Whale Wars Sea Crew: Normal Life Is a 'Shock'

08/12/2011 at 03:00 PM EDT

Whale Wars Reunion, Lisa Ling Hosts
A scene from Whale Wars; Inset: Fiona Cuaig
Gary Stokes/Discovery
After fighting a tense campaign against whaling ships in the Antarctic, the members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society – the folks behind Animal Planet's Whale Wars – can find themselves a bit shaky on dry land.

"You are so close to everyone on the ship for three months, they are really your best friends," says crew member Fiona Cuaig, a deckhand aboard the Bob Barker. "Then when you get onto the land and living a normal life, it is a bit of a shock."

She isn't the only one who needs to decompress. Capt. Paul Watson and his crew got together with host Lisa Ling to share their war stories for the aptly titled reunion special, Whale Wars: War Stories, which airs tonight after the Whale Wars finale.

"I have so much admiration for these people, the Sea Shepherds, who risk their lives to save a magnificent species," Ling tells PEOPLE.

Engaging whaling vessels in international waters is dangerous and deadly serious, and the Sea Shepherds were credited with curtailing Japan's annual Antarctic whale hunt in February.

"The main thing was going down there and finding the last whaling manufacturing ship in the world, this huge mother ship," Cuaig says, "and making sure that the harpoon ships didn't load any more fresh whales onto the factory ship. "

In fact, Japan's ministry of agriculture recalled the nation's whale fleet in the wake of the Sea Shepherds' action. A ministry spokesman told the New York Times that 172 whales had been caught before the recall, far short of the annual target amount of 900 whales.

"It was a great feeling to chase it out of [the Antarctic Ocean] this time," says Cuaig.

Whale Wars: War Stories airs on Animal Planet at 10 p.m. EST following the fourth season finale of Whale Wars.

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