The three vessels of the Sea Shepherd conservation group docked in Melbourne on Wednesday after clashing with Japanese whalers in their anti-whaling campaign in the Antarctic.
The organisation said the expedition was the most successful Antarctic whale defence campaign to date and had severely reduced the number of whales that were killed by the Japanese.
The Bob Barker bears the scars of a collision with the Japanese whaling factory ship Nisshin Maru in the Southern Ocean in February with damage to its bow.
Jeff Hansen, Sea Shepherd Australia Director has estimated the damage to the ships at close to $1.3 million USD.
Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson remains at sea because of an outstanding Interpol arrest notice against him for skipping bail in Germany last year while awaiting possible extradition to Costa Rica over charges stemming from a campaign against shark finning.
In December 2012 a U.S. appeals court issued an injunction ordering Watson personally and Sea Shepherd not to physically attack or endanger the Japanese whaling fleet.
[Siddharth Chakravarty, Captain of the Steve Irwin]:
“I think we should use this year and this momentum and this victory to convert that to political support as well and give Captain Paul Watson a chance to come in and seek asylum and be a free man again because the oceans and the whales and Sea Shepherd as an organisation need him back.”
The three ships will stay in port to undergo repairs to their masts, hulls and satellite navigation systems.
Sea Shepherd activists have clashed frequently with the Japanese fleet over nine whaling seasons during the southern hemisphere summer.
Japan introduced what it calls scientific whaling to skirt a commercial whaling ban under a 1986 moratorium.
It argues it has a right to monitor the whales’ impact on its fishing industry.