Search and Destroy

Posted by Patrick James and Sea Shepard Conservation Society

Last winter, the frigid waters of the Southern Ocean Sanctuary, an area of the Antarctic Ocean where whaling is strictly prohibited, were patrolled by the 180-foot, 657-ton ice-class Farley Mowat, flagship of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. In one daring encounter, the Mowat rammed a Japanese whaler and chased it from the sanctuary. This year, the Mowat and a second ship, the Robert Hunter, have embarked on Operation Leviathan, to once again prevent a Japanese whaling fleet from hunting and killing whales (ostensibly for scientific research) in those same protected waters. "Our objective," explains Paul Watson, the 56-year-old SSCS founder and Greenpeace co-founder, "is not to get there, hold up banners and say, 'Oh please, please stop whaling.' Our objective is to shut them down by physically blocking and intervening."Operation Leviathan is the latest in a long line of SSCS campaigns wherein the anti-whaling activists do everything in their power to prevent the illegal hunting of whales in protected waters. Their tactics range from putting themselves between the hunters and the whales, to physically jamming whalers' propellers with debris. If all else fails, SSCS ships will ram the offending vessel. Since 1979, the SSCS has taken 215 voyages, during which time it has also sabotaged and sunk 11 unoccupied docked whaling ships.Actions such as these have resulted in awards and accolades for the SSCS, but the organization has also garnered serious criticism from the Japanese whaling industry and members of the International Whaling Commission, who have equated SSCS policies with terrorism. But Watson, who left Greenpeace in 1977 when he felt that bureaucracy was hampering the work, insists that the brazen tactics of the SSCS are supported by the 1982 U.N. World Charter for Nature, which permits individual enforcement of international conservation laws. "The fact is that we don't break laws, we uphold them," Watson says, "and we will never abandon our campaigns."LEARN MORE seashepherd.org