Doug O'Neil launches a weather balloon into the Southern Ocean sky.Doug O'Neil launches a weather balloon into the Southern Ocean sky.
(photo: Barbara Veiga)
It is difficult to describe the immensity of the great Southern Ocean and the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, and even more difficult to explain the awesome challenge of hunting the whaling fleet down in these remote, bitterly cold, and hostile waters.

Imagine taking three cars and departing from Los Angeles in the USA or Perth in Australia. Somewhere in an area much larger than Australia and the United States there are four cars that you need to find. They could be in Fargo, North Dakota or Tallahassee, Florida, or they could be in Alice Springs or Adelaide, or they could be in one of thousands of rest stops on any highway or backcountry road in either country.

In other words we are talking B-I-G. Hundreds of thousands of square miles! And our cars only move at about 18 miles per hour. Where do you even begin?

In 2002 when we first ventured into the Southern Ocean, we failed to find the Japanese fleet at all but since then, we have grown stronger with each year and become better equipped. Now with three ships and a helicopter, we are stronger than we ever have been and we now have the capability to find the whalers and keep them on the run.

When the Greenpeace ships ventured down here to these waters a few years ago, the whalers continued on with their grisly business undeterred by the cameras and the banner hanging. Greenpeace got some horrific footage of dying whales but their cameras did not stop the killing. The Japanese whalers treated Greenpeace as an annoyance but the killing remained undeterred.

To be fair, the Greenpeace crewmembers were passionate about the cause but they were limited by the bureaucratic restraints of their organization and this revisionist policy of so-called bearing witness. Finally realizing that hanging banners was futile, Greenpeace retreated permanently from the Southern Ocean.

In the early days when I was a Greenpeace director and activist, we didn't just bear witness to atrocities, we intervened. And that is precisely what Sea Shepherd continues to do. We are not down here to witness the killing of whales, we are down here to stop the killing of whales. Thus far this has been a very good year. The whalers have only been able to slip in a couple of days of whaling with only one harpoon vessel while on the run. We caught them before they began whaling and we have now been chasing the fleet for nearly a month.

But the big challenge is locating them. So how do we do it?

First we know the general area of their illegal operations each year. There are two areas. The first is the Antarctic coast from the South of Tasmania, to the westward coastline to the south of South Africa. The second region, where we are this year, is the Antarctic coast south of Tasmania, eastward to the area just on the other side of the Ross Sea.

Each of these two regions is immense, of course. I prefer the Ross Sea area because the whaling fleet tends to get down into this gigantic Southern Ocean bay and floe ice tends to funnel them into certain areas. We then tend to look at the ocean the way a whale does.

When bank robber Willie Sutton was once asked why he robbed banks, he answered, "Because that is where the money is."

We say to ourselves, why would a whale go to a certain area? The answer is that is where the krill is. And so we look for plankton blooms, which has a great deal to do with ocean currents and temperatures. We also study the ice charts.

Crewmembers prepare the surveillance weather balloons for launch.Crewmembers prepare the surveillance weather balloons for launch.
(photo: Barbara Veiga)
With our two ships that are equipped with a helicopter deck, we place our ships in a search formation and patrol with the helicopter that extends our range. This year we also deployed a new technology of using weather balloons, which is working quite well. The weather balloons are deployed with a camera feature, along with equipment to detect radio and radar signals. Rising as high as 30,000 feet in the air, the balloons send back some very valuable data that has proven to be very instrumental in finding the whalers this season.

The best tactic for defending whales down here in the Southern Ocean is to keep the whaling ships on the run, while burning fuel and catching very few whales.

The key to ending whaling is an economic one. Getting the Japanese people onside is all well and good but it guarantees nothing, as the whalers don't care about public opinion. As a Canadian, I know that the majority of Canadians oppose the horrific annual seal slaughter, yet the Canadian government continues to subsidize the industry. Why? Because it is never about what the people want, it is what the bureaucrats and the corporations want.

However, cutting profits is something they do understand, and they do notice. And Sea Shepherd has considerably cut profits and will do so more than ever this season. This is the reason that the Japanese government has been reaching out at the highest diplomatic efforts to Australia, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and the Netherlands in a desperate effort to shut down Sea Shepherd.

The best acknowledgement of our effectiveness comes from the Japanese Fisheries Agency and the Institute for Cetacean Research (or Removal as I like to call it). Both these groups have denounced Sea Shepherd for cutting their kill quotas and their profits. Critics tend to only have opinions without much substance, and our critics are entitled to say what they like about our effectiveness. We need only look to our real enemies - the whalers, for validation of our strategies and tactics. According to the whalers, Sea Shepherd is hurting them.

I must admit that I take a great deal of pleasure in watching that foul evil floating abattoir the Nisshin Maru running in desperation every time they see us. That desperation was never more evident than yesterday, when they smashed through the thick and dangerous ice fields in an attempt to get away from us.    

