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THE SCRAPPING OF THE BOB BARKER SHOULD NOT BE AN OPTION

11/12/2022

THE SCRAPPING OF THE BOB BARKER SHOULD NOT BE AN OPTION

Yesterday when I posted about the sad fact that the legendary vessel Bob Barker was heading to Turkey to be scrapped I received a few nasty comments. The first few comments were to the effect that what do you expect Sea Shepherd to do. The ship is getting old and expensive to repair.

I agree, it is getting expensive and yes, it’s getting old. 72 years old just like myself which may be one the reason that I was so disrespectfully dismissed from the Global Sea Shepherd Board.

My concern is that this decision to toss the Bob Barker onto the scrap heap shows a lack of imagination.

This ship deserves a better, a noble and a glorious end.

When I was in control of all the Sea Shepherd ships, I never sent a ship directly to the scrapyard.

Instead of retiring the ships, I used them for a final high profile mission and then let our opposition pay for the cost of retiring the vessel.

In 1992, Canada detained the Sea Shepherd II after our North Pacific drift net campaign. The ship was searched and released but with a hefty bill that I refused to pay. The Canadian government said that if the bill was not paid, the ship would not be allowed to leave. I stripped the ship of anything of value and left it at anchor in Ucluelet Harbor on Vancouver Island where it sat at anchor for 10 years until the government towed it away to the scrap yard at their expense. The bow with the name was purchased by a supporter and is now on display at a hotel in Sydney, British Columbia. That action was very controversial and resulted in a great deal of publicity for Sea Shepherd and the issue of illegal fishing. The ship went down fighting.

In 2008, I sent the Farley Mowat to the Canadian Gulf of St. Lawrence to disrupt the Canadian seal slaughter. We knew this would be the last voyage for the ship but we needed to focus media attention and controversy in Europe to help pass the bill in the European Parliament to ban Canadian seal products. I made sure most of the crew were European and the ship had a Dutch flag. As predicted, the Canadian Fisheries Minister over-reacted, sent a SWAT team to seize the ship and detained the vessel in Sidney, Nova Scotia. They fined us $75,000 which I refused to pay to which they responded by threatening to seize the ship to which I said, “ok seize the ship.” The ship was sold at auction to a man for $5,000. He ran up some $65,000 in berthage bills and then abandoned the ship. The government seized it again and sold it at auction once again. The new owner tried to scrap it, but the ship sank dockside and the Canadian government spent a million to refloat the ship. They then arrested the new owner and seized the ship and spend another few hundred thousand towing the ship to Halifax to be scrapped. All of this controversy resulted in the Canadoan government passing a bill dealing with derelict and abandoned ships.

The publicity valueand the real results of these actions far outweighed any minimal amount that could have been realized from selling to a scrap yard.

Instead of sending the Bob Barker directly to the scrapyard, I would instead take the ship to the Faroe Islands where the Faroese have forbidden Sea Shepherd ships from entering Faroese waters. This would focus a great deal of publicity on the Faroes and the horrific slaughter of pilot whales. The ship would be seized and fined. The fine would be not paid, leaving the ship in Faroese hands making it a Faroese problem to deal with.

And if not the Faroes, the ship could be sent on a one way final mission to Iceland or Norway to protect whales.

Thankfully my former flagship the Steve Irwin was rescued by Kerrie Goodall and Ship4Good and is now an educational centre in New Castle in Australia.

Unfortunately, the John Paul DeJoria, the Sharpie and the White Holly, all in great condition were ignobly scrapped in Mexico. The White Holly could have been deployed to Costa Rica to guard Cocos Island, the John Paul DeJoria could have been sent to Antigua where the Antiguan Coast Guard had an interest in using it. Instead the ships were scrapped at an enormous loss. The Brigitte Bardot was sold when it would have been incredibly useful to patrol the Galapagos Corridor to get evidence on illegal Chinese fishing activities.

These disposals of perfectly good ships makes no sense at all. They could have been repurposed. An offer was made on the White Holly to pay $250,000 to use the ship for collecting plastic on the high seas. That offer was rejected with no reason given.

These ships serve the cause and their histories and victories should be honoured. Volunteers put in tens of thousands of hours to restore and maintain these ships. So many volunteers were upset that after all their work and time, the ship was simply tossed on the scrap pile without an explanation.

A few other comments suggested that it was none of my business and that I was never a captain on the Bob Barker. No, I was never “the” captain but I was in command of the Bob Barker from the day of purchase to the 2013 campaign in the Southern Ocean. The captains operated on my instructions. I have a vested interest in the fate of the ship and it is a sad and unavoidable fate to break the ship up in a Turkish scrap yard.

But ships like people seem to be expendable to the new leadership. It is a sad day indeed.

Photo: The Bob Barker blocking the refueling of the Japanese whaling ship Nisshin Maru in 2013.

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