"The whale war in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is over. The whales have won!" announced Captain Paul Watson from the Sea Shepherd vessel Steve Irwin on Saturday.
The Nisshin Maru whaling factory ship late last week made a pivotal course change north, as the Japanese Fisheries Agency announced that the whaling fleet had been recalled for this season.
“The Nisshin Maru made a significant course change immediately after the Japanese government made it official that the whaling fleet has been recalled,” said Captain Alex Cornelissen from Sea Shepherd's Bob Barker. “She looks like she’s going home!” The Bob Barker has been tailing the Nisshin Maru since February 9, making it impossible for the whalers to engage in their illegal slaughter in the southern ocean whale sanctuary.
The Japanese whaling fleet, engaged in commercial whaling inder the guise of scientific research, has had an extremely poor season being constantly harrassed and prevented from whaling in all but a few days.
The whaling fleet left Japan in early December, much later than usual. Perhaps a portent for the last commercial whaling season in the southern ocean. For the first time in seven years Sea Shepherd were been able to locate 2 harpoon vessels in the whaling fleet on New Year's Eve before whaling had begun.
The chase of the Nisshin Maru had begun. While the Nisshin Maru fled from the three Sea Shepherd vessels, no whaling could occurr. Sea Shepherd used it's fast intercept vessel, the Gojira, it's helicopter, and weather balloons to help locate the whaling factory ship.
Along the way, Sea Shepherd found the whaling fleet resupply vessel, the Sun Laurel and requested it's removal from the Antarctic Treaty Zone. The Captain complied and Sea Shepherd escorted the Sun Laurel out of the Antarctic Treaty Zone. The whaling fleet has breached the Antarctic Treaty on numerous occasions by refueling in the Antarctic treaty zone.
"Today we celebrate with you a victory for the oceans! Sea Shepherd has turned the tide and provoked a debate in Japan about whaling." said Paul Watson on a blog post.
Greenpeace also celebrated the recall of the whaling fleet, “This historic announcement confirms what we all know: that Japan’s whaling serves no purpose whatsoever and the fleet has no business in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary,” said Junichi Sato, Executive Director of Greenpeace Japan. “All the whaling programme has produced is a stockpile of thousands of tonnes of frozen whale meat, the waste of billions of Japanese taxpayer’s yen, and a culture of corruption and scandal. An early return of the whaling fleet is not enough – Japan’s whaling ships should never leave port again.”
Greenpeace is demanding that Japan’s government finally end its commercial whaling programme and re-open an investigation into corruption scandals inside the industry. The Fisheries Agency of Japan recently admitted that five of its officials who had sailed with the whaling fleet to oversee its activities, had accepted expensive gifts of whale meat from the fleet’s operators.
“The Japanese public doesn’t want to be force-fed whale meat or be forced to bankroll a corrupt and dying industry,” added Sato. “Greenpeace is urging the Japanese government to not only investigate the whale meat scandal we exposed three years ago, but also start taking real action towards protection of the world’s oceans”.
Tensions between Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd and their different approaches to nonviolent direct action and resourcing the campaign to stop commercial whaling have perhaps hindered the campaign at various times. Not least in the lack of co-operation in locating the whaling fleet in past seasons. Now it seems at last all anti-whaling activists can celebrate the end of commercial whaling in the southern ocean for this season and perhaps a final end.
Paul Watson summed up his earnest hope in a post on Saturday February 19, 2011:
"The Japanese government is posturing and talking big in an effort to save face. The reality is that the Japanese whaling industry is an antiquated, dying industry that has no place in the country of Japan in the 21st Century."
"In 1977, Sea Shepherd fought the Australian whalers at Cheynes Beach in Western Australia. It was a bitter and angry confrontation. In 1978, Australia ended whaling, and is now the leading nation on this planet in its defense of the great whales.
“This is my great hope for Japan,” said Captain Watson. “Like Australia, a whaling nation evolving to a state of compassion for the great whales, and I know that when the Japanese embrace a cause, they embrace it with a steadfast and determined loyalty. I predict that Japan will be one of the leading conservationist nations on the planet in the coming years, and the cessation of whaling in the Antarctic Ocean will be the place where it will have begun.”
"The whale war in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is over. The whales have won!"
Photo copyright Sea Shepherd