GREAT news, Green Monsters! After a “disastrous” haul, the Japanese whaling fleet has finally decided to leave the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary for good this year – and it’s all thanks to the brave efforts of Sea Shepherd Australia.

It is unclear exactly how many whales were killed during the 2014 season, but one thing Sea Shepherd is certain of is that the numbers would have been a lot higher without their efforts.

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In January, for example, their blockading of certain areas, coupled with poor weather conditions, led to Japanese whalers being unable to catch any whales for at least fourteen days. Sea Shepherd estimates that their efforts saved the lives of at least 350 cetaceans during that month.

It is unusual for the Japanese fleet to have remained at sea until March. Captain Peter Hammarstedt of The Bob Barker says, “The late departure of the whaling fleet is a testament to the fact that they have been delivered a disastrous season by the hand of Sea Shepherd, willing to push into the second week of March despite deteriorating weather conditions rather than face our fleet. Before we started this campaign, we made a promise to our clients, the whales, and to all of our supporters around the world to drive these poachers out of the whale’s waters. We have kept that promise. We are relentless.”

Sid Chakravarty, captain of the organization’s ship, the Steve Irwin, states that “the numbers (of whales who have been killed) are put out by the Institute of Cetacean Research, so in a few days, while the whaling fleet’s on their way back to Japan … we’ll know how successful this campaign has been.”

The Japanese whalers may have given up on their quest for this year, but the long-term future of this barbaric industry remains unclear. In June 2013, Australia took Japan to the International Court of Justice in the Hague over their whaling exploits, arguing that this so-called “scientific” practice was, in effect, commercial whaling in disguise. According to Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), the verdict will be announced on March 31 – and this could have a major impact on the industry, by either curtailing it or shutting it down completely.

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Meanwhile, researchers from the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD), in conjunction with U.S. scientists, have been undertaking a series of genetic tests on humpback whale skin samples. According to AAD molecular biologist, Simon Jarman, this will help them to determine what needs to be done to assist population recovery efforts.

“(The tests) can tell you things about population size, which is really interesting to biologists studying animals who have a history of exploitation in the past. Their population’s obviously smaller now than it would have been before the whaling era and we’re very interested to know how many there are now,” Jarman says. “Adapting it to other whale species should be fairly easy, now that we’ve got a bit of a head-start in this one for humpbacks … We need to know about their population health for monitoring what’s going on in the ecosystem.”

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Because that’s what real scientific research on whales is aiming for, Japan – the whales’ health and wellbeing, not their needless slaughter.

Image Source: Kevin Galens/Flickr

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