Sea Shepherd’s Captain Paul Watson Defends Decision to End Southern Ocean Anti-Whaling Campaign

Sea Shepherd vessel Bob Barker (R) collides with the fuel tanker ship Sun Laurel as Japanese mother survey ship Nissin Maru (R) tries to pull alongside in the Antarctica in this handout photo taken and released by the Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) February 25, 2013. Mandatory Credit REUTERS/The Institute of Cetacean Research/Handout

Captain Paul Watson from the controversial marine conservation group Sea Shepherd says that a lack of resources and technology compared to the Japanese whalers has made it impossible for the group to effectively combat the killing of whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

As the Japanese whaling fleet embarks on its annual whale hunt in the Southern Ocean, for the first time in 12 years Sea Shepherd will not be sending ships to the whale sanctuary. The group initially announced the decision to end the yearly campaign in August. 

“The reason that Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is not now pursuing the Japanese whaling fleet is simple. Sea Shepherd cannot match the surveillance and military technology of the Japanese government and their fleet of criminal poachers,” said Captain Paul Watson in a commentary published Wednesday.

During Sea Shepherd 2016-2017 anti-whaling campaign, Sea Shepherd ships were able to locate the Japanese whaling fleet but were unable to close in on them due to military real-time satellite technology employed by the Japanese fleet.

“We have no way to compete with that. This is government military level technology completely unavailable to us,” said Watson.

During last season, the Japanese fleet was able to hit its quota of 333 minke whales despite Sea Shepherd’s efforts. 

Japan has also instituted “new anti-terrorism laws specifically to stop Sea Shepherd and these laws would have allowed the use of lethal force and would allow severe punishments to our crews,” according to Watson.

“In other words, the world changed and not in favour of the whales or us,” he said.

“To continue would be foolish. We would spend a few million dollars and many months only to have another failure to engage, and if we did by some miracle encounter the fleet, we would be subject to lethal force without support from our own cowardly governments,” said Watson.

“In short, Sea Shepherd went as far as we could possibly go with the resources we had within a very hostile environment against an extremely powerful and ruthless government.”

Moving forward, Watson and Sea Shepherd intend to work with motivated governments to challenge Japan in the Southern Ocean, most notably New Zealand.

“The newly elected government of New Zealand seems inclined to act and we need to encourage them to act,” said Watson.

While Sea Shepherd has for now called off its annual anti-whaling campaign, it is still involved in several other marine conservation campaigns around the world.

You can read Captain Watson’s full commentary here.