Next year we intend to be even better prepared. We could use a third larger vessel, one to match each of the harpoon vessels. If two ships can keep two harpoon vessels occupied, three ships can keep all three of the harpoon vessels occupied.

We are also working on acquiring a couple of long-range drones fitted with cameras and detection equipment. This year the whalers can run, but they can no longer hide - from our balloons!

Operation No Compromise

Operation
No Compromise

Sea Shepherd
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 05 - Gillnet Damage
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 05 - Gillnet Damage
Join the crew of the R/V Martin Sheen as they witness the damage a gillnet can cause to marine wildlife while patrolling the endangered vaquita's refuge in Mexico.
From Taiji to Tanks: A Look at the Barren Lives of Captive Dolphins
From Taiji to Tanks: A Look at the Barren Lives of Captive Dolphins
In November 2015, Sea Shepherd's Cove Guardians observed the captive cetaceans at Japan's Adventure World.Though this marine park has dolphins from Taiji, the suffering behind cetacean captivity looks much the same around the world. To learn how you can support Operation Henkaku and help us break t...
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 03 - Sailing with Dolphins
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 03 - Sailing with Dolphins
The crew of Sea Shepherd's research sailing vessel, the R/V Martin Sheen, sails in search of the smallest cetacean in the world, the endangered vaquita marina porpoise.
M/V Farley Mowat Crew Prepares for Operation Milagro II
M/V Farley Mowat Crew Prepares for Operation Milagro II
Join the crew of the M/V Farley Mowat as they prepare the ship to embark on its maiden Sea Shepherd campaign - Operation Milagro II, Fall 2015 Vaquita Porpoise Defense Campaign. With an estimated 97 individuals remaining, the endangered vaquita is facing the very real threat of extinction. Please ...
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 01 - Turtle Rescue
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 01 - Turtle Rescue
The Vlog from the Gulf of California 01 - Turtle Rescue. Follow the crew of the Research Vessel, the R/V Martin Sheen, as they patrol the upper Gulf of California in Mexico - to protect the most endangered marine mammal in the world, the vaquita marina porpoise.
Taiji, Japan - Pilot whale tethered and drowned
Taiji, Japan - Pilot whale tethered and drowned
A wounded pilot whale, visibly bleeding and barely able to stay above the surface of the water, is tethered and drowned in the cove by Taiji's killers, after briefly escaping from under the tarps where its pod is being slaughtered.
Operation Milagro II Vaquita Defense Campaign
Operation Milagro II Vaquita Defense Campaign
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society returns to Mexico to protect the critically endangered vaquita marina in the only waters on Earth this petite porpoise calls home. Working in partnership with the Mexican government, Sea Shepherd will strive to bring about a miracle for the endangered vaquita before...
Sea Shepherd Central America Goodwill Campaign for the Pacific
Sea Shepherd Central America Goodwill Campaign for the Pacific
A look at Sea Shepherd Central America's journey of research and observation to Cocos Island, a world-renowned marine sanctuary located 350 miles offshore. The goal of the goodwill campaign is to promote awareness for the protection of species that inhabit the Central Pacific.
Gregg Lowe Supports Sea Shepherd
Gregg Lowe Supports Sea Shepherd
Actor Gregg Lowe, star of "X-Men: Days of Future Past," discusses the importance of Sea Shepherd's work to protect the oceans, why he is vegan for the planet and for all species, and his desire to join a Sea Shepherd campaign to defend ocean wildlife on the frontlines. Video by: Reece Pickering
Operation Henkaku 2015 Dolphin Defense Campaign
Operation Henkaku 2015 Dolphin Defense Campaign
Sea Shepherd's Cove Guardians are gearing up for the sixth season of our Taiji Dolphin Defense Campaign. As we return to the cove to expose the brutal capture and slaughter of dolphins and small whales, stand with us! The dolphins need you! To volunteer as a Cove Guardian, please email groundcrew@s...
12 Defendants, One Movement. Warning Graphic Footage.
12 Defendants, One Movement. Warning Graphic Footage.
“We were one small boat and five bodies against 500 people on the beach and 50 boats pushing…but there’s no reason not to fight.” On August 12, 61 pilot whales were slaughtered on the killing beach of Sandavágur in the Faroe Islands. With the odds stacked against them, in the face of adve...
Operation Jairo Crew Protect Nesting Leatherback Turtle
Operation Jairo Crew Protect Nesting Leatherback Turtle
Just feet from where they were attacked not a month before, Sea Shepherd's Operation Jairo volunteers defend a nesting leatherback turtle from poachers on Pacuare Beach in Costa Rica. All 63 eggs are now being protected in a hatchery, where they will have the best chance of survival out of the hands...
