Japanese officials announced Wednesday that the nation was "suspending" its annual Antarctic whale hunt in the face of sustained and persistent protest and monitoring by wildlife conservationists, and that it may cancel the hunt altogether.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has been using two flagship boats—the Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker—as well as a helicopter to monitor the Japanese whaling fleet and prevent whale killings.
The Japan fisheries agency said in a statement that Sea Shepherd's activities amounted to "harassment" and endangered the safety of the whaling fleet's crew.
"Putting safety as a priority, the fleet has halted scientific whaling for now. We are currently considering what to do hereafter," Tatsuya Nakaoku, an official at the Fisheries Agency, told Reuters.
While commercial whaling has been banned since 1986, Japan insists that its annual whale hunt is for strictly scientific purposes—it needs to kill the whales to study their effects on fisheries, for example.
TakePart's Jon Bowermaster wrote in December that pressure and monitoring by Sea Shepherd resulted in a greatly reduced whale cull during last year's hunting season. The whaling fleet had hoped to kill 850 minke whales, but only caught 506. Similarly, it only captured one of the hoped for 10 fin whales.