After losing a beloved brother to cancer, Sea Shepherd founder, Capt. Paul Watson, vows to return to his ships to launch 'Operation Zero Tolerance' in December.
The whereabouts of Watson, who fled Germany at the end of July, is still currently unknown. But the Sea Shepherd Captain isn't remaining silent and says he plans to move forward with a return to Antarctica.
In an exclusive comment piece for the UK's Guardian newspaper, the environmentalist would only say that he was in a "safe haven" but had plans "to return to his ships".
The Sea Shepherd founder explained that he had "No choice but to continue to serve my clients, the whales" he said, and "I can do that far better at the helm of the Steve Irwin commanding the Sea Shepherd fleet … than I can defending myself from bogus charges by Japan."
"If I can return to my ships, I will" added Watson, and "if not, my captains and their crews will return without me to once more defend the whales in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary." According to legal experts, Watson could evade detainment indefinitely as long as he stays in international waters.
Watson was arrested at a Frankfurt airport last May on a decade-old warrant from Costa Rica for an incident involving shark poachers around Cocos Island in 2002. While Germany debated Costa Rica's extradition request, Watson fled the country after learning that the Japanese government had also negotiated with Germany to file their own extradition order. The long-time nemesis of Japan's whaling fleet, alleged that the order was based on fabricated evidence provided by former Sea Shepherd Crewmember, Peter Bethune.
"There is the absolute certainty that once in Japanese custody, I will never be released," Watson explained as justification for leaving Germany. Just last year, Erwin Vermeulen, a Sea Shepherd Cove Guardian was arrested in Taiji, Japan, for an alleged pushing incident. Vermeulen was held for two months before being released and then cleared of all charges against him. Still, even with the judge's ruling, the Japanese prosecution was reluctant to let him go.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society already has a team in place in Taiji, to monitor the dolphin drive season which officially began yesterday and is involved in several other campaigns such as Namibia Desert Seal and Operation Requiem to protect sharks.
This year's whaling campaign, 'Operation Zero Tolerance' will kick off in December. On Aug. 30, Watson announced on Facebook:
For the last two years especially we have cut the Japanese kill quotas to under 30%. Our mission this year is to reduce this to zero percent. I would like to thank all our supporters for the incredible help that I and Sea Shepherd have received during my time in Germany and over the past month that I have been preparing for my return to the field campaigns. We have four ships being prepared.
The fourth ship the Sam Simon, will join the Bob Barker, Steve Irwin, and Brigitte Bardot in Antarctica this year. In announcing the addition of the new ship, which was funded by Sam Simon the co-creator of The Simpsons, Watson said on June 21, "I wish I could elaborate on the ship but until it is secured, outfitted, and ready for Whale Wars, that information has to remain classified."
What is known about the new vessel, is that it is a former German-government-owned ship, "meticulously maintained and kept in good running order," Watson said. "It will not be a problem to have the new ship underway in time for the voyage to Australia and on to Antarctica," he added. The ship, the Captain believes, "Will give the Whale Warriors the combination of speed, range, strength, and communication abilities to accomplish this zero kill objective."
With "Four ships, four captains, and over 120 crew from around the globe," Watson is confident that the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) will be a "force to be reckoned with."
If the environmentalist does get to captain the Steve Irwin this year, the whales will not be his only mission. Just a few days ago on August 29, Watson lost his brother Stephen Watson. Stephen died in a New Brunswick hospital after battling Stage 4 cancer for the past several months.
In a tribute called "My Brother Stephen" posted at Sea Shepherd.org, the the SSCS founder said:
When I left Germany he asked only one thing of me and that was, if he died before the next campaign to the Southern Ocean, would I take his ashes to Antarctica. I intend to do so.
On Aug. 11, Susan Hartland, the Administrative Director of Sea Shepherd, slammed Japan's "feeble attempt" at trying to keep them from their mission. "Nothing Japan does will stop us from returning to Antarctica this season with four vessels and four crews of committed and passionate volunteers to shut down the Japanese whaling fleet," she added.
In a narrative published on August 28, Watson concurred. "No matter what the obstacles or how impossible the mission, we will not back down," he said.