The MY Steve Irwin (formerly Robert Hunter) was the flagship of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Originally named the Robert Hunter, the ship was acquired 2006 and participated in Operation Leviathan. In 2007, the ship was renamed Steve Irwin after the late Crocodile Hunter. In December 2018 Sea Shepherd announced the Steve Irwin will be decommissioned and replaced by the Ocean Warrior.
The Steve Irwin is an Island-class patrol vessel, originally built for the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency as the Westra. It was sold to Sea Shepherd in 2006 and renamed the Robert Hunter after the Greenpeace founder and friend of Captain Paul Watson.
The Robert Hunter joined the Farley Mowat in Operation Leviathan, where it pursued the Japanese whaling fleet. The Robert Hunter encountered the whaling spotter ship Kaiko Maru and deployed an inflatable boat to engage it. The small boat crew successfully prop-fouled the Kaiko Maru but the whaling ship collided with the side of the Robert Hunter and declared a mayday. The Farley Mowat and Greenpeace's Esperanza both arrived on scene shortly after. The Esperanza refused to make contact with the Robert Hunter, so Emily Hunter, the daughter of Robert Hunter, radioed the Greenpeace crew, telling them that they are proud to have named their ship after the Greenpeace founder, and that the Greenpeace crew now were just a sham.
In 2007, the ship was painted solid black and renamed Steve Irwin after the famous Crocodile Hunter who had passed away. Steve Irwin had expressed interest in joining the crew, and his wife approved of the renaming. After Sea Shepherd lost possession of the Farley Mowat, the Steve Irwin became the new flagship, and the only ship of the fleet for a period of time. The Steve Irwin sailed alone in Operation Migaloo in 2007-08. It also carried a film crew for the first season of Whale Wars. On January 15, 2008, Steve Irwin crew members Benjamin Potts and Giles Lane, boarded the Yushin Maru No. 2 via inflatable boats. The two were detained for two days until the Australian customs vessel Oceanic Viking retrieve them and transported them back to the Steve Irwin. Shortly after, the Steve Irwin encountered a Japanese ship, the Fukiyoshi Maru No. 68. The Delta boat and helicopter launched a mission to identify any Japanese military personnel onboard, but did not spot any. Convinced that the ship was a spy for the whaling fleet, the crew attempted to launch a night assault of the Fukiyoshi Maru No. 68 and board the ship to sabotage their communications. However, the crane onboard the Steve Irwin was damaged and the mission was aborted. In March, 2008, the Steve Irwin encountered the factory ship Nisshin Maru and proceeded to engage it, with crew throwing butyric acid and slippery powder onto the deck of the ship. The whalers retaliated with flashbang grenades. Sometime during the engagement, Paul Watson claimed to be hit by a bullet, but saved by his bullet proof vest. This claim has been disputed by the whalers.
Operation Musashi Edit
In 2008 the Steve Irwin took part in Operation Musashi and attempted to stop the whalers. when they got to Antarctica it was too late the Nisshin Maru already killed three whales and attempted to kill a fourth. Chris Altmen caught the the whole thing on tape and it was the most gruesome sight ever. The Steve Irwin then got into a head on collision with the Yushin Maru No. 3 and both sides are accusing each other of the collision.
Operation Waltzing Matilda Edit
In 2009 the Steve Irwin took part in Operation Waltzing Matilda but this time she was not alone. Sea Shepherd recently bought two ships and during the long voyage Paul Watson was promoted to Admiral. Joining the Steve Irwin this year are the Bob Barker and the Ady Gil. When the Steve Irwin reached Antarctica the whalers were waiting for them. Japanese spy planes and local boats who were loyal to Japan were relaying their location to Nisshin Maru who at the time was being escorted by the security ship. Nisshin Maru sent Shonan Maru No. 2 to ambush the Steve Irwin behind an iceberg and to tail them so Nisshin Maru could do what it did last year which is poach a whale right in front of them. The Steve Irwin tried to lose them in the ice and then sent Chris Altman up in the chopper to search the ship. Once over the ship Shonan Maru No. 2 turned on the LRAD and blasted it into the cockpit and Chris was forced to return to the ship because the LRAD was making him lose control of the chopper. With Shonan Maru No. 2 still on their tail the Steve Irwin was forced to returned to port and lost the security ship in a storm and Shonan Maru No. 2 had to turn back because warships and whaling vessels are prohibited in Australian Waters. When the Steve Irwin returned to Hobart they received a tip from a group called Taz Patrol that Yushin Maru No. 3 was lurking near an Australian base and they went there to investigate. Around this time the Bob Barker and the Ady Gil have located Nisshin Maru and started chasing it. In January 2010 the Steve Irwin was called on a rescue mission. Shonan Maru No. 2 sank the Ady Gil and the Steve Irwin was sent to pick up the crew and return them to port. When shore leave in Fremantle was over the Steve Irwin met up with the Bob Barker and chased Nisshin Maru. Pete Bethune the captain of the Ady Gill wanted revenge on the Shonan Maru No. 2 for sinking his boat and he boarded the ship during the night on a jet ski launched from the Steve Irwin. When Pete Bethune got on the Shonan Maru No. 2 he was arrested and sent to a Japanese jail. The Steve Irwin stayed with the Bob Barker until it had to return to port.
