Last week, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s flagship Steve Irwin sailed out of Williamstown, Australia to kick off Operation Zero Tolerance, its ninth campaign to defend whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
“This is our strongest fleet to date, with four ships and more than 100 international crew representing 23 nations to defend the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Operation Zero Tolerance will be Sea Shepherd’s best-equipped and most effective campaign to date. This is a defining moment in Sea Shepherd’s history; we have no tolerance for whale poachers. Our objective this year is 100%. We are going to try and intercept them as quickly as possible, and try to make this the first year they get zero kills,” said Jeff Hansen, Sea Shepherd’s Australian Director.
Opposition to whaling has been growing since the International Whaling Commission was established, which led to a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986, and later the creation of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Now, only three of the 88 nations involved, Japan, Norway and Iceland, continue to hunt whales.
Japan has long been using and abusing a loophole in the moratorium that allows for lethal scientific research and has continued to kill whales in the sanctuary where they’re protected by international law.
The Institute for Cetacean Research, the government organization that operates the Japanese whaling fleet, issues an annual quota of approximately 1,000 whales — 935 piked (Minke) whales, 50 fin whales, and 50 humpbacks — under its Japanese Whale Research Program under Special Permit in the Antarctic (JARPAII) plan, but as Sea Shepherd points out, giving a quota still doesn’t make whaling in an established sanctuary legal. Slaughtering whales in the sanctuary also violates the Antarctic Treaty, which prohibits commercial whaling in the Antarctic.
Last season alone, Sea Shepherd saved 768 whales from being cruelly killed, sending whalers home with a fraction of their quota.
“The key to success in stopping these illegal whaling activities in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is basic economics. We will negate their profits. Our objective is to sink the Japanese whaling fleet economically ― to bankrupt them,” said Captain Paul Watson. “And we are well on our way to doing just that.”
An article in the New York Times confirmed that they are indeed successful in cutting into whalers’ profits. The Institute for Cetacean Research admitted that Sea Shepherd cost them $20.5 million during the 2010-2011 whaling season.
“The Japanese fleet is surviving at the expense of the Japanese people because of massive allocations of relief funds donated from around the world to aid the victims of the earthquake and tsunami disaster of 2011. We need to shut down this glorified welfare project and to do that we need to once again deny the whalers any ill-gotten gains from their illegal operations in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary,” said Bob Barker Captain Peter Hammarstedt.
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