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Sea Shepherd

Established in 1977, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) is an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organization. Our mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world’s oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species.

Sea Shepherd uses innovative direct-action tactics to investigate, document, and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities on the high seas. By safeguarding the biodiversity of our delicately-balanced ocean ecosystems, Sea Shepherd works to ensure their survival for future generations.

Sea Shepherd is not verified as a 501(c)3 organization.

Latest News

Jan 29, 2015

Sea Shepherd to Hold 32 Peaceful Demonstrations Against Taiji Dolphin Slaughter on “World Love for Dolphins Day”

Special Guest Speakers and Celebrity Supporters to Join Sea Shepherd at Demonstrations at Japanese Embassies and Consulates in the U.S. and Overseas on Feb. 13th

news-150108-1-WLDD finalOriginal art concept by Cassie RandallOn Friday February 13, 2015, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians and supporters around the world will join together for the second annual “World Love for Dolphins Day,” to hold peaceful demonstrations against Taiji, Japan’s brutal capture and slaughter of dolphins. On the eve of Valentine’s Day, thousands of people will bring the world’s love and reverence for dolphins to Japan’s doorstep at Japanese embassies and consulates across the United States and overseas.

Sea Shepherd will be joined by speakers and celebrity supporters, as these special guests help the organization to shine a bright, international spotlight on Taiji’s infamous killing cove.

Actress Shannen Doherty, best known for her roles on the hit television series Beverly Hills, 90210 and Charmed, will take part in the demonstration at the Japanese consulate in Los Angeles. Doherty not only demonstrated as part of “World Love for Dolphins Day” last year, she has taken her love of dolphins to the frontlines, joining Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians on the ground in Taiji in Sept. 2014 to bear witness to and document the brutal dolphin hunt firsthand. She live streamed to the world as a pod of Risso’s dolphins was ruthlessly slaughtered, and from inside Taiji Whale Museum, where the albino bottlenose calf “Shoujo” remains captive since being captured from her mother’s side in January 2014 while swimming among a “superpod” of more than 250 dolphins.

Other celebrities in attendance at the LA demonstration will include Sam Simon, co-creator of The Simpsons TV show, noted philanthropist and sponsor of the Sea Shepherd vessel named in his honor. Simon traveled to Taiji last year with a group of friends including actresses Alexandra Paul of Baywatch and Missy Hargraves of Law & Order: LA to witness the horrors of Taiji first-hand and help shine a spotlight on this ongoing atrocity. Also attending the demonstration will be actor and Sea Shepherd supporter Eric Balfour, star of the hit television series Haven, and actor Ross McCall, star of the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers and star of the TV show, Crash. The celebrity supporters will be joined by Sea Shepherd representatives, who will speak at the event.

Sea Shepherd Senior Cove Guardian Campaign Leader, Melissa Sehgal will also be in attendance to stand alongside Sea Shepherd supporters at the “World Love for Dolphins” Day demonstration in Los Angeles. Sehgal, who was denied entry to Japan this year to document the brutal drive hunt for what would have been her fifth season in Taiji, will attend in solidarity with the Cove Guardians currently on the ground in Japan.

“On ‘World Love for Dolphins Day,’ the voices of thousands of people around the world will join with Sea Shepherd and our Cove Guardians as we stand up and say, ‘Dolphins do not belong to Japan,’” said Sehgal.

** Please see below the current list of official, confirmed “World Love for Dolphins Day” events in the United States and overseas. Please check back for additional locations.


Demonstrations begin outside the following locations at 12:00pm ET/PT and end at 1:00pm ET/PT unless otherwise noted below. Please check the times for your demo location:

Wells Fargo Center, Suite 2700
1300 S.W. 5th Ave
Portland, OR 97201

601 Union Street, Suite 500
Seattle WA 98101-4015

Los Angeles
350 South Grand Ave, Suite 1700
Los Angeles CA 90071-3459

1225 17th Street, Suite 3000
Denver CO 80202-5505

2 Houston Center Building

909 Fannin Street
Suite 3000
Houston TX 77010

Washington DC (12pm-2pm ET)
Meeting at DuPont Circle Metro station 12pm and marching to Embassy of Japan DuPont Circle Metro
1525 20th St. NW
Washington, DC 20008

New York
Consulate-General of Japan in New York
299 Park Ave, 19th Floor
New York NY 10171-0025

San Francisco (10:00 AM - 2:00 PM PT)
275 Battery Street, Suite 2100
San Francisco, CA 94111

Boston (12pm-2pm ET)
Federal Reserve Plaza, 22nd Floor
600 Atlantic Avenue
Boston, MA 02210

Phipps Tower, Suite 850
3438 Peachtree Road
Atlanta, GA 30326

1742 Nuuanu Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96817-3201

11 South Meridian Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204

737 North Michigan Avenue #1100
Chicago, IL 60611

80 Southwest 8th Street #3200
Miami, FL 33130

Dallas (11am-2pm CST)
Dealy Plaza
Dallas, TX


Demonstrations will be held outside the following locations. Please check the times for your demo location:

Rio de Janeiro (Feb 12. 15pm-17pm BRST)
Praia do Flamengo, 200
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
* Because Feb 13 is carnival in Rio and the Japanese Consulate will be closed, this event is on Feb 12

Toronto (11:30am-1:30pm ET)
77 King Street West
Suite 3300, TD North Tower
Toronto, ON M5K 1A1

900-1177 West Hastings Street
Vancouver, BC, V6E 2K9

Melbourne (12pm-2pm AEDT)
GPO Steps
Cnr Bourke Street Mall & Elizabeth Sts
Melbourne, Australia

Copenhagen (3pm CET)
From City Hall Square to the Japanese Embassy
Copenhagen, Denmark

Chañaral de Aceituno (4pm CLST)
4th. Region
Chañaral's harbor, Chile

255 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON K1N 9E6, Canada

The Hague (2pm-4pm CET)
Tobias Asserlaan 2
2517KC Den Haag
The Netherlands

Barcelona (11am-1pm CET)
Av. Diagonal, 640, 2ª planta D
08017 Barcelona, Spain

Madrid (11am-1pm CET)
Calle Serrano, 109
28006 Madrid, Spain

Perth (12pm-2pm AWST)
U22 / Level 2,
111 Colin Street,
West Perth, WA 6005

Mexico City (11am-12pm CST)
Paseo de la Reforma, 395
06500 Mexico City, Mexico

Wellington (12pm-2pm NZDT)
100 Willis Street
Wellington, New Zealand

Auckland (12pm-2pm NZDT)
41 Shortland Street
Auckland, New Zealand

Santiago (Feb 14. 4pm CLST)
Av. Ricardo Lyon 520
Providencia, Santiago, Chile
* Please note that this event is taking place on Feb. 14.

