When the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin left Fremantle on December 9, the Japanese ship Shonan Maru No 2 was waiting to intercept and has continued to tail the whaling conservation ship south to Antarctica. Aleady there has been some initial conflict in the icy Southern Ocean near the French Base at Dumont D'Urville.
By tailing the Sea Shepherd shiip, the master of the Japanese ship is able to keep the whaling fleet informed of the latest position so the fleet can avoid a confrontation. The Japanese are spending a great deal of money dedicating a ship to shadow Sea Shepherd. The Japanese have confirmed that two vessels will be used to track the Sea Shepherd this year.
Captain Paul Watson said that he will try to lose the tail in heavier ice conditions "We will use the icebergs and the ice floes to our advantage." Said Captain Paul Watson. "I've observed today that I am a more experienced ice navigator than the Japanese captain chasing us. We need to get him to follow us into the ice fields and let the ice work for us."
On December 17 Sea Shepherd sought and was granted permission to enter French Antarctic territorial waters near the French Base at Dumont D'Urville. The Shonan Maru No. 2 followed the Steve Irwin into French waters without permission. When Sea Shepherd launched their helicopter to film the pursuit, the Japanese ship activated their Long Range Acoustical Device (LRAD) at the Sea Shepherd helicopter.
"This was an extremely irresponsible thing to do," said helicopter pilot Chris Aultman. "That device can cause nausea and disorientation and the use of it against an aircraft is both extremely dangerous and grossly irresponsible."
The helicopter returned to the Steve Irwin for safety, howver the Shonan Maru No. 2 increased speed and aimed their two watercannons at the helicopter deck. Captain Watson responded by ordering the deployment of a 150-meter line aft of the vessel to force the Shonan Maru No. 2 to maintain a safe distance.
In a press statement the Japanese Institute for Cetacean Research has accused Sea Shepherd of attacking it's ship, the Shonan Maru No. 2, including use of a green laser device. Paul Watson confirmed on his myspace blog that the "Steve Irwin crew did use a photonic laser to warn the Japanese whalers off from their aggressive attack on the Sea Shepherd ship."
The following day helicopter pilot Chris Aultman and Steve Irwin's First Officer Locky MacLean visited the French base at Dumont d' Urville. The French base comander, Marie France Roy, the District Chief for Terre Adelie presented Locky MacLean with a plaque for the Steve Irwin and a letter of support. The letter states "Our sympathy goes out towards this ship's activities in enforcing the recommendations of the International Whaling Commission."
The Steve Irwin is waiting at anchor off the Adelie Coast for three days to meet up with the Sea Shepherd vessel Ady Gil. The Ady Gil left Hobbart on December 19. The Ady Gil has greater speed than the Japanese vessels and will be able to shake any tail and do reconnaissance of its own to find the whaling fleet and communicate the position to the Steve Irwin.
"Once we unite with our other vessel we should be in a position to seriously turn the tables on this Japanese security ship that is stalking us," said Captain Paul Watson.
Photo Courtesy ICR: 2009.12.17 - Further, the Steve Irwin shot a high-power green laser which was directed against the Shonan Maru No.2 crew.