Operation No Compromise Edit
In 2010 the Steve Irwin took part in Operation No Compromise. At the start of the season Sea Shepherd was introduced to their new boat Brigitte Bardot who at the time was operating under the call sign Godzilla but was forced to change it at the end of the season because of a legal dispute with the owners. A day after setting sail all three ships spotted a harpoon boat and began chasing them. The start of 2011 was a bad year for Sea Shepherd and ICR heavy winter storms rocked the fleets and caused injury and even death. On the Nisshin Maru a crew member fell overboard and drowned, on the Bob Barker the small boat crews got their pontoons popped when trying to plant a tracking device on the Yushin Maru, and the Brigitte Bardot had to be sent back to port when it got prop fouled and blew a turbo charger refueling. Near the end of the campaign the whale wars are put on hold when a distress call is issued by the Berserk which sank along with all its crew. The Steve Irwin sent Chris up in the chopper to Shackleton's Hut but did not find Jarle Andhoy or his companion. Later Andhoy radioed the New Zealand Navy informing them he is at Amundsen Scott Station and needs a pickup back to the mainland. The search for Berserk was called off after the Steve Irwin found their life raft. It was empty and punctured indicating that the crew has drowned and went down with the ship. Days later the Steve Irwin finds Nisshin Maru but loses her in an ice field forcing the Steve Irwin to return to port. Once refueled the Steve Irwin met up with the Bob Barker and the Brigitte Bardot and they chased Nisshin Maru around Antarctica. Nisshin Maru tried to sail into Chilean waters and was ordered out by the coast guard. Then the whalers got word that the home islands were under attack by the Tohoku Tsunami and were ordered home by the Japanese Government with ICR calling Sea Shepherd Eco-terrorist in the press.
Operation Bluefin Edit
In 2010 and 11 Sea Shepherd was dispatched to Malta to patrol the waters around Libya to protect a Bluefin farm from poachers. Chris Altman went up in the chopper and spotted a boat towing a net. Sea Shepherd later identified the vessel as the Bin Hassen which is a Turkish vessel registered to ICCAT. The net was empty and the guy was registered to fish so he was let go. Another boat did not have a permit and he had four cages. The Steve Irwin launched her small boats and the crews battled it out on the high seas with half of them almost getting stabbed. One of the small boats was prop fouled but they freed themselves. ICCAT sent a jet and told Sea Shepherd to stop the operation and that the season was closed. Days later Sea Shepherd spotted a ship with two cages. It was the Rosario Tuna the flagship vessel of Fish and Fish. The Steve Irwin crew board the vessel but were at risk of being stabbed. The Rosario rammed the Steve Irwin but does no damage. Paul then tells the deck crew to brace for impact and get ready to drop the grappling hooks. The Steve Irwin rams both pins and the nets are cut open by divers. Months later Fish and Fish sues Sea Shepherd for destroying their nets but the case gets thrown out because Fish and Fish was caught fishing illegally.
Operation Ferocious Isles Edit
In 2011 The Steve Irwin went back where it started 30 years ago a small island chain off the Denmark coast called The Faeroe Islands. In 1986 when the ban went into effect the EU told all nations to cease whaling Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Russia, and Japan refused. Denmark calls whaling food while Sea Shepherd and the rest of the world call it murder and it is. During 2011 Sea Shepherd went to all the kill beaches with the Steve Irwin and Brigitte Bardot providing support. Because of the court case the Steve Irwin got impounded in Scotland and was stricken from the British Flag. Sea Shepherd paid the bail and re-flagged the fleet to Netherlands. Ultralights provided air cover until the the Steve Irwin was released but got grounded because they are illegal in Denmark. The campaign was called off when Sea Shepherd got the call they dreaded. Nisshin Maru had set sail the Whale Wars in Antarctica were back on.
Operation Divine Wind Edit
In 2011 Sea Shepherd returned to Antarctica but they had to go another route because Nisshin Maru was in the Indian Ocean off of Perth. Using drones launched from the Steve Irwin they tracked its location but got spotted by Shonan Maru No. 2 who chased them throughout the campaign. The Bob Barker and the Brigitte Bardot found Nisshin Maru but a rouge wave capsized the Brigitte Bardot during the chase and she had to be escorted back to Fremantle by the Steve Irwin and the Shonan Maru No. 2. Shonan Maru No. 2 illegally crossed into Australian waters and the Steve Irwin had to use Forrest Rescue to board the ship and force the whalers to leave Australia. While they were in port Tony Abbot almost got the boat seized because Sea Shepherd was flying the Jolly Roger. Back in Antarctica both the Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker attacked the harpoon boats and Shonan Maru No. 2 with the whalers responding by throwing grappling hooks and spears at them. The campaign was called off in March of 2012 with only 266 whales poached and one Fin also poached.
