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News / Sea Shepherd founder due in Shetland

Captain Paul Watson

FOUNDER of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Captain Paul Watson, arrives in Shetland on Friday to head the campaign to stop the annual slaughter of around 1,000 pilot whales in Faroe this summer.

The 60 year old Canadian campaign veteran will take the helm of the organisation’s 59 metre flagship vessel Steve Irwin – previously known locally as the Scottish fisheries protection vessel Westra – which berthed at Lerwick’s Holmsgarth pier on Tuesday afternoon.

The ship, with around 50 crew from 18 countries, will leave Lerwick at the weekend to spend three months filming and actively preventing the Faroese from carrying out their ritual killing of pilot whales.

They will be joined by the “fast interceptor vessel” Brigitte Bardot, of the Brigitte Bardot Foundation, who are supporting the campaign called Operation Ferocious Isles.
Sea Shepherd now star in a TV series called Whale Wars on the Animal Planet channel, which broadcast their successful campaign against the Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean earlier this year.

Captain Watson said he hoped exposure of the “Grind” in Faroe would have a similar impact, though the Faroese have said that they will not kill any whales while they are there.

Sea Shepherd has been in Faroe before but has not actively campaigned in the islands since 2000. Last year they sent a covert team to film the pilot whale slaughter and published the pictures on their website at www.seashepherd.org.

As well as a helicopter, which will be used to film the campaigners in action, they have acoustic devices on board to create a “wall of sound” to scare the whales away from the shore and the death that awaits them.

Captain Watson is also working on a political campaign against Denmark, which supports Faroe despite being a member of the European Union that has signed a convention against the killing of whales.

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Speaking from the International Whaling Commission meeting in Jersey this week, he said: “Faroe is receiving EU subsidy through Denmark and yet they are breaching EU rules on whaling. I would love nothing better than to get Denmark involved and intervene so that we can bring a case against them.”

He added that Faroe had passed a law that could send anyone who interfered with the whaling to prison for three months, saying he had plenty of volunteers willing to go through that experience.

“We have grown stronger every year and there is growing financial support every year and we have a membership from all over the world. This year we were even stronger than the Japanese,” he said.

While in Lerwick, Sea Shepherd members are arranging tours of the Steve Irwin every afternoon between 1pm and 4.30pm.

Ship manager Josh Trenter said they had received a warm welcome in Shetland and had received help from a number of local people with transport and provisions for their volunteer crew. 

The ship was built by Hall, Russell & Company in Aberdeen in 1975 as the fisheries protection vessel Westra, but was decommissioned in 2003. The Sea Shepherd society bought her in 2005 and renamed her Robert Hunter in honour of one of the founding members of Greenpeace 

She was renamed after Steve Irwin, the Australian wildlife broadcaster known as “The Crocodile Hunter” after he was killed by a stingray barb while filming in 2006.

The last three times Sea Shepherd has patrolled Faroe waters to prevent the whale slaughter, no whales have been killed.

The organisation says that the whale slaughter has turned into a bloody ritual that serves no other purpose, with 90 per cent of the whale carcasses being dumped in an underwater grave.

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