At this moment a fleet of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Australia vessels are heading to the Southern Ocean to prevent Japanese whalers from killing and processing whales. For 10 years Sea Shepherd vessels have run annual campaigns in Antarctic waters; in the last few years these campaigns have been documented in the Animal Planet series “Whale Wars,” but this year they have a new objective to add to their campaign.
While senior staff at Ocean Alliance and Sea Shepherd have know each other for more than 20 years, Ocean Alliance formally partnered with Sea Shepherd for the first time in 2013 with our campaign “Operation Toxic Gulf.” Thanks to funding & data analysis support from Sea Shepherd we were able to complete our fourth consecutive year studying the effects of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico using whales as a bio-indicator species. Volunteer crew from Sea Shepherd worked with Ocean Alliance crew on the our research vessel Odyssey for just over two months, not only assisting in the ship handling, navigation, and data and sample collection, but also with outreach, using their communications infrastructure and expertise to spread the word to their thousands of followers around the world that all is not well in the Gulf of Mexico.
Knowing that the Sea Shepherd fleet would be in areas that the RV Odyssey could never traverse, Ocean Alliance President Roger Payne and CEO Iain Kerr asked Sea Shepherd management if they would be willing to collect marine mammal and oceanographic data as they drove though one of the most desolate but environmentally productive areas of this planet — Antarctica. The answer was an enthusiastic yes, so as a component of this year’s “Operation Relentless” campaign in the Southern Ocean, the crew on all three Sea Shepherd vessels – the Bob Barker, Sam Simon and Steve Irwin, will be collecting data that Ocean Alliance will add to our already extensive data set on whales and the health of our oceans worldwide.