Aerial shot released by Sea Shepherd of the Nisshin Maru factory ship operating in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Image courtesy Sea Shepherd Australia

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.”

RELATED: Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd Are Pirates, U.S. Court Says

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.

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  • timbo anti-castro

    So I guess I should be able to bump into the boat next to me the next time I go fishing and take his fish from his cooler?

  • Kristof

    Go Shepherds! What is illegal is illegal and someone has to stand up for that!!

  • syvius

    No, the correction is you calling the authority in your area when someone is illegally fishing in YOUR waters. The thugs have to do it since the governments of australia and new zealand have stuck their heads in the sand.

  • timbo anti-castro

    syvius What the japs are doing is abhorrent.  My point is that the paul watsons of the world are acting like pirates.  It is not illegal for the japs to kill whales.  It is gross, but now illegal. 
    The problem with most of the world is that people do not understand the great importance of rule of law.  Whether you agree with law or not, if the set rules are not followed, then you have a slow descent into anarchy and corruption.  Look at Barack Obama.  he does not abide by the very laws that he sets or the constitution.  The result is already evident in the chaos that is unfolding in the united states.  No rule of law law leads to banana republics and in the case of the sea sheppards, some of these guys are going to start dying as a result of their dangerous actions and no legal system is going to come to their rescue because they are the law breakers. 
    The simplest answer to protecting fisheries is to privatize the oceans and let the people that owns those hectares of ocean decide how much they want to spend to police them. 
    I know that sounds crazy to you but having private property rights is the only way to adequately protect vast areas of un patrollable water.

  • Paul Sucia

    timbo anti-castrosyviusGood idea, let the rich buy up the oceans and charge us tolls to use them.  There is a name for that economic system which is quite old; it is called feudalism.

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