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Whale Wars almost came back. Why it’s not returning.

Whale Wars almost came back. Why it’s not returning.
Paul Watson looks at a Japanese whaling vessel during an earlier Sea Shepherd campaign. (Photo by Sea Shepherd)

There could have been a new season of Whale Wars on Animal Planet this year, but Sea Shepherd was unable to intercept or engage with the Japanese fleet, and won’t try again this year. That means no Whale Wars season eight.

Animal Planet’s 2019 series Whale Wars: Watson’s Last Stand is not a new season of Whale Wars

That ends a 12-year campaign that was documented on television in five full seasons and two shorter seasons of Whale Wars, which remains one of the best unscripted series ever, delivering real-world drama in a beautifully constructed package.

If you haven’t seen it, watch it.

A person with knowledge of the production told me that Animal Planet paid for production of a new season of Whale Wars for this year, but during its campaign that started last December and ended in March, Operation Nemesis, Sea Shepherd wasn’t successful, so the footage wasn’t interesting enough to justify a new season.

That’s an understandable decision but still an unfortunate loss for high-quality television.

The series elevated reality TV, and also elevated the profile of Sea Shepherd while it brought attention to the fact that the unnecessary and illegal slaughter of whales was continuing—even after the International Court of Justice ruled that their operation was commercial, not scientific, which was the excuse used to continue to kill whales.

In the past, Sea Shepherd’s efforts were so successful they led the Japanese fleet to stop whaling at one point. But not this year.

Why Sea Shepherd couldn’t find Japanese whalers

In an essay published Monday, Paul Watson explained why they weren’t successful this year, and why they won’t return to the Southern Ocean this year:

“What we discovered is that Japan is now employing military surveillance to watch Sea Shepherd ship movements in real time by satellite and if they know where our ships are at any given moment, they can easily avoid us. During Operation Nemesis, the Sea Shepherd ships did get close and our helicopter even managed to get evidence of their illegal whaling operations but we could not physically close the gap. We cannot compete with their military grade technology.”

Also in the piece, Watson celebrates Sea Shepherd’s previous success, and says that they will continue efforts to stop whaling there—and around the world:

“We will not be sending ships to the Southern Ocean this year, but are not abandoning the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. We need to cultivate the resources, the tactics and the ability to significantly shut down the illegal whaling operations of the Japanese whaling fleet. In the meantime, it’s time for the Australian government to live up to their promises. Sea Shepherd has been down in the Southern Ocean doing what the Australian government has the responsibility to do but have refused to do, and that is upholding international and Australian conservation law.

[…] What Sea Shepherd has accomplished over the last 12 years demonstrates what people of passion can accomplish with few resources despite heavy multi-government opposition.

The Japanese whalers have been exposed, humiliated and most importantly have been denied thousands of lives that we have spared from their deadly harpoons. Thousands of whales are now swimming and reproducing, that would now be dead if not for our interventions.”

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.


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