The Bob Barker docked in Wellington, New Zealand, and The Steve Irwin docked in Hobart, Australia, where supporters, friends and family were waiting to welcome the crew.
Since first locating the whale poachers on January 5, the Sea Shepherd Fleet has actively pursued the Japanese whalers, locating the fleet’s factory vessel, the Nisshin Maru, on a record four separate occasions. The whaling fleet’s operations were hampered by Sea Shepherd’s continual pursuit, which included twice exposing the whalers in the process of butchering protected Minke Whales, poached from the waters of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
Captain of The Bob Barker, Peter Hammarstedt, said, “Although the whale poachers have not yet released the number of whales they have killed this season, we are confident that they have not even reached one-quarter of their bogus self-allocated quota, and estimate that our efforts have saved over 750 whales. As we return to port, we are gladdened by the thought that these whales are swimming with us on their migration north, and proud that our tenth Antarctic Whale Defence Campaign has been a true testament to how relentless we can be.”
During the course of Operation Relentless, Sea Shepherd encountered three unprovoked nighttime ambushes by the Japanese whaling fleet, one of which resulted in a harpoon vessel causing a collision with The Bob Barker. Despite the attacks, Sea Shepherd continued to pursue the whalers, keeping them on the run for the entire three month whaling season.
Captain of The Steve Irwin, Siddharth Chakravarty, said, “Using their aggression the poachers ran, but they could not hide from us. This is the longest that the Sea Shepherd Fleet has ever remained in the Southern Ocean, as the whalers desperately tried to make up for profits lost due to Sea Shepherd’s direct intervention. After 94 days at sea, I am honoured to return to port at the helm of The Steve Irwin and am deeply proud to be a part of this organisation, vigilant in our defence of life in our oceans, relentless in our pursuit of justice for the whales.”
Managing Director of Sea Shepherd Australia, Jeff Hansen, stated, “I take my hat off to the Captains and crew of Operation Relentless. These whale poachers, heavily funded and backed by the government of Japan, have thrown absolutely everything at us and we have come out on top. With this in mind, I would like to extend a huge thank you to our supporters around the world. You keep our engines running, you keep food on the plates of our volunteer crew, and you keep the whales always in your hearts and minds. Your hopes and aspirations for a true sanctuary for the whales have carried us across the waves of the Southern Ocean in relentless pursuit of the whale poachers. As you celebrate our fleet’s return, we celebrate your unyielding commitment to the oceans and to the whales, knowing that without your support none of this would be possible.”
The Sam Simon returned from Operation Relentless to Sea Shepherd Australia’s Operations Base at Williamstown in Melbourne on March 8.
Over the course of its previous nine Antarctic Whale Defence Campaigns, Sea Shepherd has saved the lives of 4,500 whales and remains the only organisation committed to upholding the sanctity of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, directly intervening against the illegal operations of the Japanese whaling fleet.