After more than 2 weeks and 4,000 miles, the Greenpeace ship Esperanza has had to abandon its quest to stop the Japanese whaling fleet due to a lack of fuel.
Greenpeace estimated their actions so far had saved more than 100 whales, but without refueling their lives could be in danger. Greenpeace said: “In a dramatic 4,300-nautical mile chase, the Esperanza spent 14 days chasing the whaling fleet’s factory ship, the Nisshin Maru. Without the factory ship, the remaining hunter vessels have been unable to operate — bringing the entire whaling program to a halt.”
The Greenpeace ship was one of two anti-whaling vessels attempting to bring a halt to the Japanese fleet. Recently, an international incident erupted when two activists from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society boarded one of the harpoon vessels. The whalers detained the activists, and the SSCS accused the whalers of torture. The whalers accused the SSCS of piracy and terrorism, and Australia is looking into both allegations.
The Japanese have been wanting to rid themselves of both protest vessels for a while, and their plan appears to be working. The whaling vessels had planned to exhaust the fuel of the protest vessels so they could make an escape and resume whaling. The whalers have a fuel ship nearby, whereas Greenpeace has to return to port in Australia to refuel. Greenpeace will head back to port in 10 days or so, but plans to continue its anti-whaling campaign in other ways.
Expedition leader Karli Thomas said: “While the Esperanza must return to port, the campaign to stop whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is far from over.”
Greenpeace also claims victory in disrupting the schedule of the whalers, making it much more likely they will not reach their quota of 1000 whales. They would have had to catch 9 minke whales a day and 1 fin whale every other day to reach their goal, but have been unable to hunt while the Greenpeace ship has chased the factory vessel.
The activists, who searched for weeks before finding the whaling fleet, may catch a break if they intend to return to the fleet for more protests. The whalers are heading for New Zealand’s Antarctic waters. New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark has threatened to publish photos showing the whereabouts of the fleet should they enter New Zealand’s Antarctic waters.