established to protect marine wildlife and their habitats worldwide.
Since then, Watson has traveled and lectured extensively at universities and events around the world’ he has authored six books, and been the subject of numerous magazine articles and was chosen by Time Magazine as one of the environmental heroes of the 20th Century in the year 2000.
For more than three decades, Sea Shepherd has been at the forefront of the whale wars, and is the most effective non-violent direct action group on a global quest to protect the greatest treasure of the seas – the great whales.
Last month, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society vessel The Steve Irwin docked in Hobart, Tasmania, it was met by two dozen members of the Australian Federal Police.
According to Animal Planet, these Aussie authorities were there to confiscate hundreds of hours of videotape, launching an investigation into what was one of the most intense and dramatic campaigns ever conducted by the Sea Shepherds in their 30-year history.
You can witness all that real-life action in this new season, premiering on June 5, 2009, at 9PM (ET/PT).
Those seized tapes and hundreds of hours of other footage comprise the second season of the best-performing series in the network’s history.
Season Two follows the 10-week voyage that proves to be more dangerous and controversial than last season. This year, there were collisions at sea; tense times as The Steve Irwin, with its non-ice worthy hull, was trapped in ice fields; harrowing nautical maneuvers; and use of more aggressive defenses against the Sea Shepherds, including the use of high-powered water cannons and use of Long Range Acoustical Devices (LRADs), sonic devices that cause intense pain and could cause permanent hearing damage.
The Japanese whaling fleet suffered a deadly loss as one of its workers slipped and fell overboard (not during an engagement with the Sea Shepherds) and whose body was never recovered.
Watson and Sea Shepherd offered to help in a rescue mission for the missing worker, but the whaling vessels claimed they did more to interfere than assist.
“Whale Wars has proven to be truly compelling television and has engaged our audience with stellar storytelling,” notes Marjorie Kaplan, president and general manager of Animal Planet Media.
“This series has created a national conversation about conservation, while showcasing a group of deeply passionate people risking their lives for a cause. Our sophomore season shows the intense danger in battling the elements in a harsh environment as well as how perilous it is for these groups to engage each other at sea. Not only are the lives of whales important, but human life is at stake.”
“I have always said that we would do everything we can short of hurting people to end illegal whaling in the Antarctic,” says Watson. “We have done everything we could with the resources available to us this year. We shut down their illegal operations for over a month in total. We cost them money, and we have saved the lives of a good many whales.”
This season, in addition to returning crew members Peter Brown (First Officer), Peter Hammarstedt (Second Officer), Chris Aultman (Helicopter Pilot/Aviation Director), Laurens de Groot (Deckhand), Ben Potts (Helicopter Crew) and Shannon Mann (Quartermaster), The Steve Irwin is joined by Jane Taylor (Quartermaster), Luke Van Horn (Communications Officer), Andy Perry (Leading Deckhand), Molly Kendall (Deckhand) and Laura Dakin (Chief Cook).
These featured crew members help comprise the 40 international crew who spent the winter putting their lives on the line for whales.
Whales were once an American commodity, hunted by the whalers of New England for their precious oil and ambergris used to fuel the Industrial Revolution.
In addition to oil, whales, their blubber, and their bones were used to produce animal feed; cosmetics such as lipstick, soap and suntan lotion; perfume; margarine; candles and crayons; and clothing, using baleen for corsets, hoped skirts and umbrellas.
The whaling industry was romanticized in literature of the time. New Bedford, Massachusetts became the whaling capital of the world and was called “The City that Lights the World.” Of the 700 whaling ships that existed at that time around the world, 400 called New Bedford home.
Whaling fell off when crude oil wells and refineries popped up.
Despite the alternative fuel sources at the time, whales still suffered, and in 1930, 29,000 blue whales were recorded killed.
Today scientists predict that the population of humpback whales could have reached 1.5 million without commercial whaling, yet the current population lies at 20,000.
In the first episode of “Whale Wars,” “The Sound of Ice” sees Capt. Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherds head back down to Antarctica for what promises to be their most intense anti-whaling campaign yet. When the ship’s gyro breaks, newcomer Luke Van Horn scrambles to fix it while a storm the size of Australia looms over the horizon.
The Sea Shepherds manage to locate the Japanese whaling fleet in record time, and the chase is on. But after missing a key turn through open water, Peter Brown takes the helm and must maneuver through a dangerous ice field.
To support the new season and engage an active fan base, AnimalPlanet.com will relaunch the series site and add new features including maps, a virtual tour, view and vote, tactics, history of whaling, top 10 moments, meet-the-crew logs and producer behind-the-scenes commentary.
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