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SYDNEY — Paul Watson, a leading member of the antiwhaling group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, believes his group’s strategy was the major reason behind Japanese whalers’ decision to suspend the hunt in the Antarctic Ocean.

Watson said Wednesday all whaling activity by the Japanese halted on Feb. 9, with the whaling vessel the Nisshin Maru now “2,000 miles (about 3,200 km) east of the whaling area” and entering Chilean waters in the Atlantic Ocean near South America, an unusual course for the whaling vessel.

“I think that, effectively, we shut down their operations for the season. They know they are not going to kill any more whales . . . they are probably making the decision to cut and run,” Watson said from Sea Shepherd’s flagship vessel the Steve Irwin, which is still tailing the Nisshin Maru.

He believes the group’s “No Compromise” campaign consisting of three antiwhaling vessels, including the Gojira, an interceptor, and the Bob Barker, a former Norwegian harpoon vessel, was a major contributing factor to the Japanese decision. “We found them before they started killing whales, we’ve been on their tail ever since,” he said.

“We have chased them, chased them, disrupted them, (so) they haven’t had a chance to kill many whales,” Watson said. “I don’t think they’ve killed more than 30.”

The original quota for the Antarctic season was 1,035 whales, including minke and fin whales.

The main Sea Shepherd strategy was to stop the whalers by preventing the Nisshin Maru from loading whales by blocking the vessels stern and keeping it on the run from the group.

“Our strategy has always been aggressive, nonviolent. We never hurt anybody, but we were certainly aggressive,” Watson said.

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