After 83 days at sea, Sea Shepherd’s patrol vessel the Steve Irwin returned to Dunedin, New Zealand, on February 23, completing its job as part of the 11th Antarctic whale defense campaign, Operation Nemesis.
The second patrol vessel, the Ocean Warrior, remains in pursuit of a Japanese factory whaling ship, the marine conservation organization informed.
In early December 2016, the two ships started their voyage the Southern Ocean to intercept the Japanese whaling fleet in a bid stop the slaughter of minke whales.
“Never before has Sea Shepherd faced such a tough task with the Japanese whale poachers expanding their killing fields to twice as big as before, effectively meaning our ships were searching for a handful of trucks in an area twice as big as Australia,” the organization said.
On December 22, the Ocean Warrior intercepted the Nisshin Maru, one of the harpoon ships of the Japanese whale-poaching fleet in the Australian Whale Sanctuary, with a dead minke whale on the vessel’s deck.
“The whaling fleet was intercepted early on and we have kept them running and delivering harrowing images of a protected minke whale slain on the flensing decks of the floating slaughterhouse, Japan’s factory whaling ship, Sea Shepherd further said.
The images of the dead whale on the deck of the Nisshin Maru are the first which document the Japanese whaling fleet’s killing of whales since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled their whaling program illegal in 2014 and the Australian Federal Court found the Japanese whaling industry in contempt for killing protected whales in the Australian Whale Sanctuary.
“The Japanese whalers tried to cover the grisly remains of the whale but nothing can cover the fact that they are continuing to kill whales against international laws,” Sea Shepherd pointed out.
Sea Shepherd stressed it is alone on the frontline against whaling and no government is confronting this illegal activity in the Southern Ocean.
“New Zealand joined Australia in talking Japan to the ICJ, yet it is only Sea Shepherd defending the southern Ocean whale sanctuary,” Grant Meikle, Director of Sea Shepherd New Zealand, said.