What happens when a TV show’s mission is achieved?
Last February, Japan suspended its controversial whaling operations after years of international criticism — and, more specifically, the aggressive efforts of marine conservation group Sea Shepherd to halt the practice, as chronicled on Animal Planet’s hit Whale Wars.
The activists, in other words, won. So now network has ordered a spin-off that not only continues the show’s legacy of whaling prevention tactics, but is launching a bigger operation than ever before.
Tentatively titled The Faroe Islands Project, the show has the Sea Shepherds (including Capt. Paul Watson and Peter Hammarstedt) charting a course to the Danish Protectorate of the Faroe Islands, where there’s an annual hunt for pilot whales titled “The Grind.” In a practice going back to the first Norse settlements on the islands, an estimated 1,000 whales are corralled by local residents into the shallow coves to be killed.
The group is launching a land, sea and air campaign that will include a large ground team. Already the group has run into a challenge, since the ship the Steve Irwin has been seized by a British court over a conflict with tuna fishermen.
“For the last four years, Whale Wars has been riveting television because of the passion of the Sea Shepherds, the risks they take to save the lives of whales, and the magnificent and dangerous beauty of the Southern Ocean,” says Marjorie Kaplan, president and general manager of Animal Planet. “Now they are once again preparing to put their lives on the line, this time in a lush and unfamiliar corner of northern Europe where the customs are different and the killing of whales continues. And we plan be there to document every moment.”
Shooting begins in July for an unspecified number of episodes and no air date is set. And with some reports that the Japanese might re-start their whaling efforts, Animal Planet is also prepared to order a fifth season of Whale Wars.