Sea Shepherd has been at the forefront of marine animal protection for years, and most notably for its direct action efforts in both Antarctica and Taiji.

The organization’s first Antarctic whale defense expedition began in 2002 and has continued ever since in an attempt to halt the slaughter of whales at the hands of Japanese hunters.

While there has been an international moratorium on commercial whaling since 1986, Japan has been able to skirt the law by claiming that its whale hunts are for “scientific research,” even though zero scientific papers or reports have ever been filed about their whalers’ expeditions.

Sea Shepherd’s whale defense campaign entered its 10th year in 2013 with Operation Relentless and has just recently finished, with the organization’s fleet – comprised of ships The Bob Barker and The Steven Irwin — returning home to both New Zealand and Australia respectively.

The close of Operation Relentless marked one of the most successful whale defense campaigns Sea Shepherd has ever had, saving over 750 whales from Japanese hunters.

“As we return to port, we are gladdened by the thought that these whales are swimming with us on their migration north, and proud that our tenth Antarctic Whale Defence Campaign has been a true testament to how relentless we can be,” said Peter Hammarstedt, captain of The Bob Barker.

In January of this year, the Sea Shepherd Australia team managed to drive Japanese whalers out of Antarctica’s Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and not long after announced that they had effectively shut down whaling hunting operations in the sanctuary for the year.

Sea Shepherd reports that during the course of Operation Relentless, the team “encountered three unprovoked nighttime ambushes by the Japanese whaling fleet, one of which resulted in a harpoon vessel causing a collision with The Bob Barker.”

Yet, despite these setbacks, Sea Shepherd reports that they “continued to pursue the whalers, keeping them on the run for the entire three month whaling season.”

While the 2013 to 2014 whaling season is now over and the Sea Shepherd fleet has returned home safely, there is still plenty of work to be done as the Japanese whale hunt will continue into the coming years if the international community does not come together and crack down on this cruelty and injustice.

Check out photos from Sea Shepherd’s Operation Relentless right here and find out more information about the organization’s Antarctic campaign here.

Image source: Tim Watters / Sea Shepherd Global