This morning, in the grey swells of the Southern Ocean, a pirate ship will enter the waters of the Australian Antarctic Territory. It is a black ship, bearing a black pirate flag, the Jolly Roger. For the past five days it has sailed south, so that it can take position and wait for its prey.
The prey is expected to arrive on Saturday, the day when Japanese whaling ships, operating under the patronage of the Japanese Government, are scheduled to begin hunting minke whales, humpbacks and fin whales in southern waters. This is an area where Australia has declared an exclusive economic zone extending 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres) from the Antarctic coastline in a large swath of Antarctic waters. This is prime whale territory.
Yet the only intimidating presence that stands between the whaling ships and the slaughter of more than a thousand whales - the Japanese have set themselves a quota of 1030 - will be a private ship sailing under a Jolly Roger on which the crossed bones have been replaced by a trident and a shepherd's crook. The shepherd's crook signifies that this ship is operated by Sea Shepherd, the environmental vigilante of the sea.
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