Captain Paul Watson has issued an 'emergency SOS' to supporters of Sea Shepherd - the fisheries protection NGO - calling on them to 'Save Our Ship' after a Scottish court upheld an application by a Maltese company to detain its flagship Steve Irwin due to a lawsuit.

"I am writing to you from the ship, in Lerwick, Scotland: I need your help to free our flagship vessel, the Steve Irwin," Capt Watson wrote in the appeal.

He said that while Fish and Fish Limited was claiming damages for the bluefin tuna which Sea Shepherd rescued from its nets in June last year, the NGO believed it had the necessary evidence to support its claim that the fish were caught illegally.

"This lawsuit will also give us the opportunity to expose what we allege to be illegal activities by Fish and Fish and we will be aggressively defending the case on this basis. The protection of the endangered bluefin is vitally important to our oceans, and to humanity, because if the oceans die...we die."

He warned that the Steve Irwin would be held indefinitely and possibly sold unless $1,411,692.87 were raised to post a bond.

"This would not only be a financial hardship for Sea Shepherd, but more importantly, it could prevent us from reaching the Faeroe Islands to protect pilot whales and threaten our ability to defend whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary from the Japanese whaling fleet this December."

The Steve Irwin had been about to depart on the anti-whaling campaign when it was detained.

"You've already helped save thousands of whales and untold numbers of other marine creatures, but unless we get our ship back soon, whales will die tragic deaths because of our inability to move this ship and protect them," Capt Watson said.

"Never has the need for your help and support been any greater."

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