This time last year, Capt. Paul Watson was extremely hopeful that the fifth season of Animal Planet's popular "Whale Wars" reality series would never film. Months earlier, the Sea Shepherd had sent the Japanese whaling fleet home well short of its quotas and over a month earlier than usual. It was an unparalleled victory — and with Japan suffering a tragic earthquake shortly afterwards, Watson had every reason to believe that the last thing the country would pursue would be more "scientific whaling." 


"Paul Watson has always said to us, 'I'm probably the only reality star that's trying to put himself out of the business in TV,' " series executive Jason Carey told the NY Post, adding that if whaling really does end "then that's exactly what he would do. I don't think we'd have a series next year."


Japan, however, had different plans. The country's Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Michihiko Kano later announced his country's intention to return to the Southern Ocean. "Japan will conduct the research whaling while strengthening measures against acts of sabotage, including dispatching Fisheries Agency escort ships," he said. The country subsequently poured millions into the effort, drawing criticism from many that it was a poor use of funds during a time of national crisis. 


Said Watson: "It now seems they are simply obsessed with killing whales not for need or for profit, but because they believe they have the right to do and kill what they wish in an established international whale sanctuary, just for the sake of defending their misplaced ‘honor.’ It’s a disgrace and a smack in the face to everyone who stepped forward to help in their time of need."


So once more in December, with more than 100 volunteers and multiple vessels, the Sea Shepherd traveled to the Southern Ocean to again defend the whales and fight the whalers. The upcoming season, the one that everyone hoped would not be in the cards, took place with its usual cat-and-mouse games and intense confrontations. Animal Planet will air the premiere episode on June 1 — and your first look is below. 


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

Watch: First trailer for 'Whale Wars' season 5
First trailer for 'Whale Wars' season 5. Capt. Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd team return to take on Japan's whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean.