Whale Wars Redux: Sea Shepherds and Japanese Head Back to the Southern Ocean

Whaling season in the Southern Ocean is off and gunning, with both Japanese and Sea Shepherd ships alike steaming for the fertile hunting grounds off Antarctica

Last season was largely regarded a “win” for the conservation group (even though it sacrificed its $2 million chase boat, the “Ady Gil,” in a collision with a whaling ship) since the whalers missed their goals by a wide margin.

The Japanese fleet of seven ships had hoped to take home 850 minke whale — in the name of science and research in order to avoid the international moratorium against whaling that’s been on the books since 1986 — but successfully hunted only 506. They’d also hoped for 10 fin whales, but killed just one.

This year, perhaps due to the increased visibility the Shepherd’s campaign has attracted thanks to Animal Planet’s “Whale Wars” series (the upcoming season will be the fourth it has documented), the Japanese fleet left port several weeks later than usual for its annual five-month hunt.

The size of its fleet was reduced as well. Last year it included a factory ship, three harpoon ships, a supply ship and two patrol vessels; this year’s fleet has been cut by at least three ships. At the same time the Shepherd’s have beefed up their harassment team by replacing the sunken “Ady Gil” with a 115-foot monohull named “Gojira,” Japanese for Godzilla, which combines the words for “gorilla” and “whale.”

(For the rest of my dispatch, go to takepart.com)

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