Sea Shepherd’s brand new anti-poaching boat slowly moved into the Antalya Harbour in Turkey on Friday, touching its first saltwater in what is sure to be a long career of cruising the world’s oceans. The MV Ocean Warrior is the conservation group’s first custom-built vessel, designed to chase down and stomp out illegal fishing.
“Poachers beware; here she comes,” Sea Shepherd Captain Alex Cornelissen says as the Ocean Warrior slowly leaves the shipyard, carried by heavy machinery. At 175 feet long, the boat is a sight to behold. She is the fastest boat in the Sea Shepherd fleet, and designed especially for the harsh conditions of Antarctic waters. The deck is large enough to launch smaller boats and helicopters.
The Ocean Warrior has its sights set on the Japanese fishing fleet that periodically takes whales from the Antarctic Ocean, ostensibly for scientific research, even following a ruling of the International Court of Justice outlawing the hunt. In previous years, Sea Shepherd has successfully interfered with the ability of the Japanese boats to kill whales and take them on board. And last year, the poachers won as Sea Shepherd could not determine their location and did not have the resources to scour an enormous ocean to find them.
“This new ship is a game-changer,” Adam Burling with Sea Shepherd Australia previously told Inverse. Not only will the Ocean Warrior’s speed improve odds of finding illegal fishing vessels, it will help to stay on their tails, too. Sea Shepherd’s other ships are not fast enough to keep up with the Japanese harpoon ships that do the actual hunting; instead, the tactic in the past has been to stay with the larger factory ship and try to prevent whales from moving between the two. This new ship may prevent more whales from dying in the first place, rather than using the dead ones to protect the living.
The plan is for the Ocean Warrior to tour the Netherlands and Australia before launching on its first official mission in September. Though the details have yet to be announced, Sea Shepherd is fundraising for gas money — an impressive $275,000.