#StandUp250 Corsica (France) - Xavier Figarella
#StandUp250 Corsica (France) - Xavier Figarella
"They asked me, 'do you want cuffs' and I said 'Yes, it's better.' Because inside it was like an explosion.” Xavier is one of 7 Sea Shepherd crewmembers arrested in the Faroe Islands since July 20. Their 'crime'? Defending pilot whales from slaughter. For more information on how you can #StandUp...
Meet the Crew: Operation Jairo – Honduras
Meet the Crew: Operation Jairo – Honduras
Meet some of the Sea Shepherd volunteers in Honduras for Operation Jairo, Sea Shepherd's 2015 Sea Turtle Defense Campaign! The crew hails from all over the world, from countries including the United States, Australia, Norway, and France. These volunteers work tirelessly to patrol the beaches in Hond...
#StandUp250 Italy - Marianna Baldo
#StandUp250 Italy - Marianna Baldo
“In the same way that they think they …. have the right to kill these animals, that are wild animals, I have exactly the same right to save them.” Marianna is one of 7 Sea Shepherd crewmembers arrested in the Faroe Islands since July 20. Their 'crime'? Defending pilot whales from slaughter. ...
The Trial Begins
The Trial Begins
Video update from Tórshavn court this morning as five Sea Shepherd crewmembers stand trial for StandingUp for the pilot whales of the Faroe Islands. Take action: http://www.seashepherd.org/standup250
Denmark's Shame
Denmark's Shame
The slaughter of cetaceans is outlawed throughout the European Union, including Denmark, in accordance with Appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention). However, in the Faroe Islands, the slaughter of pilot whales and other small ce...
#StandUp250 Belgium - Christophe Bondue
#StandUp250 Belgium - Christophe Bondue
"We're just here ... to try to save lives." Christophe is one of 7 Sea Shepherd crewmembers arrested in the Faroe Islands since July 20. Their 'crime'? Defending pilot whales from slaughter. For more information on how you can #StandUp250 for the pilot whales of the Faroe Islands, and for Sea Shephe...
#StandUp250 South Africa - Rosie Kunneke
#StandUp250 South Africa - Rosie Kunneke
"Calling something a tradition doesn't make it right. I grew up in the tradition of apartheid and we begged the world to come and help us; to get rid of that ugliness." Rosie is one of 7 Sea Shepherd crewmembers arrested in the Faroe Islands since July 20. Their 'crime'? Defending pilot whales from...
Mass Slaughter Of Pilot Whales In The Faroe Islands. WARNING. GRAPHIC
Mass Slaughter Of Pilot Whales In The Faroe Islands. WARNING. GRAPHIC
WARNING: GRAPHIC. Mass Slaughter Of Pilot Whales In The Faroe Islands. Sea Shepherd Crew Arrested. On July 23 2015, approximately 250 pilot whales were slaughtered on the killing beaches of the Faroe Islands. The slaughters, known by the traditional Faroese term ‘grindadráp, took place in two se...
Meet the Crew: Operation Jairo – Costa Rica
Meet the Crew: Operation Jairo – Costa Rica
Meet the team of dedicated volunteers working to protect nesting turtles and their hatchlings on the shores of Costa Rica as part of Operation Jairo, Sea Shepherd’s 2015 Sea Turtle Defense Campaign. This international crew includes volunteers from Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, France, Germany, th...
Operation Jairo 2015 Sea Turtle Defense Campaign
Operation Jairo 2015 Sea Turtle Defense Campaign
Sea Shepherd launches Operation Jairo, second-annual sea turtle anti-poaching campaign in Costa Rica, Honduras and Florida. Credits and special thanks: Film by BlueMedia.no Music by Kai-Anders Ryan kaiandersryan.no Photos by Mélanie Chamorel melaniechamorel.com "Turtle in trouble" photo by Jordi C...
Sea Shepherd Captures Rare Footage of Elusive Vaquita During First Sighting since 2013
Sea Shepherd Captures Rare Footage of Elusive Vaquita During First Sighting since 2013
On April 18, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society captured rare footage of the elusive and endangered vaquita porpoise in the waters of Mexico’s Gulf of California, the small cetacean’s only home on Earth. The sighting marks the first time since 2013 the shy creature has been spotted and filmed in ...
Strong Hearts, Iron Will – Sam Simon Crew Pays Tribute to the Late Sam Simon
Strong Hearts, Iron Will – Sam Simon Crew Pays Tribute to the Late Sam Simon
The Crew of Sea Shepherd's M/V Sam Simon pays tribute to the late activist, philanthropist, great humanitarian and TV Executive Sam Simon, thanking him for the wonderful ship he provided for them to save marine life in Antarctica and around the world. Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) is pro...
Sea Shepherd Does What Others Can't or Won't
Sea Shepherd Does What Others Can't or Won't
Sea Shepherd. Who are we? What do we do? Sea Shepherd is not just an organization. It’s a global movement. Volunteer crews boldly go where others can’t or won’t. Here’s a look at some highlights of some of our recent campaigns to defend, conserve and protect marine wildlife and habitats wo...