International environmental group Sea Shepherds defends whales in the Antarctic Ocean, 2012-2013


To intercept the Japanese whalers as quickly as possible to maintain zero whale kills
To cost the Japanese whaling industry as much as possible in respect to financial losses.

Time period

5 November, 2012 to 10 March, 2013



Location City/State/Province

International and Australian Waters

Location Description

This campaign took place while sailing in the Southern Ocean
Jump to case narrative

Methods in 1st segment

Methods in 2nd segment

Methods in 3rd segment

Methods in 4th segment

Methods in 5th segment

Methods in 6th segment

Additional methods (Timing Unknown)

Segment Length

21 days


Sea Shepherds Conservation Society (President Paul Watson)


Not known

External allies

Australian government

Involvement of social elites

Not known


Japanese Whaling Fleet, Japanese Government, United States Government

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not known

Campaigner violence

Not known

Repressive Violence

Water Cannons, boat collisions





Group characterization

Sea Shepherds

Groups in 1st Segment

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Segment Length

21 days

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

5 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


3 out of 3 points

Total points

9 out of 10 points

Database Narrative

The International Whaling Commission permits whaling for research purposes and allows whales to be discarded by lethal means as long as whale meat is not used and sold from the specimens. Japanese whalers, who are permitted to whale strictly for research purposes, have not published any peer-reviewed journal articles.  In addition, whale meat frequently appears in Japanese markets and sushi bars with the only possible source being from these Japanese whalers who are killing whales and not publishing research.

Whales are known to inhabit a specific area in the Antarctic during the winter months, ranging from November to March. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has fought to protect these whales from the Japanese fleets in Antarctic waters for nine whaling seasons. Each campaign consists of combating illegal whaling practices in the commercial whaling industry occurring in the Southern Ocean.

The most recent campaign took place from November 2012 to March 2013. Sea Shepherds sailed the Southern Ocean and nonviolently intervened and blocked off ships. The campaign lasted four months and 15 days in order preserve whales in their habitat. The crew was comprised of over 100 internationals representing 24 nations.

So intent were they on stopping the whalers and doing so without harming a single whale, that they named this campaign, Operation: Zero Tolerance. They aimed to intercept the Japanese whalers as quickly as possible to maintain zero whale kills and to cost the Japanese whaling industry as much as possible in respect to financial losses.

After embarking on 5 November 2012 from Australia, the SSS Steve Irwin met the SSS Brigitte Bardot, which departed on 11 November 2012 from California, and the SSS Bob Barker, which departed on 30 November 2013 from Sydney, in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is protected by an international moratorium in order to prevent illegal whaling in the area. These three ships of the Sea Shepherds were later joined by the SSS Sam Simon on 10 December 2012, which departed from Hobart, Tasmania.

In order to fund their campaign, the Sea Shepherds held a fundraising event and by 30 November 2012 had raised $20,000 in order to continue with their mission. Throughout this 4.5 month period, the Sea Shepherds strategically placed their boats between Japanese fleets and whales to guard the sanctuary. The Sea Shepherds assigned ships to follow the whalers, to know when the Japanese ships were crossing into whaling waters. In addition, the SSS Sam Simon kept a tail on the Japanese fuel tanker the Sun Laurel, which allowed the Sea Shepherds to monitor how often other ships in the Japanese fleet refueled. 

The Japanese designated one of their ships to track the SSS Bob Barker. After becoming aware of the ship tailing the SSS Bob Barker, they intentionally sailed this ship away from the whales.

On 16 December 2012, Japanese whalers filed a lawsuit with the United States 9th District Court against the Sea Shepherds and in particular Captain Paul Watson, the president and founder of the conservation society. The U.S. Court ruled that the Sea Shepherd U.S. must not physically confront any vessel, any vessel engaged with the plaintiff, the Japanese whalers, or any person aboard those ships in the Southern Ocean; the Sea Shepherds must not navigate in a way that endangers the plaintiff and must keep more than 500 yards away from the Japanese.  The Sea Shepherds appealed the warning to the U.S. Supreme court but the appeal was rejected.

On 7 January 2013, due to the order issued by the U.S. and the fact that he was a U.S. citizen, Watson removed himself as captain of the SSS Steve Irwin due to an order from the United States Court of Appeals. Furthermore, he stepped down from all of his positions including president of the Sea Shepherds.  However, the Sea Shepherds invited Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and the United States, all countries that voted the whale sanctuary into existence, to send a representative in order to witness the unfolding incidents between the Japanese and the Sea Shepherd fleets. Each representative could observe how both the Japanese and Sea Shepherds operated.

On 29 January 2013, Japan claimed that the Australian Sea Shepherd Ship, the SSS Brigitte Bardot, breached the U.S. court’s restraining order that required the society to stay more than 500 yards away from the Japanese fleets in the Southern Ocean. The US tried to take action against the Australian ship, but the Sea Shepherds argued that they had no jurisdiction over international ships and that Japan had broken an injunction against whaling, made by Australia.

Sea Shepherd ships blocked Japanese attempts to refuel at the whaling fleet’s fuel tanker, the Sun Laurel, for two days starting on 18 February 2013, when the tanker crossed the 60-degree mark and moved into Australian waters. On 20 February 2013, the Nisshin Maru, a Japanese ship, collided into the SSS Bob Barker, disabling it, and rammed into the SSS Steve Irwin twice in order to refuel at the Sun Laurel. Three other harpoon ships blasted the Sea Shepherds with water cannons in order to make way for the Nisshin Maru.

On 2 March 2013, Sea Shepherds reported successfully driving out the entire Japanese whaling fleet and estimated that only 2-75 whales had been killed--less than 10% of the whaler’s intended capture. The SSS Steve Irwin and the SSS Bob Barker escorted the fleet 321 kilometers (200 miles) north of 60 degrees latitude. However, on 4 March, 2013, it was reported that the Sun Laurel and the Nisshin Maru turned back to head to the Southern Ocean. As they went to confront the Japanese ships on 6 and 7 March, 2013, inclement weather drove both groups away allowing the end of whaling season to pass without further hunting or blockading.

On 10 March 2013, the Sea Shepherds began to head home to dock in Melbourne, Australia.  The Sea Shepherds arrived in Australia on 20 March 2013. They claimed that this campaign was the most successful to date in that they prevented the illegal slaughter of an estimated 800 whales.


8 previous campaigns undertaken by the Sea Shepherds (1)


Latest News - Sea Shepherd. (2012, September 26). Latest News - Sea Shepherd. Retrieved May 08, 2013, from

Sea Shepherd Australia. (2013). Sea Shepherd Australia. Retrieved May 08, 2013, from

Battered but Proud, Sea Shepherd Fleet Docks in Melbourne. (2013, March 20). Environment News Service RSS. Retrieved May 08, 2013, from

Darby, A. (2013, February 04). Whalers threaten contempt action against Sea Shepherd. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved May 08, 2013, from

Darby, A. (2013, February 20). Ships collide in Antarctic whaling protest. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved May 8, 2013, from

Japanese whalers reportedly leave Southern Ocean. (2013, March 2). - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). Retrieved May 9, 2013, from

Sea Shepherd heads back to port. (2013, March 10). - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). Retrieved May 9, 2013, from

Damaged Sea Shepherd vessel in Melbourne following 'most successful' campaign. (2013, March 20). - ABC Melbourne. Retrieved May 9, 2013, from

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Alexis Dziedziech, 08/05/2013