Budapest (2pm-3pm CET)
H-1125 Budapest, Zalai út 7
Budapest, Hungary

Nutley Building
Merrion Centre
Nutley Lane
Dublin 4, Ireland

For a staggering six months of each year, from September 1 until March, entire families of dolphins and small whales are driven into Taiji’s killing cove. Once netted within the shallow waters of the cove, their fate is sealed and the members of these doomed, frightened pods will face either imprisonment in captivity or brutal slaughter before the eyes of their families. Killers and trainers work side-by-side to select the “prettiest” dolphins and whales for captivity, those without visible scars. The others are mercilessly stabbed with a metal spike inserted into their backs, just behind the blowhole, to sever their spine. The dolphins slowly and painfully bleed to death or drown in the blood of their family—others may die as they are dragged to the butcherhouse, where the once living and free cetaceans are processed into meat for human consumption. These inhumane killings would not be allowed in any slaughterhouse in the world. Japan refuses to sign on to many protection efforts and regulations for marine mammals, despite most of the world recognizing the need to protect these self-aware, beloved and imperiled animals.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society first brought the cove to the world’s attention by capturing and releasing now-iconic footage and imagery of the brutal hunts and slaughters in 2003, during which the cove turned a blood-red. Later the Academy Award-winning film The Cove again shone a spotlight on the hunts, bringing worldwide attention to the killings. Many individuals thought the film succeeded in bringing an end to the hunts, but that was not the case. So in 2010, Sea Shepherd established Operation Infinite Patience and our volunteer Cove Guardians took up positions alongside the cove to document, report and live stream these atrocities in the hope of capturing attention to bring pressure to bear to stop these barbaric acts. Sea Shepherd is the only organization to have a team on the ground in Taiji each day throughout the entire six-month killing season, and the only group who live streams every capture and every kill for the world to see. Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians will not stop shining a light on this atrocity until the slaughter ends.

Jan 28, 2015

Sea Shepherd is Free to Return to the Faroe Islands in 2015

Denmark Puts a Lid on Attempts by the Faroese to Implement Authoritarian Measures

Commentary by Sea Shepherd founder, Captain Paul Watson

Last year, more than 400 Sea Shepherd volunteers traveled to the Faroe IslandsLast year, more than 400 Sea Shepherd volunteers traveled to the Faroe Islands
File Photo: Sea Shepherd
In an attempt to undermine freedom in their own country, 29 of the 33 members of the Faroese Løgting (parliament) voted in December to ban Sea Shepherd volunteers from coming to the Faroe Islands. After Sea Shepherd's successful campaign to protect pilot whales and dolphins this past summer, Operation GrindStop 2014, Faroese politicians decided to take the drastic move to stop further Sea Shepherd intervention by simply banning Sea Shepherd volunteers from the Faroes. This move certainly illustrated that many Faroese politicians have acknowledged the effectiveness of Sea Shepherd's campaigning.

This law of course would be a blatantly discriminatory policy that would ban people for their beliefs. However, this did not concern 29 of the Faroese legislators with their blind obsession to defend the slaughter of pilot whales and dolphins at all costs.

The problem for the Faroese however is, how do you ban Sea Shepherd volunteers who happen to be members of the European Union (EU)? Banning members of the EU could cause a retaliation of banning Faroese citizens from Europe. A law banning Sea Shepherd would have required Danish approval, and Denmark was not about to head down the road of censorship and discrimination.

The Danish government would have none of it and vetoed the measure, illustrating once more that Denmark does indeed have control over affairs in the Faroe Islands.

The Faroese claim that killing whales is a tradition and part of their culture. On the other hand, the Danish view freedom, democracy and human rights as part of their culture. It appears that in this case Denmark’s commitment to human rights and freedoms takes precedence over any obligation they may have to defend the barbaric practices of a vassal nation.

Killing cetaceans is a violation of European Union law. Denmark is a member of the EU and provides subsidies to the Faroe Islands. The Faroese claim they are independent, and for that reason, they insist that the law does not apply to them despite the fact that Danish police intervene to protect the whale killing in the Faroes.

Last year, more than 400 Sea Shepherd volunteers traveled to the Faroe Islands to oppose the obscenity that the Faroese call the “Grindadrap,” which translates to “the murder of whales.” 33 whales were killed during the three-month period that Sea Shepherd volunteers patrolled the islands. The year before, in the same time period, more than 1,300 pilot whales and dolphins were massacred on Faroese beaches.

Sea Shepherd will never stop opposing the Grind no matter what obstacles are placed in our way. This global movement to protect and defend cetaceans grows stronger every year. The murder of whales and dolphins has no place in the 21st century.

It appears that the attempt to legally ban Sea Shepherd from the Faroe Islands has failed. Thus, if Sea Shepherd is able to return to the Faroe Islands in 2015, there is no legal impediment preventing our volunteers from doing so in order to protect pilot whales and dolphins.

Operation GrindStop
Visit our
Operation GrindStop 2014
site for more information.

