Numerous people around the world have been expressing their concerns over the past couple of weeks as the season of autumn also marks the start of the "whaling season". Despite commercial whaling having been banned now for a quarter of a century, around 1,000 whales continue to be caught as part of a 'scientific research programme' in Japan.
Whaling ships usually leave Japan with the arrival of autumn when they tend to head south into the Antarctic Ocean, and do not return until the spring. Last year however, the Japanese hunting fleet returned early with only a fifth of the animals that it was hoping for, after being held back by animal activist group, Sea Shepherd.
With the recent confirmation from Japan that they will be resuming their hunt this year, Sea Shepherd have pledged to return to the Southern Ocean Sanctuary in December to try and protect as many of these threatened giants as possible. The Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is an area of 50 million square kilometres of ocean surrounding the Antarctic continent that was declared a Whale Sanctuary in 1994.
During the southern summer, a number of whale species migrate south closer to the Antarctic as food is in ample supply, and is also when the majority of hunting occurs. There are eight different species of whale that are found in the Southern Ocean which are the Sperm, Minke, Fin, Right, Sei, Humpback, Blue and Killer Whale.
Whales are slow-growing and maturing mammals with species having become incredibly vulnerable and very quickly after having been exploited. A recent report by the BBC though, highlights the concern over what will happen this year as the Japanese plan to have agency ships accompany their hunting fleet.