Whale Quotas and Sea Shepherd

We sparked a good debate over the effectiveness of direct action conservation movements over at the post “Is Sea Shepherd really saving whales?” One of the most difficult questions raised was if Sea Shepherd wasn’t there, would the Japanese make their full quota? The data presented in that post was inconclusive, because the quota increase corresponded to the beginning of SSCS’s Southern Ocean campaign, so we have no time period in which the Japanese quota was increased while Sea Shepherd was absent.

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Is Sea Shepherd really saving whales?

Sea Shepherd claims that their actions in the Southern Ocean opposing Japanese whaling fleets has effectively reduced the number of whales killed. What always rubbed me the wrong way about these claims is that they always compare their success against the Institute for Cetacean Research (the Japanese organization that oversees ‘scientific whaling’) Quotas. So at some point you have to ask the question, in absolute numbers, has Sea Shepherd really reduced the number of whales killed?

To answer that we need three pieces of information:

  1. When did Sea Shepherd begin it’s campaign against Japanese ‘scientific whaling’?
  2. What are the ICR quotas for that time frame?
  3. What are the absolute catches for that time frame?

Sea Shepherd provides a comprehensive timeline for their whaling campaigns that indicates serious opposition in the Southern Ocean began in December 2002. For the two other questions, we turn to Whale and Dolphin Conservation International, who have produced a truly exceptional interactive graph of the history of whaling since the inception of the International Whaling Convention by the numbers. The relevant figure is reproduced below:

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