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The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) is a non-profit, marine conservation organization based in Friday Harbor, Washington in the United States. The group, which is often linked to the radical environmentalism movement, uses direct action tactics to protect sealife. Sea Shepherd currently operates the vessels MV Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker, and most of the group's activities take place in international waters. The group has a strong focus on public relations to spread their message via the media.
The organization was founded in 1977 under the name Earth Force Society by Paul Watson, an early member of Greenpeace, after a dispute with that organization over what Watson saw as its lack of more aggressive intervention. It has received support for its tactics against fishing, whaling, and seal hunting from an assortment of celebrities, while critics have condemned the violent nature of the actions. Various governments and organizations (and even members of the society) have referred to the group as pirates.
Operations have included scuttling and disabling whaling vessels at harbor, intervening in Canadian seal hunts, ramming other vessels, trying to temporarily blind or disorient whalers with a laser device, throwing bottles of foul-smelling butyric acid onto vessels at sea, boarding of whaling vessels while at sea, and seizure and destruction of drift nets at sea. Sea Shepherd claims that their aggressive actions are necessary as the international community has shown itself unwilling or unable to stop species-endangering whaling and fishing practices. Some governments and organizations have referred to them as terrorists.
In 2008, Animal Planet began filming the weekly series Whale Wars based on the group's encounters with the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean, a development which brought the group much publicity.
Facts about Japan's Slaughter of Whales:
- In 2007-8, Japan will be carrying out their Antarctic "scientific whaling" program which they call JARPA II (i.e., Japan Whale Research Program under Special Permit in the Antarctic). For the 2007-8 period, they will be targeting 50 fin and 50 humpback whales - both are protected under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES). They also plan to kill 935 piked (Minke) whales.
- Japan's whaling program detailed above was presented for vote to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in South Korea, June 2005, and was rejected. Despite losing the vote, Japan is proceeding with its JARPA II program.
- Japan is exploiting a loophole in the International Regulation of Whaling Convention which was never intended to allow a commercial slaughter.
- Japan and Norway have slaughtered more than 25,000 whales under the "scientific whaling" loophole in the last 25 years.
- Japan heavily promotes the consumption of whale meat - they have introduced whale meat to their school lunch programs and sell whale meat in markets and sushi restaurants. Although Japan claims their whaling activities are a "cultural tradition" the facts dispute this. To learn more, read Captain Watson's article, The Truth About ‘Traditional' Japanese Whaling.