Jan 27, 2015

Verdict Issued in Jairo Mora Case: Court Could Not Condemn the Murderers, But We All Know Who They Are

Environmentalist Jairo Mora Sandoval on the beach with fellow WIDECAST volunteersJairo Mora Sandoval
Photo taken by Christine Figgener
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society deeply regrets the decision of the Criminal Court of Limon, which yesterday acquitted seven men accused of the murder of environmentalist Jairo Mora Sandoval.

Jairo Mora, a 26-year-old Costa Rican activist, dedicated to protecting sea turtles from poachers, was brutally murdered on May 31st, 2013 in Moin, Limon, Costa Rica.

The verdict of the Court of Limon has dismayed our organization. The murder of a young man who dedicated his life to protecting marine life should not go unpunished.

We understand that the Court issued a judgment of acquittal justified by errors which took place during the investigation of the case. However, we strongly appeal to the judicial prosecutors and investigators to not continue making such mistakes that allow murderers to kill with impunity.

The name of Jairo Mora won't be forgotten and as a tribute to his work, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society named last year one of its ships in his honor. Currently, this boat performs control operations against poaching off the coast of West Africa.

In September of last year, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Latin American Sea Turtles Association (LAST) launched Operation Pacuare, a campaign against poaching to protect sea turtles at Playa Pacuare in the province of Limon, Costa Rica.

The goal for this year is to expand this operation and the vigilant patrols of turtles in Moin Beach as a way to continue to honor the memory of Jairo and the important work he accomplished in Costa Rica.

We will never be silent. We will not forget. We will not stop. The life in our seas should be protected in accordance with the courageous work of Jairo and many others offering their lives for this noble cause.

Beyond the technical flaws, which prevented the court from issuing a guilty verdict, Costa Ricans know who are the culprits.

Jan 26, 2015

Sea Shepherd Receives 8.3 Million Euros from the Dutch Postcode Lottery for the Protection of the Southern Ocean

National Postcode LotteryAt the annual Goed Geld Gala (Good Money Gala) in Amsterdam on January 26th, Sea Shepherd received the biggest donation (8.3 million Euros) in its history. Sea Shepherd’s submitted Dream Project Stop Illegal Fishing in the Southern Ocean was awarded with the required funds to make this dream a reality. Sea Shepherd will use the donation to build a new ship, which will enable the organization to be more effective than ever in the fight against poaching on the high seas.

Since 2002, Sea Shepherd has been confronting illegal whalers and illegal fishermen in the waters surrounding the Antarctic continent. Sea Shepherd’s actions have been very successful but the fleet is aging and the vessels are lacking speed. For many years, Sea Shepherd has looked for a vessel that has the range and capability of reaching high top speeds to be the Southern Ocean Patrol flagship. To date, however, budget restrictions have made such a purchase impossible.

“Sea Shepherd will now be able to have a custom-designed ship built, capable of achieving speeds that far exceed any of the vessels in our current fleet. After researching possible ship builders for the last two years, negotiations with Dutch ship builder Damen has resulted in a blueprint of our ideal ship”, said Alex Cornelissen, CEO of Sea Shepherd Global.

Artists' impression, depicting the potential look of Sea Shepherd's 'dream' ship. (By Artist Damen)Artists' impression, depicting the potential look of Sea Shepherd's 'dream ship'.
(Credit: Damen - for Sea Shepherd)

The Southern Ocean is one of the last regions of untouched natural beauty on the planet. Unfortunately we are seeing an increasing number of illegal activities that aim to spoil this pristine environment. Unregulated and illegal extraction of marine wildlife is disrupting the Antarctic eco-system and urgent action is needed.

“We are now able to proceed with the purchase of our dream ship and lift our conservation efforts to protect the Southern Ocean from illegal exploitation to the next level. We are extremely grateful to the Dutch Postcode Lottery and the people of the Netherlands for this very generous support,” said Cornelissen.

Sea Shepherd received for this project 8.3 million Euros from the postcode lotteries in the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The Dutch Postcode Lottery contributed 7.5 million Euros. Further to the Dream Project, Sea Shepherd once again received a check for 900,000 Euros from the Postcode Lottery, bringing the total donation that Sea Shepherd has received from the Lottery since 2007 to the incredible amount of 15.5 million Euros.

Jan 22, 2015

Pamela Anderson Proudly Joins Sea Shepherd’s Board of Advisors

Pamela Anderson Becomes the Newest Member of Sea Shepherd’s Advisory Board

Sea Shepherd's Newest Member of Sea Shepherd's Advisory BoardPamela Anderson
Newest Member of Sea Shepherd's Advisory Board
Pamela Anderson’s iconic blonde bombshell persona made her a household name, but for as long as she’s been a successful television star, she has also been a fearless animal right’s activist. A long time supporter of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and its founder, Captain Paul Watson, Pamela adds another achievement to her list by joining the international organization’s prestigious Media and Arts Advisory Board.

Pamela has not only dedicated her time and resources to human and animal rights, and environmental protection, but she has also bravely fought on the frontlines for change. In the Summer of 2014, Pamela traveled to the Faroe Islands to publicly speak about the brutal mass slaughter of pilot whales known as the Grind. In 2006, the Canadian native spoke up against the Canadian seal slaughter at the Juno Awards, sparking the strongest protests ever against the barbaric practice.

In the ‘90s, Pamela was one of the first celebrities to join PETA’s anti-fur campaign, starting a trend many celebrities would later follow. Pamela’s list of philanthropic accomplishments is long and varied. She has successfully campaigned to bring to light Kentucky Fried Chicken’s (KFC) horrific treatment of chickens, as well as numerous campaigns to save the seals, stop animal testing, and ban the use of fur (including importation of fur to Russia). Through these and many other efforts, Pamela has proven to be one of the most influential defenders of animal of rights in the world. She has spoken on the subject of animal rights to government legislatures, and at universities including Oxford and Cambridge.

Pamela has justly received many awards and recognitions including Mercy for Animals Sam Simon Award for being a defender of animal rights, and in 2014 was named Grand Dame of Montenegro in recognition of her animal activism. She is also the recipient of the Linda McCartney Memorial Award, presented to her by Sir Paul McCartney, to recognize her dedicated work as a staunch defender of animal rights.

