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
Why Just One NYC screening Q&A
Why Just One NYC screening Q&A
On December 16, 2016, the New York City chapter hosted the premiere of Why Just One? Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s first full length, in-house documentary. The sold-out event was Captain Paul Watson's his first New York appearance at a Sea Shepherd event since returning to the United States...
Sea Shepherd vs Poachers in the Gulf of California
Sea Shepherd vs Poachers in the Gulf of California
Six fishing boats engaged in illegal activities were spotted by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, ending in their arrest by the Mexican Navy.
Ghost Nets Go; Vaquitas Stay
Ghost Nets Go; Vaquitas Stay
Sea Shepherd and the M/V Farley Mowat break down how illegal underwater nets in the Sea of Cortez are snagged, pulled, cut and bundled. Footage also includes freeing and releasing live animals from the nets and cataloging those who unfortunately did not make it.
Sam Simon arrives in Mexico for Operation Milagro III
Sam Simon arrives in Mexico for Operation Milagro III
The Sam Simon has arrived in Mexico to join the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society-led campaign, Operation Milagro III. A partnership between Sea Shepherd and the Mexican authorities, Operation Milagro III intercepts, intervenes and interrupts any illegal activities found in the Vaquita refuge in the...
Divina Guadalupe Beaked Whale Research Project
Divina Guadalupe Beaked Whale Research Project
**If you cannot see the captions on this video, just click on CC on the lower right corner of video settings on the video ** #Breaking #SeaShepherd helps scientists learn more about #rare Beaked whales! Did you know that Cuvier's Beaked whales hold the record for the deepest mammalian dive? Watch t...
Operation Milagro III Campaign Launch Video
Operation Milagro III Campaign Launch Video
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is returning to Mexico’s Gulf of California for Operation Milagro III to save the near extinct vaquita marina porpoise and the endangered totoaba bass. The M/V Farley Mowat is back on active duty with the M/V Sam Simon joining the Milagro campaign for the first ti...
Sea Shepherd Investigates Whale Corpse in Sea of Cortez
Sea Shepherd Investigates Whale Corpse in Sea of Cortez
The Farley Mowat Sea Shepherd crew is called out to investigate a dead Brydes whale in the Gulf of California on November 5th, 2016 while patrolling the vaquita refuge. To help the Sea Shepherd crew to continue its work in the Sea of Cortez, including protecting the near-extinct vaquita marina porpo...
Entanglement in the South
Entanglement in the South
Operation Guardian Angel - In and around Bahia de Los Angeles, in the Gulf of California, countless marine species are entrapped in nets with little or no hope of rescue. Rosalia Tellez works for CONANP, a department of the Mexican government that acts as park rangers to enforce laws and assist in ...
Good and Bad Days
Good and Bad Days
This video follows Sea Shepherd volunteers over the course of two days. The first day Sea Shepherd locates and removes a long line from the sea; fortunately no animals were caught in the net. However, the next day volunteers find a sea lion that has been caught and died in a fisherman's net.
Operation Virus Hunter Campaign Summary
Operation Virus Hunter Campaign Summary
Sea Shepherd campaign Operation Virus Hunter saw the vessel RV Martin Sheen under the leadership of Alexandra Morton, head up the coast of British Columbia Canada to expose open pen Atlantic salmon farms and the impact they are having on wild Pacific salmon and the the surrounding eco-systems.
Illegal Totoaba Nets
Illegal Totoaba Nets
This video follows Sea Shepherd volunteers through the process of locating, retrieving and disposing of illegal nets in the Gulf of California.
Discovering Alleged Wild Salmon Dead in Fish Farms
Discovering Alleged Wild Salmon Dead in Fish Farms
August 12th 2016: Early Thursday morning the R/V Martin Sheen assisted Melissa Willie, a band councilor of the Musgamagw Dza’wada’enuxw nation, in hand delivering a letter to three farms expressing the nations disapproval of the industry. Sea Shepherd crew alongside independent biologist Alexand...
The Grind of the Faroe Islands
The Grind of the Faroe Islands
Ross McCall travels to the Faroe Islands to explore the truths behind the centuries old tradition of the brutal Pilot Whale drives.
