Greenpeace confronts whaling fleet

Feature Story - 2008-01-14
Following a 10-day search in Antarctic waters, the Greenpeace ship Esperanza has found Japan’s whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. The whaling fleet immediately took flight from the Esperanza, which is now in high-speed pursuit. While the fleet is on the run, the whalers are unable to hunt. If they try to start whaling, the Esperanza’s international crew of activists will take non-violent direct action to prevent the Japanese government’s slaughter of nearly 1,000 whales, including 50 endangered fin whales.

The Japanese government whaling vessel Nisshin Maru flees from the Greenpeace ship Esperanza in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Greenpeace activists will take peaceful direct action against the fleet if it restarts whaling.

Activists will drive inflatable boats between the whaler's harpoons and the whales while using high-powered water pumps to create a curtain of icy water, obscuring the harpooner's view.

We will do nothing to harm or endanger the Japanese vessels or crew. We will, however, use all peaceful means at our disposal to stop the killing of any more whales.


The area in which the Japanese fleet are hunting has been designated as the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, designed to help whale populations recover after the devastating commercial whaling of the last century. Many countries were responsible for this collapse in whale populations. Most have since realised the tragic consequences of their actions and now accept, support and promote whale conservation and a complete end to commercial whaling.

Modern scientific research does not require whales to die. In addition to confronting the whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean, we are proving that nobody needs to fire exploding harpoons into whales and kill them for science. Our Great Whale Trail research programme, in collaboration with scientists from the Cook Islands Whale Research, Opération Cétacés (New Caledonia) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare, includes satellite tracking, skin biopsy, and photo identification of whales.  The programme has already yielded a vast amount of valuable information. But not a single harpoon needed to be fired.

Scientific whaling is an expensive hoax -- with most of the results being stockpiled in commercial freezers or ending up in dog food.

Karli Thomas, the expedition leader on the Esperanza spoke to the crew on of the Nisshin Maru on the radio saying:

Our vessel and crew are here in the Southern Ocean to condemn your hunt, which includes endangered species, and to insist that you return to port immediately.

We represent millions of people around the world who want to see an end to whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

We join with the majority of people in Japan who do not support whaling on the high seas. (...)

Your so-called scientific whaling is a hoax. It has been dismissed as useless by the International Whaling Commission"

Japan's research whaling benefits only a very few Japanese bureaucrats, and has cost  Japanese taxpayers billions of yen in subsidies.  It produces research nobody needs, and whale meat very few want.  It deserves to be exposed in Japanese society as a scandalous waste of money.

When the whaling fleet left its home port of Shimonoseki in November, the government of Japan confirmed the sole purpose behind its so-called science programme is to bring about a return to commercial whaling.

"The Japanese people clearly do not support the whaling  that is being carried out in their name, and with their tax money", said Junichi Sato, whales project leader for Greenpeace Japan. "It is time for Prime Minister Fukuda to put an end to Japan's whaling scandal, and to recall the fleet home to Japan."

Humpbacks safe -- for now

On December 22nd, the Japanese government backed down in the face of pressure from Greenpeace supporters, whale advocates, and conservation-minded governments, announcing that they would not hunt humpbacks this season.

Rather than reducing the number of whales being killed in the Southern Ocean it looks like the Government of Japan is going to kill a lot more. Plans are emerging for the construction of a new factory ship that will be even bigger than the Nisshin Maru and be able to go on killing thousands of whales over the decades to come. While our activists will be between the harpoons and the whales in the Southern Ocean in order to save hundreds of whales from being killed now, we are urging people to stop even more being killed in the future by writing to the Japanese Prime Minister. Over 12,000 letters have already been sent. We all need to act NOW to stop the hunt forever and make sure that not a single harpoon will be fired again in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

For the latest, up-to-the-minute news, check out the Great Whale Trail expedition blog and the live Esperanza Webcams.

Take Action: Stop the new whaling ship

If Japan succeeds in plans to build a new whaling factory ship, whaling could continue for decades. Tell the Japanese Prime Minister that building the new factory ship is a bad idea.

Help raise money to save whales

Create your own Whale Defenders page; get your friends and family to help you defend the whales.