Three dead, protected Minke Whales on the deck of the Nisshin Maru. Photo: Tim WattersFile photo: Three dead, protected Minke Whales on the deck of the Nisshin Maru in 2014. Photo: Tim WattersIn a statement released today, the entity responsible for Japan’s illegal whaling program announced the return of the whaling fleet from the Southern Ocean, and revealed to the world that the fleet has slaughtered hundreds of whales since setting sail in December 2015.

According to the Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR), the private, government-funded body that conducts Japan’s whale hunts, the whaling fleet has killed 333 minke whales since the end of last year – including 200 pregnant females. ICR also disclosed the coordinates for these killings, which showed that many of the whales were slaughtered in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and Australian Whale Sanctuary.

Japan’s Southern Ocean whaling program has been declared illegal by the International Court of Justice, which held in March 2014 that the program in existence then was a commercial enterprise with no scientific basis, ordering Japan to stop issuing whaling permits to ICR. In response to the International Court ruling, Japan designed a new “scientific” whaling plan that was another thinly disguised pretense for commercial whaling, and which was rejected by the scientific committee of the International Whaling Commission in early 2015.

Sea Shepherd founder advisor Paul Watson strongly condemned Japan’s latest violation of international law. “This is the same pattern we’ve seen for years: Japan simply ignores international law and international opinion, and continues to slaughter whales with impunity, selling their flesh for a profit. Nearly two years have passed since the International Court of Justice ruled Japan’s commercial whaling program illegal, and yet the whalers are still announcing hundreds of fresh kills, including of pregnant mothers. The world must unite to end this lawless bloodshed once and for all.”

The bloodied deck of the Nisshin Maru, stained from the butchering of a whale. Photo: Tim WattersFile photo: The bloodied deck of the Nisshin Maru, stained from the butchering of a whale in 2014. Photo: Tim Watters

Sea Shepherd is currently pursuing an aggressive legal campaign against the Japanese whalers, who sued Sea Shepherd in U.S. federal court in 2011. Despite their flagrant, repeated violations of international law, the whalers have accused Sea Shepherd of “piracy” for trying to prevent the illegal slaughter.  The fact that the whalers sued Sea Shepherd in the United States has given Sea Shepherd a unique opportunity to hold the whalers accountable under American law, and Sea Shepherd is fighting back with a number of counterclaims to prevent the whalers from continuing their violent attacks on Sea Shepherd vessels, and to force them to pay damages for past attacks.

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