A Bainbridge Island resident, Izumi Stephens, will join Sea Shepherd in its upcoming campaign against the Japanese whaling fleet in the Antarctic, as I describe in a story in today’s Kitsap Sun.
A native of Japan, Izumi will serve as an on-board interpreter for the anti-whaling group. While engaging whalers, Sea Shepherd has an occasional need to converse with Japanese ship captains as well as conveying information to Japanese news reporters.
If you’ve watched “Whale Wars” on television, you know about Sea Shepherd’s highly confrontational approach to the Japanese fleet, often maneuvering its vessels into dangerous positions in front, behind and alongside the massive whaling ships.
Capt. Paul Watson, who heads Sea Shepherd, broke away from Greenpeace in 1977 as he pushed for more severe actions against whaling operations throughout the world. In 1980, “operatives” from his three-year-old organization took credit for sinking the whaling ship Sierra in Lisbon, Portugal — the first of many similar attacks.
Sea Shepherd, which operates throughout the world, has an
ongoing connection to the Northwest. Its international headquarters
is located in Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands, and Watson
frequently returns to this region.
I first met Watson and his crew in the early 1990s, when the ship Sea Shepherd II spent summers in Poulsbo in Kitsap County. The group was coming off an intense 1988 campaign, in which crew members scuttled two of the four ships that Icelandic whalers were operating at that time. According to Watson, charges were never filed because the Icelandic government did not want to acknowledge its approval of illegal whaling. See Sea Shepherd’s website for a history from the group’s point of view.
I also had numerous dealings with Watson and Sea Shepherd in 1998 while covering the government-approved whale hunt by the Makah Tribe in Neah Bay.
My coverage of Sea Shepherd’s activities should not be construed as a personal endorsement. I once asked readers of Water Ways if they would prefer that I write frequently about Sea Shepherd, ignore the group’s activities altogether or something in between. Based on the response, I try to update Sea Shepherd’s activities in this blog two or three times a year.
With Izumi Stephens serving on the Bob Barker until March, I hope to bring you a few more reports from her perspective. I perceive Izumi as a local person, a mild-mannered but passionate woman who is out of her element yet involved in the adventure of a lifetime.