What is a Sanctuary and Why Defend It?

sanc·tu·ar·y  (from dictionary.com)

–noun, plural -ar·ies.

  1. a sacred or holy place
  2. Judaism
    1. the Biblical tabernacle or the Temple in Jerusalem
    2. the holy of holies of these places of worship
  3. an especially holy place in a temple or church
  4. the part of a church around the altar; the chancel
  5. a church or other sacred place where fugitives were formerly entitled to immunity from arrest
  6. immunity afforded by refuge in such a place
  7. any place of refuge; asylum
  8. a tract of land where birds and wildlife, esp. those hunted for sport, can breed and take refuge in safety from hunters


Steve Irwin pack ice

Sea Shepherd ships and crew will return to the Southern Ocean in December 2013 to once again intervene against illegal Japanese whaling activities in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

The Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is an internationally established whale sanctuary, as in S-A-N-C-T-U-A-R-Y. Sanctuary means no killing; it means protection, it means refuge, it means asylum. We intend to protect the whales within the sanctuary with all the resources available to us.

Each year the whalers set a kill quota of approximately 1,000 whales. Yet setting a kill quota will not make their actions legal, because killing in an established whale sanctuary is never legal.  Commercial whaling in the waters south of sixty degrees is a violation of the Antarctic Treaty, which prohibits commercial activity in the waters around the continent of Antarctica.  The only way to legalise commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean would be to dismantle the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and to negate the Antarctic Treaty.

Therefore, unless a quota of zero whale kills is established, Sea Shepherd ships will once again return to Antarctic waters to protect and defend the integrity of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.  The killing of even one whale is a violation of international conservation law.  Whaling ships from Japan or any other nation have no legal right to kill whales within the Sanctuary.

At the conclusion of Operation Zero Tolerance, when the Japanese government announced that they had taken less than 10% of their intended whale kill, they attributed their failure to the “relentless” intervention of Sea Shepherd.  Therefore, in honour of the 932 whales saved by our efforts in 2012-2013, we are calling this Antarctic Whale Defence Campaign “Operation Relentless.”


Yushin Maru No 2

The Killers

The Japanese whaling fleet has previously targeted Piked (Minke) Whales, Fin Whales, and Humpbacks under the Institute of Cetacean Research’s JARPA and JARPA II plans.  Japan's government is directly responsible for the continued slaughter, because after reviewing the original JARPA, it called for the launch of a “comprehensive study… combining lethal and non-lethal methods” – that study is the JARPAII. This annual slaughter has been carried out in contravention to the 1986 international moratorium against whaling.

JARPA stands for "Japanese Whale Research Program under Special Permit in the Antarctic." JARPAII states that: "Full-scale research will commence from the 2007/08 season and a period of six years (including two years of feasibility study) has been established as the research phase." Sea Shepherd wants to make it absolutely clear that "research" means "slaughtering whales."

The Australian government has publicly stated that there is no need for Japan to kill whales to do research, and it is understood worldwide that Japan only conducts this “research” so that they can commercially sell the whale meat. In January 2008, the Australian Federal Court ruled the whaling to be illegal and issued an injunction against the ICR, but the whalers continue killing whales in violation of that court order.  

In June and July of this year, Australia kept their promise to “…initiate legal action in the International Court of Justice in The Hague against Japanese ‘scientific’ whaling in the Southern Ocean. The decision underlines the Government’s commitment to bring to an end Japan’s program of so-called ‘scientific’ whaling in the Southern Ocean.  It also demonstrates our commitment to do what it takes to end whaling globally.”  The hearings lasted about three weeks, and the International Court of Justice is expected to release their decision in the coming months. 


Steve Irwin

Our Expeditions

Operation Relentless will be Sea Shepherd’s 10th campaign to intervene against the poaching of whales by the Japanese fleet in the Antarctic whale sanctuary.

2012-13: Operation Zero Tolerance - 932 whales saved
2011-12: Operation Divine Wind - 768 whales saved
2010-11: Operation No Compromise – 863 whales saved
2009-10: Operation Waltzing Matilda – 528 whales saved
2008-09: Operation Musashi – 305 whales saved
2007-08: Operation Migaloo – 500 whales saved
2006-07: Operation Leviathan – 500 whales saved
2005 and 2002: These campaigns were foundational to our subsequent efforts

Because of Sea Shepherd’s interventions, the Japanese whaling fleet has suffered losses for years and they are now in debt to the Japanese government for subsidies of more than 200 million USD.  It won't be long before the entire Japanese whaling fleet is sunk – economically.


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Sea ShepherdSea Shepherd is the world's leading direct-action ocean conservation organisation.