A FORMER Japanese fisheries patrol vessel has arrived in Hobart for refit before taking up an expected renewed battle against whaling in the Great Southern Ocean.

To be renamed The Bandero, the 64-metre, 499 GT, ice-strengthened vessel, formerly Arasaki, was clandestinely acquired by third parties working for the Captain Paul Watson Foundation and sailed from Busan, South Korea under a single voyage permit and temporarily named Northern Horizon.

Captain Watson was a Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd founder but was ostracised from the latter two years ago when the organisation decided it had “moved on” from his confrontational ways.

Although Japan ended its Antarctic whaling program in 2018 after “relentless pursuit” by Sea Shepherd vessels and a ruling by the International Court of Justice that the program (JARPA II) was in breach of obligations assumed by Japan under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, Capt Watson believes a resumption is imminent.

The Guardian has reported that a brand new whale processing ship, the $47 million Kangei Maru, was recently delivered to whaling company Kyodo Senpaku in Shimonoseki and is preparing to embark on its first voyage in Japanese coastal waters this month. However, the vessel has a range of 13,000km, enough to reach Antarctica. Capt Watson notes it has also been equipped with water cannons.

“The previous organisations I founded have moved to the mainstream, but my team and I remain loyal to our cause and continue with the same course of action, utilizing our proven strategies of aggressive non-violence,” Capt Watson said.

The Bandero is named after the tequila brand of American billionaire, John Paul DeJoria, founder of Patron Tequila and John Paul Mitchell hair care products. In 2022, Mr. DeJoria also donated funds for the purchase of a former Scottish fisheries patrol vessel now named John Paul DeJoria. Volunteer activists will be taking the ship to Iceland this northern summer to oppose the illegal hunting of endangered Fin whales. John Paul DeJoria will then reposition to Australia to join the The Bandero at the end of year for the campaign to defend whales in the Southern Ocean.

“If Japan cancels their plans to return to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, the Captain Paul Watson Foundation will target the destructive krill fishery in the Southern Ocean,” Omar Todd, CEO at the Captain Paul Watson Foundation, said.