After a lengthy search, the Sea Shepherd fleet yesterday finally discovered the position of the Japanese whaling fleet. Perhaps coming as little surprise, the whalers were discovered hunting within the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, an area of 50 million square kilometers banned from commercial whaling by the International Whaling Commission. The Japanese factory ship, the Nisshin Maru, was captured in video with four dead protected minke whales on its deck. 

“The Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary has been tainted by the illegal slaughter of these beautiful and majestic minke whales by the ruthless, violent and barbaric actions of the Japanese whale poachers," Sea Shepherd Australia Managing Director Jeff Hansen said. "No one will ever know the pain and suffering these playful, gentle giants went through from the time the explosive harpoon ripped through their bodies to the time they drew their last breath in a red sea full of their own blood. One thing is for sure, Sea Shepherd will do what ever it takes to ensure no more whales have to endure pain and suffering at the hands of these whale butchers from Japan.”

minke whales

This isn't the first time that Japan has hunted within the sanctuary, arguing to the IWC that its whaling program is simple for "scientific research" and does not fall under the banner of commercial whaling. The rest of the world has long dismissed Japan's "scientific hunt" as a farce; both due to the quantity of whales killed and the amount of meat that ends up in Japanese markets. 

“When ‘science’ requires you to grotesquely bloat up the bodies of protected whales, stroll across a deck smeared with their blood, hauling their body parts with hooks and chains, and discarding their remains over the side, then that ‘science’ has no place in the 21st century," stated Sid Chakravarty, captain of the Steve Irwin. "The Nisshin Maru is an out-and-out butcher ship, and a floating butchery has no place in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Sea Shepherd will remain relentless in driving these fake, desperate and subverting ‘scientists’ back to Tokyo."

As of today, the Sea Shepherd have located all five ships in the whaling fleet and are currently stymieing any efforts by the Japanese to continue operations. 

"As of 07:23AEDT, the whalers are out of their self-imposed killing grounds, and continue running north," a statement on the group's Facebook page reads. "All whaling ships are now accounted for and fleeing."

To learn more about the group's 2013-2014 campaign, titled Operation Relentless, jump here

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Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

Sea Shepherd locates whaling fleet within sanctuary
Conservation group claims the Japanese have been hunting illegally within the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.