Over the years, Pamela has served numerous other charitable causes including MAC Cosmetic’s MAC AIDS Fund, American Liver Foundation, J/P Haitian Relief Organization, and the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Pamela has also been deeply involved in supporting groups working on climate change issues such as Vivienne Westwood’s Climate Revolution as well as Cool Earth.

Now, Pamela is proud to leverage her many years in public philanthropy with the creation of her own charity—The Pamela Anderson Foundation. The Pamela Anderson Foundation will provide support and funding directly to those organizations on the front lines protecting and defending the rights of the planet and all those that live within it.

Her generous heart and deep consideration for life are almost as irresistible as her legendary charm and beauty. It is with these remarkable traits that she has made international headlines for herself as well as shaped a legacy of caring about the causes she holds dear.

Jan 20, 2015

The “Likes of Sea Shepherd” Succeed Where the Navy Fails

Commentary by Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson

BUSTED! Capt. Peter Hammarstedt catches toothfish-poaching vessel, Thunder, inside CCAMLR region.BUSTED! Capt. Peter Hammarstedt catches toothfish-poaching vessel, Thunder, inside CCAMLR region
Photo: Sea Shepherd / Simon Ager
I was ready to give the New Zealand Navy the benefit of the doubt. I thought they had the courage to actually take on a bunch of high seas poachers if not for the unsurprising timidity of politicians like New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully.

But the recent comment by HMNZS Wellington Commanding Officer Graham MacLean has made me reassess my opinion of the New Zealand Navy.

According to MacLean the mission was “a resounding success despite the lack of arrests.”

Commanding Officer MacLean says he does not have much respect for Sea Shepherd. Apparently he has made it clear, and I quote, that he “can’t see the likes of Sea Shepherd and the Navy working together.”

Captain Sid Chakravarty on the Sea Shepherd ship, Sam Simon responded that “a little bit of assistance from the Navy and the government would mean they could find illegal fishing boats lurking in the Southern Ocean far more quickly.”

But that level of cooperation is unlikely.

Sea Shepherd Captain Chakravarty says that's been the story all along. "I can't say I'm surprised. I think it can be expected of the government to have that attitude. But regardless, Sea Shepherd will go ahead; we will confront these vessels and we will shut down their operations."

The facts are clear. The three poaching vessels found by the New Zealand Navy are listed by Interpol as clearly illegal. The HMNZ Wellington was sent to the Southern Ocean to patrol and search for illegal fishing vessels. They found them. So what is the point of searching for poachers, finding the poachers and then letting said poachers continue poaching?

The poachers did not even try to stop fishing after the Wellington found them. They simply ignored the New Zealand Navy and continued poaching toothfish.

Commander MacLean proceeded to lament to the media about the rough sea conditions, cold weather and potential dangers.

One needs to wonder why the Navy even bothered to venture into the Southern Ocean in the first place if they are concerned about rough sea conditions, cold weather and potential dangers.

For Commanding Officer MacLean to describe this as a resounding success is ridiculous. Maybe he is trying to convince the public that it was a resounding success, but the reality is that it was a pathetic and cowardly failed intervention.

These three ships will be hauling hundreds of tons of toothfish from waters supposedly protected by New Zealand and the Navy simply allowed them to continue. This is not a success by any stretch of the imagination. What these poachers demonstrated was that the Navy is utterly impotent. They know it, the Navy knows it and the public knows it too.

Crew of the Sam Simon use specially modified equipment to haul the 25km-long gillnet.Crew of the Sam Simon use specially modified equipment to haul the 25km-long gillnet
Photo: Sea Shepherd / Jeff Wirth
Meanwhile the “likes of Sea Shepherd” have shut down one poaching operation, confiscated more than 60 kilometers of gill net and deprived the Nigerian-flagged Thunder of millions of dollars in profits. Sea Shepherd is now working to head off the three poaching vessels that the New Zealand Navy let go.

And Sea Shepherd is doing this without a single tax dollar from New Zealand or Australia, while suffering distain, criticism and harassment from both governments. Sea Shepherd also expects that this success in the Southern Ocean will be met by even more harassment when the Sea Shepherd ships return to port, because of ridiculous accusations that by hauling in the abandoned nets, Sea Shepherd faces the possibility of charges for “illegal fishing.”

The fact is that the world’s governments simply lack the economic and political motivation to tackle the issue of illegal fishing. There is no enforcement, the poachers are given ridiculously small fines when on the rare occasion they are caught and they are even receiving subsidies from the very governments that are supposed to be shutting down their illegal activities.

The Navy is saying that their mission is a success because they filmed the ships and took evidence of their catch. According to the government, this means the poachers will have a problem offloading their catch.

However, last year the Thunder was detained in Malyasia. They paid a $90,000 fine and were allowed to leave with a catch of toothfish that was worth millions. The fact is that if these three ships have cargos worth millions of dollars, they will find a port to offload for the simple reason that there are plenty of ports where port officials can easily be bribed.

If unarmed Sea Shepherd ships crewed by volunteers can shut down a poaching operation, confiscate the gear and deprive the poachers of their cargos, the armed and better equipped Naval ships could do the job more easily, if they had the will to do so.

The fact is that they do not have the will and they lack the motivation to protect the ecological integrity of the Southern Ocean, and no amount of justification by Foreign Affairs Minister McCully or Commander MacLean is going to convince us that they actually are seriously concerned with addressing the problem.

Last week their excuse was that they were low on fuel. Yesterday the Wellington was refueled. If they are serious they will depart and return to the Southern Ocean. They have the means to locate the poachers again. They have the means to shut them down.

The Sea Shepherd ship Sam Simon is heading for these three pirate fishing vessels. The New Zealand Navy could assist Sea Shepherd in stopping the continuing theft of what the poachers call “white gold.”

