Candice Chandler, Global Animal 

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has been very busy protecting the ocean’s whales from Japanese harpoon vessels. After a tense encounter between Sea Shepherd’s ship the Bob Barker and a fleet of harpoon vessels, ending the whaling season as soon as possible became most important for the organization. After three months of persistence during Operation Divine Wind, 768 whales were saved over a 17,000 mile chase.

“The kill figures will not be released by Japan until April, but in my opinion they will not get over 50% for certain and my prediction is it will not be above 30%. Not as good as last season, but much better than all the previous years,”  said Captain Paul Watson. “It has been a successful campaign. There are hundreds of whales swimming free in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary that would now be dead if we had not been down there for the last three months. That makes us very happy indeed.”

The total quota for the Japanese whaling fleet was set high, totaling at 1,035. The amount of whales taken, however, only reached 267. Whalers hunting fin, humpback, and minke whales only completed 26% of their full quota. The fleet needed to make 80% of their quota to break even, so Sea Shepherd successfully thwarted business plans. 

Sea Shepherd puts an end to the whaling season ahead of schedule. Photo Credit: konabish via Flickr

After another one of Sea Shepherd’s vessels, the Brigitte Bardot, received critical damages, their fleet became limited to the Bob Barker and the Steve Irwin. Even when their efforts seemed futile, their tactics and skill led to the end of the whaling season way ahead of the Japan whaling fleet’s schedule. 

After a labor-intensive repair, the Brigitte Bardot will be up and running and ready for the next campaign. “If the Japanese whalers return, Sea Shepherd will return. We are committed to the defense of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary,” Captain Paul Watson said. “No matter how long it takes, no matter how risky or expensive. The word “sanctuary” actually means something to us and that something is worth fighting for.”

Animal Planet and Discovery Channel have announced a spin-off of Sea Shepherd’s popular Whale Wars show. Whale Wars: Viking Shores will be a five-part series on the killing of pilot whales by villages on the Farce Islands, people known as descendants of the Vikings. The Danish villages kill massive numbers of pilot whales every year, and Sea Shepherd doesn’t believe they are being honest about the reason for the killings. 

Captain of the Steve Irwin, Paul Watson with Senator Bob Brown. Photo Credit: Greens MPs via Flickr

With evidence of pilot whales discarded without any meat removed from their bodies, Sea Shepherd suspects that they were not killing the whales for meat, but for sport. Citing animal cruelty, they set out on a covert mission to intercept the hunting of pilot whales in the area.  

With Operation Divine Wind a success, their passion for protecting the largest mammals on the planet has taken a very important step in ocean conversation. They are having an impact, and they have shown that by persisting in what they believe, change can be made.