Whaling fleet ‘departs’ with record-low haul: Sea Shepherd


Militant environmental group Sea Shepherd said Japan’s whaling fleet has departed the Antarctic Ocean whale sanctuary and appears to be heading home with its smallest catch on record.

Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, on Saturday hailed his group’s “enormously successful” harassment campaign and said this winter’s hunt would likely result in the whalers’ lowest haul in history, with “no more than 75” of the majestic mammals culled.

The meager total contrasts with the 267 caught last year — 266 minke whales and one fin whale — and is dramatically below the Institute of Cetacean Research’s target this year of 935 minke whales and up to 50 fin whales.

“The entire Japanese whaling fleet is now north of 60 degrees and out of the Southern (Antarctic) Ocean Whale Sanctuary,” Watson said. “Is whaling over for the season? We are not positive, but we are 80 percent sure that it may be over.

“This campaign will see the lowest take by Japan’s whaling fleet in the entire history of their Antarctic hunts,” he said.

Watson said a fuel supply tanker, the Korean-owned and Panamanian-flagged Sun Laurel, was about 48 hours from the whaling fleet’s Nisshin Maru mother ship, with a four-day return trip to the Antarctic Ocean sanctuary looking increasingly unlikely. “This would leave about a week to kill whales, and with the weather quickly deteriorating it would hardly be worth the effort,” Watson said.

He added that Sea Shepherd had seen the whalers kill just two minke whales and that they had only two days of unobstructed hunting in the entire season, which began in late December.

“My conservative estimate of the number of whales killed this year is no more than 75. It could be much lower, but certainly not higher,” he said.

Watson described Sea Shepherd’s antiwhaling campaign this winter, during which each side accused the other of vessel ramming attacks, as “enormously successful,” and assured his group will “continue to follow the whaling fleet north to ensure that they do not return to kill whales.”

Despite years of international condemnation and increasingly bold harassment by Sea Shepherd, Japan continues to slaughter whales under a so-called scientific research loophole in the global moratorium on whaling. The Japanese government makes no secret of the fact that the meat ends up on dinner tables.

Last month, Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi vowed that the nation would never stop its whaling operations, describing criticism by environmentalists and nations including Australia as “a kind of prejudice against Japanese culture.”

Australia has taken Japan to the International Court of Justice in The Hague in an attempt to end to its annual cull of hundreds of whales, purportedly in the name of science.

But Sea Shepherd has also been hauled before the courts, with a U.S. judge in December banning the hardline group from physically confronting any whaling vessel of the Japanese fleet. The judge also ruled that the group’s ships and activists must remain at least 500 yards (457 meters) from the whalers and avoid “navigating in a manner that is likely to endanger the safe navigation of any such vessel.”

And an appeals court last week labelled Sea Shepherd “pirates” and described their antiwhaling campaigns as “violent acts for private ends,” clearing the way for Japan to pursue an injunction against the group’s obstruction in the Antarctic Ocean.

  • ifstone

    Restarting commercial whaling would be a disaster on so many levels. Whales are not plunder to fatten our wallets. It is sad and criminal that tax money is used to prop up this endeavor. For one, help could start with the ongoing victims of Fukushima daiichi.

  • The minister said it all, they’ll never stop whaling. Does this sound like the language of a scientist? No matter how you look at it his is a commercial operation and therefore illegal. They call us pirates, for defending a species that can’t defend itself. What. Makes a human so much more important? If you cite intelligence, then I’d like to point out that humans have brought this planet to the brink of destruction more than once. Our great thinkers have come up with cures for disease, probably for disease we’ve created or by nature have caused to be created. W know so little about whales, we do know however that they have strong family ties,do have intelligence.

  • Keep up the fantastic work, Sea Shepherd, against the predators, and the corrupt countries sanctioning such savage activities.

  • Keep up the great work, Sea Shepherd.

  • RP

    From the very beginning of the International agreement to ban whaling when Japan signed on to this agreement along with numerous other nations Japan never intended to stop whaling for commercial profit.

    Japan’s ICR claims they are performing scientific research yet, there has been nothing significant in terms of creditable papers or studies published by the ICR. This has always been about commercial whaling driven by a corrupt band of individuals in the Japanese government. Sadly, this is the same reason why there so many serious problems withing the Japanese government.

    The world now knows Japan has lied and not been truthful with their intent and violating their own commitments to International laws which they signed on to and agreed to uphold. Being seen by the eyes of the world as a nation of law bending and dis-respectful of International laws cannot not be good for Japan.

