The Japanese trawler, Shunyo-maru, later became a combined catcher/factory whaling ship, MV Tonna, and was owned by Andrew M. Behr who also owned the infamous pirate whaling ship, Sierra. The Tonna is famous for its demise. In 1978 with full holds the Tonna landed another 50 ton fin whale. As the whale was being winched aboard for processing the ship listed over, took on water and quickly sank. Behr and the Sierra were also linked to Japan's Taiyo Fisheries Co. through a Canadian subsidiary (Taiyo Canada Ltd.) and with whale product for Japanese markets. The Sierra was severely damaged after being rammed by activist Paul Watson aboard his ship, the Sea Shepherd. The Sierra was later sunk in port by unknown saboteurs with limpet mines. Taiyo and other Japanese fisheries have also been linked to pirate whaling through subsidiary companies in Taiwan, the Philippines, Spain, South Korea, Chile and Peru.
The most notorious pirate whaling ship was the Sierra. Captained by a Norwegian and crewed by Japanese sailors and 75% owned by Taiyo Fishery of Japan and 25% by the Foreningsbanken in Norway, the Sierra had come to symbolize to many ENGOs the underhanded and interconnected nature of pirate whaling conducted by states such as Japan and Norway, which refused to be bound by the strictures of the international community as espoused by the IWC.59 The Sierra’s crew killed 1,676 whales during a three-year period and sold the meat to the Japanese domestic market. As a result, the ship and crew were considered untouchable: the IWC, the organization tasked with regulating whale catching, was unable to enforce its own decisions and quotas. This was despite global opposition to such killing.60
Japan’s Shameful Whaling History
Perhaps the most egregious whaling crimes were practiced by Japan’s Taiyo Fishery Co. It got into pirate whaling in the 1968 in a joint venture with Norwegian whaling interests. A former Dutch catcher boat, the AM No. 4, was converted to a combination factory ship/ catcher boat by adding a huge freezer compartment and a stern slipway for hauling whales aboard for slaughter.
Renamed the Sierra, the pirate whaling ship roamed the North and South Atlantic for a dozen years, flying flags of convenience such as Bahamas, Somalia and Cyprus. It killed thousands of whales outside IWC regulation, many of them “protected” blue, humpback and right whales. The meat and oil was shipped from various Atlantic ports to Japan on Taiyo reefers.
The Sierra’s deadly rampage only stopped in July 1979 when it was put out of action by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship, which rammed it outside the port of Oporto, Portugal. Seven months later, after undergoing repairs, the Sierra was mysteriously sunk in Lisbon harbor by limpet mines attached to its hull by persons unknown.