My bet is that the New Zealand government and Navy will do nothing, that they will allow volunteers – including Sea Shepherd Kiwi volunteers on the Sea Shepherd ships – to take the risks that they will not and to undertake the responsibility from which they have walked away. And to add insult to injury the government and the Navy will criticize and condemn Sea Shepherd for taking any action at all – because, after all, they can’t be associated with “the likes of Sea Shepherd.”

Navy fires back at critics over illegal fishing standoff in Southern Ocean

Jan 16, 2015

One Year Later: Reflecting on Slaughter of Bottlenose Superpod and Capture of Albino Calf, Shoujo

Images Taken by Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians, Documenting the Brutal Capture of “Shoujo” and Horrific Slaughter of Her Family, Sparked an International Media Firestorm

Baby albino dolphin, Shoujo, clings to her mother in the cove  Baby albino dolphin, Shoujo, clings to her mother in the cove
Photo: Sea Shepherd
As the one-year anniversary of the unprecedented capture of more than 250 bottlenose dolphins and a rare albino calf in Taiji approaches, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is reflecting upon this horrific event that drew worldwide media, public and political scrutiny to the annual capture and slaughter of dolphins and small whales in the cove.

On Jan. 17, 2014, the Taiji dolphin hunters’ greed got the best of them, resulting in global outrage, when they combined and drove five separate bottlenose pods into the cove, forming the largest pod witnessed by the Cove Guardians in Taiji since the launch of Sea Shepherd’s Operation Infinite Patience campaign in 2010. The killers immediately recognized a lucrative find, as the “superpod” — already valuable because bottlenose dolphins are a highly profitable species in the captive trade — included a rare albino calf, believed to be worth an estimated $500,000 in the captive industry. This calf was the first to be torn from the dolphin family and separated for captivity. Named “Shoujo,” by Sea Shepherd founder, Captain Paul Watson, the calf captivated the hearts of the world, as the Cove Guardians documented killers and trainers forcibly separating her from her mother’s side.

This was not the end of the horrors for these frightened dolphins, already exhausted after the drive into the cove. Captive selection lasted for days, as the stressed and anxious dolphins were held for four nights in the cove without food or shelter. Each day, the Cove Guardians live streamed to the world, and the violent and shocking nature of the captive selection process in Taiji was exposed, as both killers and trainers wrestled dolphins away from their families to select the “prettiest” pod members for captivity — those without scars and other “flaws.” Some dolphins were visibly bleeding and injured during the selection, a process that proved to be as brutal as the slaughter itself.

Killers carelessly run over dolphins with a skiff during the violent captive selection Killers carelessly run over dolphins with a skiff during the violent captive selection
Photo: Sea Shepherd
On Jan. 21, after days of captive selection, the massacre of this fractured dolphin family took place. As the waters of the cove finally settled, 52 dolphins had been taken captive (one of whom did not survive), approximately 41 had been slaughtered and 130-140 exhausted and traumatized dolphins were driven back out to sea.

Though despicable and tragic, these events sparked an international media firestorm and created more opposition to Taiji’s hunt than had ever been seen before. Sea Shepherd drew the eyes of the world upon Taiji with strategic media efforts, a coordinated social media campaign activating Sea Shepherd networks around the world, and daily press releases based upon reports sent by Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians, who worked ‘round the clock on the ground in Taiji to bring the world up-to-the-minute news about the pod. The unprecedented size of the captured pod, the finding of the rare albino calf and the brutal nature and duration of the captive selection, as well as the horrific slaughter of many of the dolphins combined to spark global outrage, an unprecedented media response that lasted for weeks, and strong political pressure upon Japan. A powerful photo captured by the Cove Guardians, of the dolphins being carelessly run over by the killers in skiffs, was run by the Associated Press and picked up by media around the world.

A consistently strong, global viewing audience tuned into Sea Shepherd’s live stream, with at least 100,000 viewers watching throughout the five days and four nights that the pod was held. Social media played a vital role in bringing Sea Shepherd’s live stream and reports to a massive audience. Concerned individuals around the world followed updates on Sea Shepherd’s social media pages, as we saw a spike in “likes,” yielding 2.5 million views on the Cove Guardians Facebook page and nearly one million on Sea Shepherd USA’s Facebook page.

“The international community witnessed and responded with compassionate outrage to this horrifying capture of hundreds of bottlenose dolphins, thanks to the tireless reporting by Sea Shepherd’s volunteer Cove Guardians, which was followed and shared by dedicated and caring people around the world and covered by international media,” said Sea Shepherd Senior Cove Guardian Campaign Leader, Melissa Sehgal. “Sea Shepherd is the only group on the ground daily throughout Taiji’s six-month hunt season each year, ensuring that every capture and every slaughter is live streamed and seen by the world. Now in our fifth season of Operation Infinite Patience, we continue to apply global pressure on Japan to end the bloodshed.”

Killers and trainers surrounded a terrified dolphin Killers and trainers surrounded a terrified dolphin
Photo: Sea Shepherd

Actress Shannen Doherty live streams from inside Taiji Whale Museum, showing Shoujo’s current tankActress Shannen Doherty live streams from inside Taiji Whale Museum, showing Shoujo’s current tank
Photo: Sea Shepherd

With news of the pod’s capture, Sea Shepherd and its supporters immediately began tweeting to United States Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, asking her to watch the live stream from Taiji. Ambassador Kennedy likely did witness the horrors unfolding in the cove, as she quickly spoke out against the hunt, tweeting a statement that she is “deeply concerned by [the] inhumaneness of drive hunt dolphin killing” and that the U.S. government “opposes drive hunt fisheries.”

Ambassador Kennedy’s no-nonsense tweet sparked media headlines and encouraged other political figures to follow suit and issue public statements against Japan’s brutal capture and slaughter of dolphins, including Italian Ambassador to Japan, Domenico Giorgi; British Ambassador to Japan, Tim Hitchens; and Australian Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt.

