A FORMER Sea Shepherd crew member who lives at Ocean Shores says the forced departure of two thirds of the Sea Shepherd fleet from the Southern Ocean this week has dealt a serious blow to the 2012 anti-whaling campaign.
The Sea Shepherd's fast tri-maran, Brigitte Bardot, was cracked in heavy seas on Wednesday and was yesterday being escorted back to Fremantle by the group's flagship vessel, the Steve Irwin.
It means two of the three Sea Shepherd vessels are now out of action for at least the next two weeks and leaves just one ship, the Bob Barker, to pursue the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean. .
Howie Cook, who was quartermaster and ship's artist aboard the Steve Irwin last year, said he saw this week's events as a "significant setback".
"If two ships are taken out of the equation... the bottom line is there are more opportunities for the Japanese whaling fleet to kill whales," he said.
"Sea Shepherd really needs an extra ship, not two less.
"It's all about keeping the pressure on the whaling fleet."
But like the organisation's founder, Paul Watson, Mr Cook is confident that Sea Shepherd can get back on track.
He said the Bob Barker had single-handedly chased the whaling boat Nisshin Maru for more than 3000 miles last year and stopped it from killing any whales, and was therefore confident it could keep up the pressure as it awaited the Steve Irwin's return.
Meanwhile, the Australian Greens have again called on the government to send an observer ship to watch the Japanese whaling fleet.
Acting Greens leader Christine Milne said the need for observers was more urgent following this week's events.
If two ships are taken out of the equation... the bottom line is there are more opportunities for the Japanese whaling fleet to kill whales.