    If Japan’s intent was to preserve the historic cultural aspect of Japanese whaling, why did the Japanese whaling fleet adopt Norwegian whaling hunting and killing methods which are completely alien to Japan and it’s culture and history? The methods and weapons used to hunt and kill whales are cruel, barbaric and totally removed from traditional ways of Historic and culturally correct Japanese whaling.

    The most likely reason why Japan adopted Norwegian whale hunting and killing methods is greed and their need for profit. Yet, the reality of selling whale meat in Japan is very much a dying and shrinking market.

    The definition of insanity is when an action that has proven to result in failure is repeated and repeated over and over again. Given that Japan has no real market for whale meat, the cost of whaling continues to grow and could not be sustained without enormous subsidies by Japanese tax payers, using whale killing methods that are alien to Japan’s history and culture are just a few facts that support the reality that Japanese whaling is an act of insanity.

    • WithMalice

      Kudos! Great post.

  • If someone doesn’t like whaling (I don’t) one can petition Japan’s government and petition the International Whaling Commission. However, what Japan is doing now is completely legal, and the Sea Shepherds are acting in complete disregard for the rules of conduct on the high seas. In a perfect world the United States Coast Guard would have shown up and stopped and boarded all of their vessels this year for violating the 500 yard limit. Also the claim that Australia controls all Antarctic waters is insane.

    It is my hope Japan decides to end taking live whales, but it is also my hope that the Sea Shepherds get busted before someone gets killed or seriously hurt due to their ignorance of proper ship handling.

    Australia is the place the Sea Shepherds base their ships out of and where they get fuel. One call from the Australian government could get the Sea Shepherds to back off to the 500 yard limit. That the Australian government has not made that call is the direct responsibility of the Australian government.

    • Aik

      I know our government enjoys political suicide and attempts it on a regular basis, but I think it’s going a bit far to expect them to jump off that particular cliff. You’re not going to find any support in Australia for stopping the Sea Shepherd.

    • WithMalice

      Excuse me? Who are you to dictate what the Australian government should be doing?!

      Japan are conducting government-sponsored commercial whaling, under the guise of *cough-cough* “scientific research”. This is a facade that fools no-one, and is merely exploiting a loop hole in whaling laws.

      Yet you choose to condemn those trying to prevent the slaughter…

      • I don’t know, who would you or Australia be to dictate what Japan is doing? I mean, under your logic, as the Japanese are acting in accordance with IWC law, and the Sea Shepherds are the ones breaking laws and statutes of safe navigation, Japan has a pretty good case not to be bothered at sea.

        As Japan is the party obeying the IWC’s policy, under your terms they would be as much in the right as anyone not to be “told what to do” by others.

        I don’t like the killing of these whales, and I gave suggestions on how to protest it, but Sea Shepherd crosses the line in their methods, and risks lives and the health of sailors – their own as well as Japanese ones – on the high seas.

        On the subject of Australia’s providing support to the Sea Shepherds organization, I cannot force Australia to do something, even though one phone call from the Australian Prime Minister could easily tell the Sea Shepherds to back off and stick to filming and protesting, without the use of violence or obstructing tactics at sea, reducing the risk of injury to themselves and others.

        However, if Australia does not do something, the United States has every right to send the US Coast Guard to enforce safe standards of navigation. The Japanese would also have the right to send theirs under international law to do the same thing. I believe either one of those outcomes would not be as easy on the Sea Shepherds as a simple phone call from the Australian Authorities telling them to back off to 500 yards and stick to taking pictures without hurting people. Because if this keeps up, the odds are someone will end up getting hurt, and while no one can force Australia to act to prevent this, and Australia’s Government has a right to set their State policy, any injuries that result will in part be the responsibility of the Government that pursued that policy.

      • WithMalice

        You are incorrect. The US Coast guard has absolutely no jurisdiction in the antarctic.

    • William

      Well David that is not the case! The new Fisheries Minister, Yoshimasa Hayashi, has admitted and I paraphrase, “… it is a valid source of protein for an island nation …”. He justified it on a cultural and culinary basis. Therefore it is illegal commercial whaling – end of story.

      • ddpalmer

        Did he say they weren’t doing reserach? No? Then your claim is baseless – end of story.

      • WithMalice

        You’re going to assert that they are actually doing “research”?

