The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society set out with an ambitious campaign this year aiming to send whalers home empty handed and so far they’ve been successful.
January is considered peak whaling month for Japanese whalers, but this year it came and went for the first time without a single whale being slaughtered.
Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) has continued to hunt whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, where commercial whaling is banned, under the guise of scientific research, which many believe is nothing more than a pathetically transparent cover for commercial fishing for whale meat, which is sold in Japanese markets. This year, the Japanese fleet set out to kill 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales before returning home this spring.
This year’s campaign, Operation Zero Tolerance, is Sea Shepherd’s ninth campaign to save whales in the Southern Ocean and the group is out there with four ships, one helicopter, three drones and a crew of 120 volunteers from around the world.
The Brigitte Bardot located the harpoon ship Yushin Maru No. 3 before the harpoon was uncovered and fired and they are now tailing the fleet, while its sister ship Bob Barker is pursuing the Nisshin Maru factory vessel, reports the AFP.
In December, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a ruling that prevents Captain Paul Watson and his group from coming within 500 yards of Japanese whaling vessels, overturning a prior ruling in the organization’s favor. The injunction was sought by the ICR and the Japanese firm Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha Ltd.
Now that Captain Paul Watson has stepped down from his leadership roles within the organization in order to comply with the court order, this years campaign is being led by Sea Shepherd Australia under Jeff Hansen and former Australian senator Bob Brown.
“The first 24 hours of contact with the whale poachers have been a victory for Sea Shepherd and a complete loss for the Japanese whaling fleet,” said Brown.
A lawyer for the whalers has threatened the organization with a contempt of court action, claiming the Brigitte Bardot violated the court order, but the groups lawyer is arguing that since Sea Shepherd Australia is running this years campaign it’s not subject to the restraining order.
Australia has also demanded that Japanese whalers leave the Southern Ocean after one of its ships, the Shonan Maru No 2, entered the country’s exclusive economic zone near Macquarie Island in pursuit of Sea Shepherd’s ship Bob Barker.
“Australia has made it clear to Japan on a number of occasions that vessels associated with its whaling programme are not welcome,” said Australian environment minister Tony Burke in a statement. “Our embassy in Tokyo has conveyed these sentiments directly to the Japanese government.”
Sea Shepherd’s intent to save whales and sink these whalers financially have been very successful, as noted by a New York Times article last October that highlighted the fact that the ICR admitted to suffering a loss of $20.5 million as a result of Sea Shepherd’s actions during its 2010-2011 whaling season. Whalers are making up the loss by taking government subsidies and stealing millions from the tsunami relief fund to continue.
This week the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) released a report on the true cost of whaling that found annual government subsidies for whalers average around $9.78 million, while the cost in 2011 alone rang in at an estimated $28 million. Numbers from 2008 also show that whale watching in Japan actually generated $22 million.
The report also debunks claims that whaling is a cultural and historical necessity with studies conducted by the Japan-based E-Square and Nippon Research Centre, which show whale meat consumption has fallen to about 1 percent of its peak, which was in the 1960s when it was considered a vital source of protein. Stockpiles of thousands of pounds of unsold whale meat are now sitting in warehouses and estimated to be four times more than they were 15 years ago.
“Here it is, for the first time, in black and white. IFAW’s report proves conclusively that Japan’s cruel whaling industry is dying in the water while Japanese taxpayers are being forced to foot the bill. This cruel, outmoded industry is in the red. Whaling is an economic loser,” said Patrick Ramage, Director of IFAW’s Global Whale Program.
“Now is the time for concerned citizens, NGOs and governments around the world to stop bludgeoning the good people of Japan and start helping them migrate from whaling to whale watching – a profitable solution that benefits whales, people and coastal communities in Japan and around the world.”
Meanwhile, Sea Shepherd is intent on keeping Japanese vessels divided and on the run and each of the groups ships has enough fuel to stay out there until March when whaling season ends.
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