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Sea Shepherd abandons annual whale wars with Japan

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, the nonprofit marine conservation organization that rose to prominence with the cable television show "Whale Wars," is abandoning its annual face-off with Japanese whalers in the Antarctic.

Captain Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd announced Monday on Facebook that Sea Shepherd needs to formulate a new plan for the Southern Ocean where Japanese whalers will now hunt whales without interruption.

"We will not be sending ships to the Southern Ocean this year, but are not abandoning the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary," Watson wrote. "We need to cultivate the resources, the tactics and the ability to significantly shut down the illegal whaling operations of the Japanese whaling fleet."

Watson cited Japan's military involvement and its ability to track Sea Shepherd's every move to avoid confrontations.

"What we discovered is that Japan is now employing military surveillance to watch Sea Shepherd ship movements in real time by satellite and if they know where our ships are at any given moment, they can easily avoid us," Watson wrote.

"During Operation Nemesis, the Sea Shepherd ships did get close and our helicopter even managed to get evidence of their illegal whaling operations but we could not physically close the gap. We cannot compete with their military grade technology."

Furthermore, Japan passed new anti-terrorism laws, some aimed specifically at Sea Shepherd tactics.

"For the first time ever, they have stated they may send their military to defend their illegal whaling activities," Watson wrote.

The Steve Irwin of Sea Shepherd won’t be chasing Japanese whale hunters anytime soon. Photo: Courtesy of Sea Shepherd

Additionally, Japan reduced its self-allocated annual kill quota to 333 whales but doubled its killing grounds, which means that the whalers will have more time and more area to kill their lowered quota, Watson pointed out.

"The decision we have had to face is: do we spend our limited resources on another campaign to the Southern Ocean that will have little chance of a successful intervention OR do we regroup with different strategies and tactics?" he wrote.

More from The Sydney Morning Herald:

Sea Shepherd says it saved more than 6000 whales during its Southern Ocean campaign, which began in 2005.

In January this year, Japan was caught killing a whale deep inside Antarctic waters declared by Australia to be a protected whale sanctuary. Sea Shepherd activists captured the first images of Japan hunting whales in the Southern Ocean since Tokyo defied an international court ruling that declared the hunt to be illegal.

In response, Australia said it was “deeply disappointed” that Japan had continued its hunt, just days after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had discussed it with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The Turnbull government had previously backed an international resolution to condemn Tokyo’s slaughter of whales.

Japan has refused to recognize the sanctuary and claims the whaling is for scientific research – yet also allows the sale of the whale flesh in markets and restaurants.

“Our objective is to continue to serve and protect all life in the Ocean from illegal and greedy exploitation by destructive humans,” Watson concluded.

“Sea Shepherd is guided by this one reality: If the Ocean dies, we die!”

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