    • Free_Pacific

      David Powell Wrote “In a perfect world the United States Coast Guard would have shown up and
      stopped and boarded all of their vessels this year for violating the
      500 yard limit”

      Since when did US domestic law have any validity in either Australian/New Zealand or International waters? Sea Shepherd is breaking no laws at all. (And what is a yard? 0.o, maybe Sea Shephard doesn’t have measuring tools from the 1900’s anyway).

      • ddpalmer

        US domestic laws have validity when the vessels are owned by a US chartered organization. Sea Shepherd is breaking international laws. And a yard is 0.9144 meters. Sea Shepherd is based in the US so if they don’t have the proper measuring tools that is their problem.

      • Safe standards of navigations are universal. International Maritime Law goes back a couple of hundred years. That’s the reason Navies from all over the world were able to send ships to the coast off Somalia to protect ships from pirates there.

      • Australia does not own Antarctica’s waters. It claims them but the US and Japan do not recognize that claim. The US case was processed under international maritime law, not US domestic ones. As a result the activities are taking place in international waters, and the international standards of safe conduct and navigation apply. Quite frankly the Aussies could have made a similar ruling, as the evidence of unsafe conduct (Including from the Sea Shepherds’ own cameras) is so overwhelming. Also, unlike the US, Australia has huge influence because Sea Shepherd uses their waters and ports as a staging area and shelter. One call from Australian authorities could make Sea Shepherds stop playing bumper boats with steel hulled vessels in Antarctic waters and stick to taking pictures and protesting.

    • It is ironic how the commentators attacking the post from David Powell are so indignant at the idea of asking the Australian government to do reign in the activists aboard the Sea Shepard, yet find nothing wrong with Australians blasting the Japanese for hunting and eating animals as it has done for ages. I reject the argument that is it fine for Australia to pressure Japan, but not okay for any other country to do the same to Australia.

  • Brian

    If Japan wishes to kill whales, let them do it in their own territorial waters. I cannot understand why they have to go literally to the ends of the earth to do so, and then complain when they are “attacked” by “pirates”.

    • They have to go to arctic waters because that’s where the whales are. There are not significant numbers of whales in Japanese waters.

  • enola gay

    Sweet – and dont come back. Illegal poaching this day and age is an international embarassment for Japan.

    • ddpalmer

      Good thing it isn’t illegal or poaching.

    • that’s a pretty offensive name you are using to post your silly comments.

  • Far East

    I wish they could just stop whaling, but this news is just too funny. Sea Shepherd, this de facto outlaw organization releasing his own numbers and self congratulating? That’s pathetic. They could be proud if they had been effective in terminating permanently whaling by lobbying the public and such. But here, breaking the law is nothing to gloss about.

    • WithMalice

      You’re cherry-picking as to your “laws” being broken. How about the Japanese whalers hunting where they have no right to do so?

      • ddpalmer

        But they do have a right to do so.

      • WithMalice

        Err… say what?
        Whaling in a whale sanctuary, falsely claiming to be “scientific research”… and when that’s pointed out to be a sham, claim it’s “cultural heritage” – to hunt whales in a non-traditional method in non-traditional waters.
        They have a “right”?


  • Ben

    i don’t know if sea shepherd can take any of the credit. the whalers still haven’t been able to sell their catch from previous years so what’s the point? i mean besides providing them with an excuse to keep demanding the government fund their jobs.

  • José Truda Palazzo Jr.

    So great to see someone confronting Japan’s state terrorism against our shared marine heritage! Japanese politicians better take notice, the world is fed up with your crimes against ocean governance.

  • This is meant to be filed under the “Let he who is without sin” category. The global significance of whaling is quite small compared to that of the beef industry, the problems with which include: the incredible amounts of water and grain required to produce one kg of beef; the methane gasses that impact the environment; the runoff that pollutes water systems; the health implications and associated costs from a diet too heavy in red meat, particularly red meat awash in hormones. This is to say nothing of the moral questions of killing so many animals every day. Where is the outrage against the beef industry? Will the activists of the Sea Shepard jump into the fields, into the abattoirs to defend the cows? Why not? We are all guilty of things that others, or even other countries or cultures, find offensive or morally questionable. I am tired of the hypocrisy and the neo-colonialist self-righteousness that stinks up the entire campaign against the Japanese whalers. There is no “white-man burden” for Australia to pick up. But those cows could sure use a break. Aussie-Aussi-Aussie, Moo-Moo-Moo!

    • WithMalice

      Praying this is completely tongue-in-cheek…