For the past 35 years, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has been led by Captain Paul Watson. A co-founder of Greenpeace, Watson has been labeled as an eco-terrorist, an outlaw and even a pirate. And for the past five seasons of Emmy(R)-nominated WHALE WARS, viewers have watched him lead many missions into the dangerous seas of the Antarctic to save the lives of majestic whales as captain of the Steve Irwin and as leader of the Sea Shepherds' fleet of vessels. He has tangled with many governments across the globe in a mission to save animals of the oceans and has made many enemies along the way, putting himself in legal and physical jeopardy.
When the groundbreaking series returns to Animal Planet in a two-hour special television event on Friday, December 13 from 9-11 PM (ET/PT), WHALE WARS will chronicle the Sea Shepherds' 2012 "Zero Tolerance" mission that is in peril even before it gets started. Watson is forced to step down as the Sea Shepherds' leader just as their fledging armada leaves for the Southern Ocean. He has been the target of two Interpol "red alerts" (which seek the location and arrest of wanted persons with a view toward extradition) and a ruling from the United States Ninth District Circuit Court that provides strict limits on how the Sea Shepherds can "interact" with Japanese whaling activities. Because of this, Paul must remove himself from his leadership role with the Sea Shepherds. Everyone on board the boats is rattled by the news - now questioning how his/her important mission and the environmental organization itself can succeed without his presence.
Leaderless and without Watson's vast experience in aggressively engaging the whalers at sea, the Sea Shepherds are at a crossroads. Which one of the Sea Shepherds will take the mantle of leader and guide the group as they embark on their dangerous mission "to die for the whales?"
Now armed with four vessels while Watson watches from his self-imposed confinement in his quarters aboard the Steve Irwin, the small Sea Shepherd armada has appointed four new captains to continue the mission - Siddarth "Sid" Chakravarty with the main vessel, Steve Irwin; Peter Hammarstedt taking the helm of the icebreaker Bob Barker; Jean Yves Terlan piloting the speedy trimaran Brigitte Bardot; and Luis Manuel Pinho onboard the newcomer ship Sam Simon, named after Sea Shepherd donor, animal rights activist and executive producer of THE SIMPSONS.
During the special, WHALE WARS follows several harrowing storylines, all leading up to the most epic battle ever in the WHALE WARS series between the Sea Shepherds and the whaling fleet.
· Will the crews stay aboard or abandon the mission? The international crews of the Sea Shepherds are faced with a decision that tests their credo: "Are you willing to die for the whales?" Or at least face the possible legal consequences?
· Will all of the vessels stay in the fleet? The actions of one of the rookie captains lead to tension among the ranks and ultimately the retreat of one Sea Shepherd vessel far earlier than anticipated.
· Will the crew stand behind these rookie captains? One captain makes a major decision that nearly causes a mutiny, but did he do the right thing?
As a companion to the WHALE WARS television event, Animal Planet will present a ground-breaking, immersive online experience that blends photos, video, interactive graphics and sound into a powerful narrative that tells the tale of Watson and the Sea Shepherds, while also offering the perspective of the Japanese whalers whom they confront. The WHALE WARS online experience will debut in early December at AnimalPlanet.com/WhaleWars.
The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences recognized WHALE WARS in 2009 for exploring issues of concern to our society in a compelling, emotional and insightful way by bestowing the series with a Television Academy Honor and identifying it as "television with a conscience." The series has been nominated for a Primetime Emmy(R) for Outstanding Cinematography in a Non-Fiction Series (three times), Outstanding Picture Editing for a Non-Fiction Series and Outstanding Sound Editing for a Non-Fiction Series. Seasons one through four of the series are available on DVD at AnimalPlanetStore.com.
WHALE WARS is produced by The Lizard Trading Company for Animal Planet, using raw footage filmed by the Sea Shepherd Australia Ltd. during its campaign. Liz Bronstein is the executive producer for The Lizard Trading Company. Jason Carey is the executive producer and Patrick Keegan is the producer for Animal Planet. Charlie Foley is the executive vice president of development for Animal Planet and creator of the series.