The injunction, which was later upheld in a colorfully worded decision, also explicitly named “any party acting in concert with them.” But Animal Planet was not concerned.
“That particular language is not the reason why we didn't go forward," Kaplan said. "We have been very careful about that from the very beginning.” Animal Planet's senior vice president of legal and business affairs, Julie Wolf, said they “[have] not been acting in concert with Sea Shepherd” in the past, only paying Sea Shepherd “for the access: for the space on the vessel, for the food for the production crew, that sort of thing.” There was “absolutely no payment for support of their cause,” and “we would not direct in any way what the Sea Shepherds would do. … They were not to direct, control, re-crete, re-shoot anything. It was very, very journalistic, very, very true documentarian's terms.”
Despite that editorial separation, the network, series, and organization have been conflated in the past, and it's unquestionable that the series has benefitted Sea Shepherd. While attempting to stop whaling in the Faroe Islands, Paul Watson told me, “the most powerful weapon in the world is the camera.”
The show was important to Animal Planet, too, which complicated the network’s decision-making last summer and fall. “It's hard when you have a show that you believe in, that you know is important from a brand standpoint, from a ratings standpoint,” Kaplan said. “Every year, that show goes on the air, every year it costs more money to do, as does everything in television. And every year, at the end of the season, you look at it and say, 'Are we going to do it again?' … You add in, 'Oh my god, Paul's in jail. Oh my god, Paul's under house arrest. Oh my god, Paul's now a fugitive.' It's a challenge.”
As Watson's legal problems mounted, Animal Planet decided, months before the injunction, to change its production plans for this season and not hire production crews to go on board the vessels for the three-month campaign. “It was clear the legal situation was escalating well before that injunction,” Kaplan said, calling it “an accumulation of stuff” and “a freakin' mess.”
The solution came in the form of 2012's Operation Bluefin, a one-hour Whale Wars special produced by licensing footage shot by Sea Shepherd and having an independent production company edit it. That severed the connection between Sea Shepherd and Animal Planet while the activists were trying to stop whaling. As part of the licensing agreement, Sea Shepherd was under no obligation to film anything, and Animal Planet could use whatever footage was delivered in any way they wanted.
But buying footage from the organization presented its own challenges.
Animal Planet head of production and series executive producer Jason Carey said, “We've spent five years crystallizing processes of how to make this show,” but with this season, “half of our production process that we spent five years setting up vanished,” because they had no control over how it was filmed. Instead, “drives with all the footage [were] dropped on the doorstep.”