The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has located the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean, kicking off what is sure to be another season of clashes in the remote antarctic waters.
In a statement Monday, the anti-whaling group said that the Sea Shepherd Australia fleet has located all five vessels of Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research whaling fleet including the factory ship, Nisshin Maru, at 64°44′ S, 162°34′ W, an area that is inside the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
“The Steve Irwin, The Bob Barker and The Sam Simon are now in pursuit of the whaling fleet, driving them away from their intended poaching grounds, disrupting their illegal hunt, and preparing to shut down their whale-killing operations,” the Sea Shepherd statement said.
The statement also contained graphic aerial images and video showing at least three Minke Whales on the deck of the Nisshin Maru allegedly captured inside the sanctuary, which Sea Shepherd is using to spark criticism of the Australian government’s broken pre-election promise to send a customs ship to monitor Japanese whaling in the area.
“The Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary has been tainted by the illegal slaughter of these beautiful and majestic Minke Whales by the ruthless, violent and barbaric actions of the Japanese whale poachers,” said Sea Shepherd Australia Managing Director, Jeff Hansen. “One thing is for sure, Sea Shepherd will do what ever it takes to ensure no more whales have to endure pain and suffering at the hands of these whale butchers from Japan.”
Sea Shepherd Australia departed Hobart in December -sans
Captain Paul Watson- on their tenth Southern Ocean anti-whaling campaign, this year titled “Operation Relentless”, with the goal of directly intervening against the operations of the Japanese whaling fleet.
While the brutality of the Japanese fleet is almost impossible to deny, the legality of their actions is still heavily disputed in court systems from the United States to Australia and New Zealand, with Sea Shepherd arguing that Japan is skirting a 1986 law prohibiting commercial whaling in the sanctuary on the grounds of ‘scientific research’.
Last year, the Sea Shepherd fleet was involved in numerous particularly aggressive confrontations -including collisions and hurling acid- with the Japanese whaling fleet and the refueling tanker, Sun Laurel.
The group’s dangerous tactics have sparked harsh criticism from many in the maritime community and even led a U.S. judge to rule that some of their actions amount to acts of piracy.