Japan's whaling fleet has left it's home country and is once again heading to the Southern Ocean to hunt whales for what the country deems as scientific research. Back in 2014 the International Court ruled that Japan's whaling program was not scientific, but commercial whaling which there is currently a moratorium on. So Japan was forced to scrap it's program and the whaling fleet stayed in port for the 2014-2015 season. The following season however, Japan defied the International Court and returned to the Southern Ocean and hunted down roughly 300 minke whales. This number was significantly lower than past hunts which also saw humpback and endangered fin whales hunted as well. The Japanese whaling fleet's quota for this season is 333 minke whales, which is the same as it was a year ago.
While the whaling fleet steams south, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society continues to prepare itself to once again head south and oppose the whaling fleet. Last year, Sea Shepherd sent one ship down to the Southern Ocean to oppose illegal activities such as toothfish poaching and whaling. They never set eyes on the whaling fleet, but the group did cause all kinds of problems for illegal fishermen in the area. One of the main reasons that Sea Shepherd did not see the whaling fleet last year was that the whaling fleet had a significant speed advantage. Anytime the whaling fleet would have even sniffed Sea Shepherd in the area, they'd be gone. This year though could prove to be a different story as Sea Shepherd has claimed it will once again be going to the Southern Ocean to oppose Japan's whaling program directly. The group is hoping to catch the whaling fleet with their brand new ship "Ocean Warrior".
Photo: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
This ship could once again turn the tide in the battle of the Southern Ocean as it is faster than any ship in the whaling fleet. It also has a helipad so in addition to whatever radar systems the ship has, it will have the added benefit of a helicopter in the sky as well. Perhaps to combat this new ship, or just to increase their area, the Japanese whaling fleet has doubled the area in which it's ships will be hunting. Currently the Japanese whaling fleet is heading south and will remain there until sometime in March, 2017. The "Ocean Warrior" is currently docked in Australia awaiting it's time to head south and try to intercept the whaling fleet. It is interesting to note that Sea Shepherd founder, Paul Watson and the rest of Sea Shepherd USA remain unable to assist Sea Shepherd Australia due to a court ruling against them by the United States Government. Only time will tell if the Whale Wars that climaxed a few years ago in a heated season that saw several collisions including one with a refueling ship.
As I have done in the past I will try to keep everyone updated here on what is going on in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. However, for any breaking news I advise following Sea Shepherd Australia on Facebook and Twitter if they have one and keep watch at www.seashepherd.org . Stay tuned as I will have more blogs coming in the near future. One of my next blogs will probably be an update on the Cove in Taiji, Japan as that slaughter is well underway.