Operation Zero Tolerance Edit
In 2012 Sea Shepherd faced its worse campaign ever. The Whalers used every trick in the book to remove Paul Watson from command. First they used a court order in violation of the US Constitution which prohibits international lawsuits, second the whalers used an illegal INTERPOL Red Letter to get Paul arrested for piracy making him a fugitive, third they bribed Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada and had Harper sign a statement for Paul's arrest and seized his passports, and fourth they marooned Paul on a deserted island making him a fugitive in every country. Paul gave up command of the Steve Irwin to Sid Chakravarty of India and all Sea Shepherd USA personal stepped down from the campaign. The goal this year was to stop the Nisshin Maru from refueling and arrest the Sun Laurel who was violating international regulations for smuggling of whale products and supplying fuel to poachers. The Nisshin Maru rammed the Steve Irwin, capsized the Bob Barker, destroyed a crane on the Sam Simon who just joined the campaign as Sea Shepherds newest ship, and damaged all the lifeboats on the Sun Laurel. The campaign was called off pending international court injunctions all but one which was issued by Australia against the whalers was dropped.
Operation Relentless Edit
In 2013 Sea Shepherd returned to the Southern Ocean for what was suppose to be the final time because a lawsuit issued by Sea Shepherd Australia had cut the season in half and the whalers were going to make one last attempt to make all whales extinct before the International Court of Justice sent them to jail. Sam Simon served as a fuel ship for the fleet but since it was operated by an American crew it had to stay out. The Steve Irwin ran into Shonan Maru No. 2 and faced stiff resistance while trying to plug the discharge vents finally succeeding with a prop fouling. By the end of the campaign the verdict came in The Whalers were guilty and were forced to suspend operations. This was a major victory for Sea Shepherd but the Whale Wars are not over ICR will try everything they can to poach the whales out of existence and they won't stop until they are all extinct.
Dry Dock Edit
Between 2014 and 2015 Steve Irwin entered a dry docking period to repair the damage caused by Operation Relentless. Changes include a stronger hull, new cranes, and faster small boats. The helicopters were also upgraded and the hanger was replaced to fit the newer choppers.
Operation Icefish Edit
In 2015 and 2016 Steve Irwin returned to the Southern Ocean but for the first time in 8 years she was along. The fleet was down for repairs leaving the Irwin as the only vessel worthy to stop the poachers. The target for 2016 was Viking a member of The Bandit 6 and wanted by Interpol. In 2015 all four of the Bandit 6 surrendered to the police or were arrested and Viking was the only vessel at large. Even Viking could not survive her fate the Steve Irwin chased her to Indonesia and she was sunk by the navy and Sea Shepherd. With the Bandit 6 sunk the Irwin returned to Australia to defend it from British Petroleum who is attempting to drill in the Southern Blight.
After successfully stopping BP's drilling operations Sea Shepherd got the call they feared Nisshin Maru has left port in violation of international law banning the ship from returning to Antarctica. In response of this violation Sea Shepherd has dispatched their newest vessel Ocean Warrior and the Steve Irwin to stop them. The other ships in Neptune's Navy the Bob Barker and the Sam Simon are currently wrapping up driftnet patrols and tuna conservation missions they will not be joining fleet on this campaign since the other campaigns are wrapping up and the scheduled maintenance has come up for both vessels since both were damaged by the Japanese Whalers and by the Faeroe dolphin poachers in the last two campaigns. After 5 weeks of patrol the Steve Irwin has found Nisshin Maru and is currently on her tail. During the engagement Nisshin Maru was found with recently poached whales on her deck. The Japanese Whalers attempted to destroy the evidence and even attempted to cover their harpoons. Sea Shepherd's helicopter caught them on tape and transmitted the photos back to the ship and to Interpol. Before the Steve Irwin could rendezvous with the helicopter a severe storm blew in and grounded the fleet. The helicopter and drones have been recalled and the Steve Irwin has lost the Nisshin Maru behind a pack of ice. With March a few weeks away the Steve Irwin has disengaged from battle and has arrived in Dunedin New Zealand for refueling and her scheduled maintenance.
The Steve Irwin is now in drydock in Williamstown Australia for repairs. With the Japanese now deploying warships to support the whalers this years whale wars will not happen and the Irwin has been placed in drydock until 2018.
Operation Jeedara Edit
After years of being laid up in drydock the Steve Irwin has returned stronger and faster then ever. This years mission is to protect the Southern Blight from BP drill ships who are attempting to mine resources in the northern half of the Southern Ocean Antarctic Whale Sanctuary. In 2009 BP poisoned the Gulf of Mexico with toxic chemicals which made the bluefin in the Gulf of Mexico extinct. Now BP wants to drill in Australia in an international whale sanctuary where the risk of a spill can kill the largest species of southern right whales and large pods of whales many of them hunted by the Japanese. Sea Shepherd plans to send the Steve Irwin to stop them.
Because of the coast of maintenance and the age of the vessel Sea Shepherd has announced the Steve Irwin will be decommissioned effective December 3, 2018. Parts for the hanger deck and the ships storage bays will be transferred over to the Ocean Warrior when it returns from Tanzania.