Sea Shepherd hopes that Ambassador Kennedy, who last year at this time shed a bright, international spotlight on the cove, will once again come to the aid of the dolphins still dying in those blood-tainted waters and ask that Japan bring a permanent end to the slaughter. Except for those suffering in captivity right now, the nightmare has ended for the bottlenose dolphins captured last year. However, the hunt continues along Taiji’s deadly shores.

For six months of each year — from September until March — entire family units, or pods, of dolphins and small whales at a time are driven into Taiji’s killing cove. Banger poles are hit against the side of the hunting boats to create a “wall of sound,” disorienting the sound-sensitive marine mammals and making it nearly impossible for them to escape the drive. Once netted into the cove, their fate is sealed: the dolphins and whales face brutal slaughter or a lifetime in captivity. In a drive just as stressful as the drive into the cove, remaining pod members — usually juveniles and infants — are driven back out to sea with little hope of survival on their own.

Cove Guardians
Visit our
Cove Guardians
site for more information.

Jan 14, 2015

Waltzing with the Academic Critics of Tasmania

Response by Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson

Retrieval of a massive gill net left behind by the ThunderRetrieval of a massive gill net left behind
by the Thunder
File photo
Once again I have to respond to Dr. Julia Jabour of the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies and Indi Hodgson-Johnston of the University of Tasmania, who continue to criticize Operation Icefish once again in the Tasmanian newspaper Mercury. Admittedly they have toned down their condemnation in light of Sea Shepherd’s successful intervention against the poaching vessel Thunder, but they still continue to insinuate that Sea Shepherd is “illegally fishing” by recovering the abandoned gill net.

This last week the New Zealand Navy intercepted three of the six notorious Southern Ocean toothfish poachers following the interception a month ago of a fourth poacher, the most notorious of all, the Nigerian-flagged Thunder.

The New Zealand Navy claims they are powerless to actually stop the poachers. The poachers have continued to set and haul their nets as the Navy looks on, waiting for “permission” from their government to intervene.

Not a single toothfish poaching vessel has been intercepted since 2003, when the Australian government ship Southern Supporter chased the Uraguayan poacher Viarsa I for 21 days. The pursuit of the Thunder by the Sea Shepherd ship Bob Barker has exceeded that pursuit, establishing a new world record for the longest pursuit of an illegal fishing vessel.

Anyhow once again I have to respond point-by-point to “experts” Jabour and Hodgson-Johnston.

I do acknowledge that Academics have a need to justify themselves as experts. Their careers depend upon being advisors to government and industry. They need to publish and speak out in defense of their clients.

Sea Shepherd, on the other hand, are not advisors to government and industry. Our clients are the living citizens of the sea and in this case that means our clients are the toothfish.

What I do not understand is exactly why Jabour and Hodgson-Johnston feel it is necessary to appoint themselves as the expert critics of Operation Icefish. What constructive purpose are they trying to fulfill in doing so?

It’s a simple case of conservationists in opposition to poachers. They are saying that Sea Shepherd has a bias against the poachers. I’m not sure if this implies that they don’t have a bias against the poachers, but they certainly seem to have a bias against Sea Shepherd and Operation Icefish.


Jabour/Hodgson-Johnston: The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s encounter with the Nigerian-flagged toothfish fishing vessel “Thunder” highlights the problem of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

Captain Paul Watson: It has indeed highlighted the problem so I am happy to see that our two experts agree with that at least.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston: The fishing activities of vessels such as “Thunder” are unsustainable and indiscriminate.

Captain Paul Watson: Looks like this is something else we can agree upon.


Indi Hodgson-Johnston: While criticism abounds from Sea Shepherd supporters about the fishing problems in the Southern Ocean, these activities are, in fact, isolated remnants of a once frequent occurrence. This follows tireless efforts by the Hobart-based Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources to deal with the problem. There are fewer than 10 illegal, unreported and unregulated vessels now known to visit the CCAMLR fishing area.

Captain Paul Watson: The “remnants,” as they call them, continue to exploit hundreds of tons of toothfish as the poachers profit by tens of millions of dollars—and in some cases continue to receive government subsidies through the various layers of bureaucracy of the corporate interests that control their operations. If one vessel like the Thunder can set 100 kilometers of gill net, that means a potential for 1,000 miles of gill nets being set, and not once but over and over again during the season. These nets are weapons of mass biological and ecological destruction. I would not call these operations insignificant. A 100-kilometer net is not an insignificant threat. If the problem has not been stamped out and continues to persist, this means that there remains a significant threat to the survival of the species.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston: This is dwarfed hundreds-fold by the problems off West Africa, where anarchic, brazen acts of such fishing practices are rife.

Captain Paul Watson: Which is precisely why Sea Shepherd has been operational off Senegal, South Africa and Cape Verde. Illegal fishing is a global problem, but what the Australia experts are saying here is that while it’s true that some banks are being robbed in Australia, many more banks are being robbed elsewhere. Sea Shepherd is a movement operating worldwide. The insinuation here is that Sea Shepherd should be addressing other problems instead of opposing illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean. They appear to be ignorant of the many issues and the many places where Sea Shepherd is active.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston: Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is a transnational and convoluted web of organised crime, unsustainable practices, and is rife with jurisdictional problems.

Captain Paul Watson: An understatement indeed, in addition to being rife with bureaucratic problems and vested economic agendas.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston: Laws to combat the practice are complex and frustrating, especially on the high seas, where regulation fails to keep pace with modern fishing.

Captain Paul Watson: Laws are complex and frustrating when muddled by politics and bureaucracy. The situation is simple. Unregulated fishing vessels simply need to be stopped and their abandoned gear confiscated just like Sea Shepherd has accomplished with the Thunder. Politics and bureaucracy have rendered enforcement agencies impotent. This has been illustrated by the fact that when Sea Shepherd intercepted the Thunder, the poachers dropped their gear and ran and they continue to run. The three poachers intercepted by the New Zealand Navy have simply continued to fish and to ignore the naval vessels. Why? Because the New Zealand Navy does not appear to be a threat to them.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston: The actions of Sea Shepherd are effective in raising public attention to the problem and are lauded in public discourse.

