Fin Whale from the air.
Image via Wikipedia

After being harassed by ships belonging to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, an environmental group based in Washington State, Japan’s Agriculture Ministry recalled its whaling fleet on Friday the 18th of February 2011.  Thus cutting short the annual hunts, which Japan euphemistically  labels, as scientific research hunts, to evade a global moratorium on commercial whaling.

Japan’s research whaling program caught 170 minke whales and two fin whales, way below their annual targets of 850 minke and 50 fin, thanks to Sea Shepherd’s interference.  Playing a game of cat-and-mouse that has received increasing media attention, the environmentalists try to block the Japanese fleet, by tangling the ships’ propellers with ropes or by putting their own vessels between the whalers and their quarry.

In fear of appearing to cave in to pressure from foreign environmentalists, Japanese newspapers reported that there had been resistance to cut shot the hunt.  Japan’s Agriculture Ministry claimed the environmentalists were temporarily blinding crew members by targeting laser beams and also by throwing flares onto the whaling vessels.  They also stated their whaling ships were not able to outrun the Sea Shepard’s vessels.

Escorting the Japanese “scientific research whaling fleet” northward from the Antarctic Ocean are three of Sea Shepherd’s vessels to ensure that the Japanese research vessels safely reach Japan.

Interestingly because of Bob Barker‘s $5,000,000 contribution, “Sea Shepherd was able to quietly purchase and refit a former Norwegian whaler in Africa. “The ice-strengthened, fast, chaser boat quietly departed from Mauritius on December 18th to join up with the Sea Shepherd ships Steve Irwin and Ady Gil in the Southern Ocean.”

“Barker has also funded the cost of a helicopter that will accompany the society’s ships. The aircraft is named The Nancy Burnet after the president of United Activists for Animal Rights, an organization Barker also supports. This new helicopter will participate in future campaigns.”

“I’m delighted to be able to help the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in its mission to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the worlds oceans,” said Barker. “There is lot of talk about preserving our ecosystems and species, but this is one organization that puts these words into action.”