Operation Virus Hunter: A Salmon PSA with Pamela Anderson
Operation Virus Hunter: A Salmon PSA with Pamela Anderson
Sea Shepherd Chairman of the Board, actor/activist Pamela Anderson, cautions viewers about the dangers of eating farmed salmon.
Why Just One?  Indiegogo Video
Why Just One? Indiegogo Video
Support Sea Shepherd's documentary by sharing and backing our Indiegogo campaign here: http://bit.ly/1OfvER6
Milagro Summary - English
Milagro Summary - English
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's Operation Milagro II has come to an end. Milagro is its campaign to fight the looming extinction of the vaquita porpoise, the most endangered marine mammal in the world. With an estimate of less than 100 surviving vaquita, Sea Shepherd ships the R/V Martin Sheen...
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 15 - Good Bye
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 15 - Good Bye
Watch the crew of the Farley Mowat capture footage of illegal fishing activity with a night vision drone and pull up a totoaba net in the dead of night. This is the final vlog of Operation Milagro II!
Sea Shepherd's Ethical Research Whale Project
Sea Shepherd's Ethical Research Whale Project
Sea Shepherd's Ethical Research Whale Project is dedicated to collect samples from whales in the Gulf of California to measure levels of toxins in whales in order to determine the levels of toxins in the Gulf of California itself. Learn more at: www.seashepherd.org
Totoaba Poachers Caught on Camera
Totoaba Poachers Caught on Camera
Never before seen footage. Sea Shepherd catches critically endangered totoaba poacher in the act. The Sea Shepherd crew filmed these totoaba poachers as they were checking one of their illegal nets in the protected vaquita habitat. The vaquita porpoise is the most endangered marine mammal in the wor...
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 14 - Saving Lives
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 14 - Saving Lives
Watch‬ the routine of our crew doing valuable work in the ‪Sea of Cortez‬. We have been very effective at removing illegal fishing gear from the ‪‎vaquita‬ porpoise's habitat. So much so, that now, most of the time we remove nets and lines that are mostly empty, our favorite thing to do....
Sea Shepherd finds 3 dead vaquitas in 3 weeks
Sea Shepherd finds 3 dead vaquitas in 3 weeks
The Sea Shepherd crew has found 3 dead vaquitas in 3 weeks in the month of march of 2016. The vaquita porpoise is the most endangered marine mammal in the world. Learn more at: www.seashepherd.org/milagro2
Sea Shepherds finds a dead sample of the most endangered marine mammal in the world
Sea Shepherds finds a dead sample of the most endangered marine mammal in the world
While patrolling the waters of the upper Gulf of California the Sea Shepherd crew found a dead vaquita porpoise. The vaquita is the most endangered marine mammal in the whole world. The crew also found a Great White Shark caught in an illegal gillnet.
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 12 - This is Direct Action
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 12 - This is Direct Action
This week, the crew of ‪Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's ships The M/V Farley Mowat and The RV Martin Sheen find and retrieve an illegal totoaba bass long line from the critically endangered ‪vaquita porpoise habitat. The totoaba fish is also critically endangered. Watch all episodes at: http...
Sea Shepherd Crew Save Humpback Whale Entangled in Illegal Gillnet
Sea Shepherd Crew Save Humpback Whale Entangled in Illegal Gillnet
Sea Shepherd crew rescued a whale entangled in an illegal totoaba gillnet in the Gulf of California. Sea Shepherd currently has two vessels in Mexico's Gulf of California on OPERATION MILAGRO. Our goal is to save the vaquita porpoises, the most endangered marine mammal. The vaquita are caught as a r...
Gregg Lowe on Sea Shepherd's Operation Milagro
Gregg Lowe on Sea Shepherd's Operation Milagro
You might know Gregg Lowe from X-Men: Days of Future Past, but now watch him explain Sea Shepherd's Operation Milagro and understand why we must save the #VaquitaMarina - The most endangered cetacean in the world. Help us save the vaquita at: http://seashepherd.org/milagro2/donate-now/vaquita-appeal...