Sea Shepherd Temporarily Halts the Fight Against Whalers


What’s happening?

The NGO (Not for Profit Organization) Sea Shepherd will halt the fight on Japan’s whale-killing ‘science’ vessels, as the whaling industry receives government help.


What is the general conflict between Japan and Sea Shepherd?

Japan has allowed their ships to travel to the Antarctic Ocean to catch and kill whales. Sea Shepherd tries to intervene in any way possible to defend the whales, while Japan helps the whalers.


What is Sea Shepherd?

This NGO tries to save the marine environment from habitat destruction, illegal fishing and “slaughter of wildlife”. It has all kinds of programs, ranging from conservation of the Galapagos turtles to the prevention of seal hunting. However, their approach is different from most environmental groups; they use direct action, meaning that instead of negotiation or talk, they directly protest and fight against what they see as harm to the environment. What they are most well-known for is their extremist blockade of whaling. They defend the whales from Japanese whalers by ramming into the whaling ships and damaging them at harbours, among other actions. They claimed to have saved more than 6,500 whales, and sunk the whaling industry into a debt of millions of dollars to the Japanese government.


What does Japan claim?

Japan claims that the whales are killed for a scientific reason, but that is regarded by the international community as a lie and a cover for the real purpose: selling the meat. Sea Shepherd has been described by Japan as eco-terrorists, and stated that Sea Shepherd actions perpetuate “terrorism and threaten human life at sea”.


What is the international reaction?

Even though Australia and New Zealand both criticised the whaling activities, little else has been done. Australia did take Japan to the International Court of Justice (2014), but there has been little improvement. The court ruled that Japan didn’t have any scientific reasons for the slaughter of the whales; Japan answered by reducing their killing quota to 333 whales a year (from 1,000). After that little has been done, only talk and criticism.


What’s happening now?

Sea Shepherd states that it cannot continue protecting the whales from the Japanese whale industry. The main reason is that Japan has recently given the whaling ships military satellite technology. That means that the whaling ships will be able to see live where the Sea Shepherd ships are, so they will be able to avoid the ships. It also passed some ‘anti-terrorism’ laws designed to stop Sea Shepherd from fighting the whaling industry.

However, Sea Shepherd said that this won’t be permanent; it’s just a pause so that Sea Shepherd can review its tactics and change them.


Is there another reason why Japan is hunting whales?

A main reason that people believe Japan is helping the whale industry is because of pride and sovereignty. If Japan does not follow other countries’ orders to halt the killing of whales, it’s spreading a message that it does what it wants.


Isn’t there a law defending the whales from slaughter?

There is one, however Japan found a loophole: it is legal to kill whales for a scientific reason, and Japan is using that as a cover up to kill hundreds of them.