Sea Shepherd finishes chase

Conservation group halts its annual campaign against whale hunters

Marine wildlife protector group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society headed out of the Antarctic’s frigid waters last week, after a month spent chasing a Japanese whaling fleet.

Paul Watson, leader of the conservation effort, and captain of the Steve Irwin (a ship named in honor of the late animal advocate) withdrew from the annual campaign to harass ships operated by the Institute of Cetacean Research.

Each year, the institute heads into the southern ocean to kill a variety of whales. The organization hunts under a loophole in an international moratorium on whale hunting that allows for research. It ends up killing up to 1,000 creatures during its annual expedition.

Japan says its goal is to resume commercial whaling in a sustainable manner. Conservationists claim the institute targets endangered species in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, and the Sea Shepherd crew spends much of each season harassing the ships taking part in the illegal hunt.

Having expended its resources, Sea Shepherd headed back to Australia to prepare for next year’s voyage. Watson’s plan is to get a ship that’s fast enough to keep up with the fleet. He vowed to return next winter.