Captain Paul Watson: So very nice of them to acknowledge this. Just over a month ago, they were saying that Sea Shepherd could contribute nothing towards solving this problem.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston: Even legal operators have congratulated Sea Shepherd, despite Paul Watson’s statement that toothfish should not be killed for “expensive dinners”.

Captain Paul Watson: Yes of course they support what Sea Shepherd is doing, because Sea Shepherd is an anti-poaching organization. Sea Shepherd is not by definition an anti-fishing organization. We are not even a protest organization. We oppose criminals. My personal views about not eating fish are irrelevant to the objectives of Sea Shepherd. I’m sure that COLTO is more concerned about poaching than about my views on not eating Chilean sea bass.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston: However, we argue that improving practice in law and evidence collection, developing efficient and effective monitoring and surveillance technologies, building capacity of flag and port states in regions that such fishing operators exploit, are the mechanisms that will ultimately lead to criminal convictions to combat the global problem.

Captain Paul Watson: These are all very good things and Sea Shepherd is 100% in support of anything that is being done to curb illegal fishing. In the meantime there remains destructive poaching activities that remain outside of the reach of law enforcement. We have the evidence and we have the surveillance. What is lacking is the political and economic will to crack down on the poachers, especially in international waters.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston: Media coverage invokes confusion and outrage at the lack of action by authorities.

Captain Paul Watson: And thus they bring their views to the media so as to contribute even more to the confusion and outrage. Making ridiculous accusations that confiscating an abandoned gill net constitutes illegal fishing is not only confusing, it’s downright ridiculous and the kind of thing that makes the public respond with anger.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston: Legally, Australian and New Zealand governments are hampered in their desire to obliterate such fishing in the Southern Ocean due to “Thunder” fishing on the high seas.

Captain Paul Watson: Australia and New Zealand are hampered by their politicians and bureaucrats. This is why the poachers are not taking the New Zealand Navy very seriously.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston: Arguably, however, the most important work to be done to address this problem is by improving and challenging the existing legal frameworks — the system upon which Sea Shepherd hopes to ultimately rely when they demand authorities charge the Thunder with an offense.

Captain Paul Watson: By all means they should improve the existing legal framework because it is quite obvious it is no longer effective.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston: This expertise is specifically drawn from direct experience at sea, scientific research, international legal practice, and years of experience in Southern Ocean laws and policies.

Captain Paul Watson: Sea Shepherd has 40 years of experience in battling poachers on the high seas and 12 years of experience in the Southern Ocean. What we have found is that the poachers respond best to aggressive intervention.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston: The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s encounter with the Nigerian-flagged toothfish fishing vessel Thunder highlights the problem of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

The unfolding story of “Thunder” and the Dutch-flagged Sea Shepherd vessels “Bob Barker” and “Sam Simon” highlights why this legal and multidisciplinary inquiry promulgated by IMAS researchers needs to continue.

Captain Paul Watson: Sea Shepherd is delighted to help with the highlighting.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston: On December 17, the Sea Shepherd vessel “Bob Barker” stated it had “arrested” Thunder in the rich fishing area of the Kerguelen Plateau, near Antarctica.

The captain of Bob Barker had no authority to conduct the purported “citizen’s arrest”, as such a law does not exist on the high seas.

Captain Paul Watson: The captain and the crew of the Thunder responded very positively to the announcement that they had been “arrested.” They fled and abandoned all of their gill net gear in the Southern Ocean. Not the kind of reaction that would be expected from a legal operation. Sea Shepherd’s authority was recognized simply by the fact that the Thunder responded to Sea Shepherd’s declared authority. The Thunder was intercepted on the Banzare Bank and not on the Kerguelen Plateau.


Indi Hodgson-Johnston: By Paul Watson’s own admission on his Facebook page this “arrest” was intended solely to generate publicity and media attention.

Captain Paul Watson: It did indeed accomplish that objective.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston: While Bob Barker followed Thunder, another Sea Shepherd vessel, Sam Simon, remained to recover Thunder’s gillnets.

CCAMLR’s Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources controlling fisheries in the Southern Ocean technically deems Sam Simon to have been “illegally fishing” as its crew raised the abandoned nets, since raising nets is by definition fishing.

Captain Paul Watson: And here we have the reason that the public is confused and outraged by regulatory agencies like CCAMLR. What they are saying here is that Sea Shepherd should not have hauled in the nets, and instead we should have left the nets to continue their destruction of bio-diversity. If Sea Shepherd had done this, as these experts are saying we should have done, we would have been leaving 100 kilometers of ghost net in the sea that would continue to extinguish the lives of marine creatures for years to come. To accuse Sea Shepherd of illegal fishing for retrieving a weapon of mass biological and ecological destruction is simply insane.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston: The Netherlands is not a full party to the convention due to lack of fishing interests in the area. As a responsible fishing nation it has adopted the convention’s legal measures, however Dutch vessels cannot be licensed to fish by CCAMLR.

Captain Paul Watson: We are not aware of any Dutch-registered vessel fishing in the Southern Ocean. What they are insinuating is that the Sam Simon is by definition a fishing vessel by retrieving the abandoned net. Again this is the warped perspective of people whose grasp of the reality of the situation does not extend outside their book of regulations.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston: This purely technical situation does not take away from the valuable information gathered by the “Sam Simon” on the destructive nature of gillnetting, a practice prohibited by CCAMLR.

Captain Paul Watson: Well, we are happy to be of service. The crew of the Sam Simon documented, weighed and measured each toothfish recovered, in addition to documenting the by-catch.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston: As Nigeria is not a member of CCAMLR, Thunder is not directly bound by its rules.

Captain Paul Watson: Precisely why Sea Shepherd has decided to make the Thunder abide by the rules. The Thunder seems to be abiding by the rules now.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston: Nigeria is, however, a party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and its related instruments. This law is far less enforceable.

