Whaling fleet kills 507 whales, less than half allowed by Japanese permit.
Japanese whalers have returned to port with their smallest haul in years and they are blaming activists from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society for the low haul.
A whaling season that saw several confrontations between Japanese whalers and activists, including a collision between one of the Japanese whaling vessels and the Ady Gil, the Sea Shepherd's newly-christened high-speed intercepting vessel.
Japan is permitted to slaughter the whales for "scientific research" thanks to a clause in the International Whaling Commission's 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling.
The Japanese were operating under a permit issued by the Japanese government to kill 935 protected Minke whales, 50 endangered fin whales and 50 endangered humpback whales. Activity by the three ships of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society prevented them from coming anywhere near that quota, taking just 506 whales. Of the fifty humpback whales that were targeted, they did not take a single one. Of the fifty fin whales that were targeted, they managed to kill only one.
“We hit them long and hard this year and all our efforts and risks have paid off," said Capt. Paul Watson of the Steve Irwin, Sea Shepherd's flagship. "There are now 528 whales swimming freely in the Southern Ocean that would now be dead if not for the fact that we intervened. It is a happy day for my crew and I and conservationists worldwide, a happy day indeed.”
Sea Shepherds cut into whalers' 'research' and profits
According to Sea Shepherd officials, the whaling fleet needs to kill at least 700 whales just to break even on expenses. "[T]he lack of ‘samples’ will impact their profits,” said Captain Paul Watson.
If the average value of a whale is a quarter of a million dollars, "then we succeeded in depriving the Japanese whaling fleet of around $132 million," said Sea Shepherd officials.
The whaling fleet's leader, Shigetoshi Nishiwaki, said he was "furious" with Sea Shepherd for preventing it from reaching its quota during the five-month season.
"They say they protect the sea, but they don't care about leaking oil or leaving pieces of a boat behind," Nishiwaki said, in a reference to the disabled vessel, the Ady Gil.
The Japanese Fisheries Agency said that the interference would have a negative impact on their whale research. "The lack of samples could affect the accuracy of our research," said Takashi Mori of the low catch.
"We lost a ship and we have one crewmember taken prisoner, and no injuries were caused nor sustained," said Capt. Watson. "I think we did bloody well this year. Now we need to re-organize, raise more funds, repair and prepare the ships and go back in December to do an even better job.”
Sea Shepherd is now back in port repairing the Bob Barker, searching for a potential replacement for the destroyed Ady Gil, and working to free Captain Pete Bethune who remains a prisoner in Japan after boarding one of the Japanese vessels to serve them papers after colliding with the Ady Gil.