This past week, a segment on 60 Minutes covered the issue of anti-whaling and ocean conservation, specifically the growing numbers of humpback whales.

The “return of the humpbacks” as the program calls it, is due to international anti-whaling laws as well as the efforts of conservationists.

A feature of the segment was Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and its founder, Captain Paul Watson. Watson has brought attention to Sea Shepherd as the star of Whale Wars on Animal Planet, in which he and his team track and interfere with illegal whale hunting.

Humpback whales in Monterey act as defenders of the ocean. Photo Credit:
Humpback whales are making a comeback—up to 30 percent of what their original numbers were before whaling. Photo Credit:

Sea Shepherd has had its share of successes when it comes to its whale defense campaigns, including Operation Zero Tolerance, the focus of season six of Whale Wars which will air in December.

During Operation Zero Tolerance, the Sea Shepherd fleet defended the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in Antarctica and saved the lives of over 900 whales over the 2012-2013 whaling season.

CBS interviewed Captain Watson aboard one of Sea Shepherd’s boats in a non-disclosed location on the open sea. He has lived in international waters since Interpol issued a Red Notice (similar to an arrest warrant) for him in August of 2012.

Watson has also had to step down as president of US and Australia Sea Shepherd organizations and is now an observer due to legal trouble prompted by whaling companies. But the legal complications and risk of injury during campaigns does not stop Captain Watson or other members of Sea Shepherd from fighting for rights of whales.

“The simple fact is this, if the oceans die, we die. Sea Shepherd was set up to uphold those international laws and regulations protecting our oceans.” Watson told 60 Minutes.

Captain Paul Watson isn't intimidated by his international arrest warrant. Photo credit: Sea Shepherd
Captain Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd Fleet have saved thousands of whales from slaughter over the past thirty years. Photo credit: Sea Shepherd

While humpback whales are increasing in number and coming off of endangered species lists around the world, Japanese whalers continue to hunt them and other types of whales in Antarctic waters.

This is where Sea Shepherd comes in, using direct action to stop illegal poaching. Japanese whalers use the guise of scientific research vessels, the only legal way they are allowed to kill whales. In response to this, Watson said,

“There is no scientific basis for what they’re doing. We have seen them take a whale onto the factory vessel. There’s no scientist there. There’s nobody measuring anything. They simply cut them up, send them down below, and package them. This is not science. This is bogus.” 

Sea Shepherd’s next campaign over 2013-2014, entitled Operation Relentless will be Sea Shepherd’s 10th Antarctic anti-whaling campaign.

— Elana Pisani, exclusive to Global Animal

Related Stories:

Sea Shepherd Cracks Down On Cruel Sport

Sea Shepherd’s ‘Relentless’ Campaign

Paul Watson Steps Down From Sea Shepherd

Sea Shepherd Intercepts Poachers, Not A Single Whale Killed

Operation Zero Tolerance Takes Sail

Sea Shepherd Calls Off Operation Zero Tolerance




  1. “If the oceans die, we die”

    Therefore, let’s devote everyone’s time, money and effort to protecting non-endangered species from a sustainable harvest while ignoring species and habitats that are genuinely endangered…?

    I don’t get it.