Captain Paul Watson: Sea Shepherd just enforced the law. Regardless of what happens should the Thunder find a port of refuge, they lost their gear, their catch and their season’s profits and the word “profit” is something they very much understand.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston: As a flag state, Nigeria has an obligation to cooperate with regional organisations such as CCAMLR, and their vessels are required to have licenses and fish responsibly.

Captain Paul Watson: We do not expect a country that hosts internet scams, massacres of civilians, and the bush meat trade to cooperate. This is precisely why Sea Shepherd has had to intervene. Besides, Nigeria’s involvement is seemingly restricted to receiving the money for the flag that allows the Thunder to go to sea. They will not be championing the “rights” of the criminals who fly their flags; well, unless they receive another sizable bribe.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston: The broadly worded nature of these laws, however, is such that they are rarely able to result in conviction in an international tribunal or domestic court.

Captain Paul Watson: Sea Shepherd is not interested in a conviction. Sea Shepherd is interesting in putting the poachers out of business.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston: Broad interpretations of international law are common.

Sea Shepherd has claimed “the longest pursuit in history”. They are not in “hot pursuit” of Thunder by any legal definition, such as the one satisfied by the Viarsa chase in 2003.

Captain Paul Watson: The Captain of the Thunder seems to think it’s a pursuit. He is certainly acting like he is being pursued. He tried to lose the Bob Barker in thick ice. He tried to lose the Bob Barker in the storms and both times he failed. He has not caught a fish in over a month and appears to have no destination. I guess it’s fair to say they are no longer in “hot” pursuit because over the last few weeks the Thunder has been fleeing at a top speed of three knots, in an effort to conserve fuel, with the hopeless belief they will be able to outlast the Bob Barker at sea.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston: With no authority and no coastal waters involved at its inception, the Bob Barker is merely following Thunder.

Captain Paul Watson: Yes the Bob Barker will continue to follow the Thunder. The poachers tried to head to Mozambique but when Sea Shepherd notified Mozambique, that nation issued an arrest order for the Thunder. Wherever the Thunder goes, Sea Shepherd will make sure that the world knows if any port gives these criminals sanctuary.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston: The CCAMLR black-listing of the Thunder, and the issuing of an Interpol Purple Notice is reflective of this delicate line between prosecution and perpetuating legal frustration.

Captain Paul Watson: Sea Shepherd is making that delicate line a little less delicate.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston: The Purple Notice is not the imminent arrest warrant Sea Shepherd claims. Rather it is a call for authorities to monitor the Thunder’s modus operandi. This is in order to gather evidence and intelligence from national jurisdictions to ensure that when the legal pieces are in place, a conviction is almost assured.

Captain Paul Watson: Sea Shepherd has never claimed that the Purple Notice was an imminent arrest warrant. However, Mozambique made it clear that they would issue an arrest warrant.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston: Should the Bob Barker follow Thunder into a port, their demands for justice will likely fall short of expectations.

Captain Paul Watson: Hardly. Sea Shepherd never has great expectations for action by any government. Sea Shepherd has already achieved a major victory in depriving the Thunder of its nets, catch and profits.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston: While some ports can, and have, refused Thunder entry, prosecution is difficult, and cases involving transnational fishing are long and frustrating.

Captain Paul Watson: Yes, tell me about it. Sea Shepherd is still fighting Maltese tuna poachers in court from the time in 2011, when our crew freed 800 illegally caught tuna from their nets off the coast of Libya. If what we do was easy, everyone would be doing it.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston: Technicalities involving jurisdiction, the admissibility of evidence, and the interpretation of laws are what the lawyers of these unscrupulous vessel operators thrive on.

Captain Paul Watson: Which is precisely why Sea Shepherd is effective. The poachers know how to deal with issues involving jurisdiction, admissibility of evidence and the interpretation of the laws but they do not seem to be able to counter Sea Shepherd’s intervention.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston: It’s unlikely evidence from Sea Shepherd would be admissible in court due to lack of authority and bias.

Captain Paul Watson: Sea Shepherd has GPS location evidence, documentation of the nets being set, documentation of the catch, and evidence of the nets. We have plenty of evidence. As for bias, of course we have a bias. We’re against poaching, and that is a bias we wish that more governments would demonstrate.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston: Penalties are often no deterrent. Owners of such vessels easily pay fines or avoid them by taking advantage of lax monitoring and control by flag states.

Captain Paul Watson: We agree. The Thunder was released by Indonesia last year, with their catch, after they paid a fine of $90,000. That fine was a fraction of their profits. Sea Shepherd has, however, deprived them of their entire season’s worth of profits.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston: Should Thunder be impounded, another vessel will spring up in its place.

Captain Paul Watson: By this logic, no one should do anything about the issue. It is a very defeatist perspective. If they replace it with another vessel, Sea Shepherd will simply hunt down the replacement vessel to deprive them of their profits once again.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston: The issues unfolding in the Southern Ocean are steeped with frustration for activists and academics alike. However, improvements in the practice of international law, coupled with improved technology and awareness, ultimately will close the net around the insidious illegal fishing industry.

Captain Paul Watson: Sea Shepherd has not found Operation Icefish to be very frustrating at all. In fact, it has been an enormous success. Poaching operation intercepted and halted, nets confiscated, profits lost and the issue given international attention, including the linking of these poachers with European Union connections in Spain and links to European Union subsidies.


Dr Julia Jabour is a Senior Lecturer at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies. She has been writing and lecturing on polar law and policy for 20 years. Julia has taught in universities in Malaysia, Vietnam, Iceland and New Zealand. She has visited Antarctica six times and has attended Antarctic Treaty consultative meetings as an adviser to the Australian delegation.

Indi Hodgson-Johnston is a PhD candidate at IMAS, and a lecturer and tutor at the University of Tasmania. She is a legal adviser to an international firm, and has worked at sea in various maritime security roles.

Talking Point: Tough fighting crime on high seas