Japan Plans New Whaling Mother Ship

Published Jan 23, 2018 7:52 PM by The Maritime Executive

Japan is planing to replace the aging mother ship of its whaling fleet, sparking a fiery response from the marine conservation group Sea Shepherd.

The plan is to replace the 30-year-old Nisshin Maru with either a new ship or a refitted one bought overseas, according to local media. Officials have also said they needed a faster ship to evade anti-whaling activists. 

Sea Shepherd recently said it was abandoning its pursuit of Japan’s whalers in the Southern Ocean, but has not ruled out a resumption of its campaign. Founder Captain Paul Watson wrote on his Facebook page that the news about Japan's “despicable floating death ship” would be “a confession that Japan not only intends to continue their illegal whaling activities, they intend to fully resurrect commercial whaling operations."

“The Japanese government states that they need a ship that can counter Sea Shepherd’s anti-whaling fleet despite the fact that Sea Shepherd did not return to the Southern Ocean this season,” said Watson.

“Despite the absence of Sea Shepherd, Japan subsidized the whalers to the tune of $50 million U.S. dollars, invoked new anti-terrorist laws specifically to counter Sea Shepherd, provided military protection and military sat technology to follow Sea Shepherd in real time.

“Thus, even by not being in the Southern Ocean, Sea Shepherd has forced enormous expenditures to protect the whaling fleet, because according to Japanese fisheries officials, Sea Shepherd can’t be trusted to not return to the Southern Ocean.”

Sea Shepherd has opposed illegal Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary every year from 2005 to 2017 except for the 2014/2015 season when the whalers did not return to Antarctic waters. Sea Shepherd sent two ships down to the Southern Ocean last year (2016/2017), and although they got close, they could not close in because of advanced military satellite technology that allowed the whalers to see Sea Shepherd movements in real time.

“This is the first season in a dozen years that Sea Shepherd has not sent ships in pursuit of the whalers and we have not, because it would be like taking a slingshot to a gunfight in pursuit of whalers who can see us but we can’t see them – In other words, a fruitless waste of time and resources,” said Watson.

“We did not return, not because we did not want to, but because it simply made no strategical sense to do so. Sea Shepherd does not pursue campaigns without a certainty of engagement. This season it was a certainty that it would not be possible to engage. Our 12 years of opposition had helped to force the kill quotas down from 1,035 to 333 and removed Humpbacks and Fin whales from the butcher’s table. We also contributed immensely to the Japanese whaling fleet being exposed and condemned for their illegal whaling activities and in the process severely humiliated the Japanese whalers and government. We also cost the whalers tens of millions of dollars and most importantly we saved the lives of over 6,000 whales and the lives of all the calves that have since been born to the whales we spared from the harpoons.

“Sea Shepherd not returning has tested the resolve of the member nations of the International Whaling commission, especially Australia and New Zealand, but as we have now confirmed, both nations have no resolve at all,” says Watson, saying that the chances of Australia banning Vegemite are better than of it helping to stop whaling due to the close relationship between leaders Shinzo Abe and Malcolm Turnbull.

“If this replacement floating slaughter house, this Cetacean Death Star is built, and if it returns to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary with an increased quota, it will be strongly, passionately and aggressively opposed,” says Watson. “The Whale Wars are not over!”

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.