Animal Planet has announced Whale Wars' third season will premiere on Friday, June 4 at 9PM ET/PT.

Whale Wars' new season will follow Sea Shepherd Conservation Society founder Paul Watson and its Steve Irwin and Ady Gil ships in their attempts to find and stop Japanese ships from hunting whales and other serious ocean conservation issues.

"The issues surrounding whaling in the Southern Ocean are important and complex, and Whale Wars returns once again to capture them in all their intensity," said Animal Planet president Marjorie Kaplan.

"The majesty of these beautiful creatures and the lengths to which the Sea Shepherds will go in order to prevent whaling has made Whale Wars entertaining yet vital television.  The series has become a trademark for the new Animal Planet, and audiences now expect to kick off summer television viewing with its return."

Whale Wars' third season began filming in November and documents "Operation Waltzing Matilda," which began with the Steve Irwin leaving Fremantle, Australia and the Ady Gil departing from Hobart, Tazmania.

In addition, the Sea Shepherd also secretly launched the Bob Barker -- which is named for the former The Price is Right host, who donated $5 million to buy and refit the 1,200-ton former Norwegian whaler.

The Bob Barker, which was docked off the coast of Africa on the island nation of the Republic of Mauritius, features a crew of 26 and is led by Captain Chuck Swift and first officer Peter Hammarstedt.

Whale Wars third season will also include a January incident in which the Ady Gil collided with Japanese whaling ship Shonan Maru near Antarctica's Commonwealth Bay -- knocking approximately 10 feet of the 78-foot trimaran-hulled powerboat's bow.

All six crew members aboard it were safely rescued, however the Ady Gil was subsequently abandoned and sank.

While Ady Gil Captain Pete Bethune attempted to make a citizen's arrest for the incident, he was instead taken into custody and brought to Tokyo -- where he has reportedly been held on charges of trespass, obstructing the passage of a vessel, carrying a knife and damaging property.

Bethune currently remains in Japan awaiting his trial and could spend up to 15 years in jail.

"Ships are expendable, endangered and protected whales are not," said Watson.
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"We lost a ship, and we have one crew member taken prisoner, and no injuries were caused nor sustained. I think we did bloody well this year, and 528 whales were saved. We won't stop until whaling ends."

Sea Shepherd crew returning for the third season include aviation director Chris Aultman, deckhand Benjamin Potts, chief cook Amber Paarman, bosun Dan Bebawi, communications officer Luke Van Horn, leading deckhand Arne Feuerhahn, and Ady Gil crew member Laurens de Groot.

Crew members joining the show for its third season include first officer Lockheart MacLean, second mate Bonny Schumaker, and deckhands Chad Halstead, Andrea Gordon, Fiona McCuaig and Dave Thompson.

Animal Planet renewed Whale Wars for a third season last August after its second season was the second-best performing series in the network's history, averaging 1.08 million total viewers per episode.