southern ocean whale sanctuary


‘A gruesome, medieval scene’: Shocking images reveal Japanese fleet is slaughtering whales INSIDE an international sanctuary

  • Campaigners say they spotted vessels in Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary
  • Images of whale carcasses on bloodied ship deck captured from a helicopter
  • Another minke whale was being butchered on board, says Sea Shepherd
  • Commercial whale hunting outlawed in 1994
  • Japanese whaling vessels allowed 'for research purposes’

These graphic images depicting the carcass-strewn deck of a Japanese whaling boat were captured by campaigners after they allegedly caught the vessel inside an internationally-recognised sanctuary.

Militant anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd says it spotted the Nisshin Maru sailing through the protected Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary during the annual whaling season.

As the Sea Shepherd’s helicopter flew above the Japanese ship, campaigners shot footage of the blood-streaked deck and the carcasses of three dead minke whales lying on the ship as another creature was butchered.

Sea Shepherd said it had spotted the Japanese fleet yesterday and captured evidence that four whales had been slaughtered this morning, alleging the ships were found inside the sanctuary.

Campaigners said they had located all five Japanese vessels and were now in pursuit, forcing the harpooners to cut short their operation and retreat.

'There’s three carcasses on the ship, a fourth carcass has been cut up. There’s blood all over the place, meat being carted around on this factory ship deck, offal and innards being dumped in the ocean,’ said Sea Shepherd Australia chairman Bob Brown. 

'That’s just a gruesome, bloody, medieval scene which has no place in this modern world.’

When the Nisshin Maru was first spotted from the air, Dr Brown said it was in Antarctica’s Ross Dependency, within New Zealand’s territorial waters and the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, which he described as a 'gross breach of international law’.

The commercial hunting of whales is prohibited in the sanctuary, which was designated by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1994, but Japan catches the animals there under a 'scientific research’ loophole in the moratorium on whaling.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully denied whaling was taking place within his country’s maritime jurisdiction, saying the site was considered international waters, as he condemned the 'pointless and offensive’ practice.

'The New Zealand government has repeatedly called on Japan to end its whaling programme. We reiterate this message today,’ he said.

Japan’s fisheries agency said its programme was being conducted 'in line with a research plan submitted to the IWC’.

'We are not aware of the existence of a whaling sanctuary so we don’t want to comment on their arguments,’ an agency spokesman said of Brown’s claims.

The Japanese foreign ministry said research whaling was 'not a violation or an abuse of a loophole in the international convention’.

'Quite the contrary, this is a legitimate right of the contracting party under Article VIII of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling,’ it said.

Dr Brown described 'massive violence’ against the whales, using grenade-tipped harpoons to catch them, and said Sea Shepherd would do 'all it peaceably can to prevent this grotesque and cruel destruction’, also urging Australia and New Zealand to take action.

'There is nothing scientific about this, it is butchery,’ Mr Brown said.

'The one thing that’s missing here is gumption - a bit of spine in Canberra and in Wellington to put an end to it.’

Australia has taken Japan to the International Court of Justice seeking to have its research whaling programme declared illegal, with a ruling due this year.

Peter Hammarstedt, captain of the Sea Shepherd ship Bob Barker, said Japan had shown 'flagrant disregard for international law by continuing their illegal whale hunt while the world patiently awaits a decision from the International Court of Justice’.

Sea Shepherd left Australia for their 10th annual harassment campaign of the Japanese fleet last month, sending three ships to tail and run interference against the harpooners.

High-seas clashes between the two groups are common, resulting in the 2010 sinking of the Sea Shepherd vessel Ady Gil.

Australia will be monitoring confrontations between the pair from a government jet which is due to fly surveillance missions over the Southern Ocean between January and March.

However, Dr Brown said there had so far been no sign of the aircraft.


*trigger warning*

Tim Watters, a photographer aboard The Steve Irwin, gives his personal account of finding the Nisshin Maru and documenting the grisly scene aboard the decks of the factory vessel. On the 5th of January, The Steve Irwin’s helicopter found the Nisshin Maru with three protected Minke Whales on its decks, dead and awaiting butchering. The decks were smeared with the blood and remains of a fourth whose body had already been carved and processed into uniform pieces of meat, with the undesirable selections dragged across the decks and tossed overboard. 

Operation Relentless is Sea Shepherd’s tenth Antarctic Whale Defence Campaign to intervene in the illegal slaughter of protected and endangered whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary by the Japanese whaling fleet. In our previous nine campaigns, Sea Shepherd has saved the lives of over 4,500 whales.