Whale and ocean protection organization, Sea Shepherd, is back in the Southern Oceans again this week attempting to track down and stop the Japanese whaling fleet from illegally killing cetaceans. Japan is one of a few countries that claim the right to kill whales and dolphins for 'scientific purposes', as way around a long-standing international ban on whaling.

In previous years Sea Shepherd and the Japanese fleet have had violent encounters in the waters around Antarctica - designated the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary by the International Whaling Commission, which is also the author of the 1986 international ban on whaling. Sea Shepherd's approach is different to other anti-whaling groups like Greenpace. "We're not protesting whaling. We're intervening against a criminal organization," says it's leader Paul Watson. This can mean ramming whaling ships, slicing them open with 'can-openers' (sharp steel blades projecting off the side of the Sea Shepherd ship which cut into the whaling vessels), and other potentially dangerous, life-threatening approaches.

This year, the Japanese fleet has been furnished with armed Coast Guard personnel to help protect their whale hunters and their 'factory ships'. Sea Shepherd doesn't seem to be deterred by this. As far as they are concerned, if they can save the lives of any whales, by any means necessary, they're doing something positive to help the Earth's largest, most intelligent creatures, which studies show now have a population of less than 1% of 200 years ago.

You may have seen the reality TV program Whale Wars; you may agree with Sea Shepherd's proactive approach, or you may not. For those who want to know more, here's some propaganda so you can see where they're coming from.

You can find out more on www.seashepherd.org.

We also recommend an excellent book The Whale Warriors: The Battle at the Bottom of the World to Save the Planet’s Largest Mammals by Peter Heller, author of Kook - what Surfing taught me about Love, Life and Catching the Perfect Wave