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A record 3.2 million viewers tuned into the season finale of Animal Planet's "Whale Wars" series last Friday night and, to no one's surprise, the network announced there will be a third season.

The second season of "Whale Wars," which profiles the exploits of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society as it campaigns against Japanese whalers in the Antarctic, was Animal Planet's second-best performing series in network history. The shows were viewed in an average of 779,000 homes.

The series pits an unwilling subject -- Japanese whalers -- versus Capt. Paul Watson and a ragtag vegan crew that engages in disruptive techniques such as tossing bottles of rancid butter (butyric acid) aboard the whaling vessels. Last season there were collisions and numerous other dicey situations.

Japan's annual whaling effort is legal, thanks to a loophole in the wording of an international moratorium. The primary targets are minke whales, which are not endangered. Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research has labeled Watson and his crew terrorists.
This winter's campaign (summer in the Antarctic) is called "Operation Waltzing Matilda" and will be an escalated effort sure to further rile the Japanese but please the show's producers.

Said Marjorie Kaplan, president and general manager of Animal Planet: Its been terrific to see the success of this groundbreaking series, and its growth creatively and with audiences from the first to the second season. I'm proud to be able to announce the third."

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: The Sea Shepherd vessel Steve Irwin collides with the stern of a Japanese harpoon whaling ship in the Antarctic during last season's campaign. Credit: Sea Shepherd

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