Could Long-Range Drones Spell Victory in Whale Wars?

Marine conservation organization Sea Shepherd hopes drones will help them more effectively locate, track and intercept Japanese whaling vessels.


Could Long-Range Drones Spell Victory in Whale Wars?
Minke whales are targets of Japanese whalers, who killed 171 of the animals in their last Antarctic expedition. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s war against Japanese whaling has turned high-tech. CNN reports that two of Sea Shepherd’s ships have been outfitted with long-range drones equipped with cameras and detection equipment to help activists scan hundreds more miles of oceans for whaling ships. The drones are part of this season’s “Operation Divine Wind,” the same name the Japanese gave to kamikaze attack ships in World War II.

Captain Paul Watson, aboard the ship Steve Irwin, noted that the drones have been “invaluable assets.” The drones may be a game-changer in the ongoing whale wars between Sea Shepherd and the Japanese fleets. “Thanks to these drones, we now have an advantage we never had before—eyes in the sky,” Watson said.

The group stated on its website that the Japanese tactic of tailing Sea Shepherd vessels will no longer work because the drones can track and follow Japanese ships, relaying their positions back to Sea Shepherd ships.

The Japanese government contends its whaling operations are part of a “research” mission designed to see if whale populations are sufficient to resume a full-scale commercial hunt in the future. Sea Shepherd maintains that “research” is simply a cover for slaughtering whales and selling their meat to markets and restaurants.