Anti-whaling activists the Sea Shepherd published video evidence Sunday of Japanese whalers slaughtering protected whale species in a marine preservation in the Southern Ocean.
The conservation group obtained footage of three dead minke whales, a protected species, on the deck of the Nisshin Maru, and a fourth whale, also believed to be a minke, being butchered on the ship, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. Crew members are seen mopping up large pools of blood on the deck.
After documenting the slaughter, the three-vessel Sea Shepherd fleet—which includes the Steve Irwin, the Bob Barker and the Sam Simon—drove the five Japanese whaling ships from the New Zealand maritime sanctuary in the first encounter of the current whaling season.
The Guardian reports:
The whaling boats were operating within the whale sanctuary in New Zealand’s territorial waters, located in the Ross Sea in Antarctica, according to Sea Shepherd.
Conservationists argue that Australia should enforce its own Antarctic territory by cracking down on whaling, which has been deemed unlawful by the federal court. However, only four nations – which do not include Japan – recognise Australia’s claim to Antarctic land and sea territory.
Though condemning the actions of the Japanese whalers, neighboring governments have thus far done little to deter the practice.
According to the Sea Shepherd crew, "there was no sign of either the HMNZS Otago, which is patrolling New Zealand’s southern waters during whaling season, nor an Australian government aircraft, which was put forward by the country's environment minister Greg Hunt in lieu of the customs vessel he promised before the election."
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"The Australian government have effectively said to its fleet, 'Don't intervene on this crime.' That's the problem here," said Bob Brown, Sea Shepherd Australia chairman. "They're Australian whales, effectively, and they're been slaughtered, illegally."
"The pictures speak for themselves. It's a bloody outrage," he added.
Though agreeing the Japanese operation is "pointless and offensive," New Zealand foreign affairs minister Murray McCully added that the area of the slaughter constituted "international waters and not within New Zealand's maritime jurisdiction."
Following a season of intense confrontation during which the whalers reportedly rammed into Sea Shepherd vessels and fired both water cannons and stun grenades, this initial episode ended without violent confrontation.
“We are keeping on their tail and they aren’t whaling at the moment so we’re happy about that, at least,” Jeff Hansen, the managing director of Sea Shepherd Australia, told Guardian Australia. “There is no need for confrontation, the number one priority is the protection of whales.”
Below is the video evidence obtained by the Sea Shepherd crew. The footage contains both graphic and disturbing images.