On the morning of January 8, Sea Shepherd confirmed that they had lost visual on the Japanese whaling fleet’s factory vessel, the Nisshin Maru. At that time, the factory vessel was outside of its self-designated whaling region.
Sea Shepherd estimates that from this time, and at this location, it would have taken the poachers approximately two days to return to the ice-edge to resume whaling.
On January 14, the Australian Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, confirmed that two days earlier, the Japanese whaling fleet was over 1,000 nautical miles away from Australia’s search and rescue zone, steaming away from Australian waters. This placed the whalers in the region on the eastern edge of their self-allocated hunting grounds, near the Ross Dependency.
Based on this information, Sea Shepherd can confirm that the whalers did not return to their whaling grounds in the interim period, but headed east in order to avoid being spotted by the Australian government’s monitoring flight.
Luckily for the whales, there is currently a massive low-pressure system over the Ross Dependency. The seas are choppy, the skies are grey and overcast, fog has reduced visibility to 100 meters, and weather conditions are generally poor. These circumstances make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the whalers to resume whaling.
Considering these factors, it is highly likely that the Japanese whaling operations have been suspended since Sea Shepherd initially disrupted them on January 5.
The Sea Shepherd Fleet remains on guard in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.