Sea Shepherds patrolling the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary established by Australia have caught the Japanese factory ship processing ship with a
dead minke whale on its deck within the boundaries of the sanctuary. An
Australia federal court fined the Japanese whalers for contempt of its
orders to stop killing whales within the Sanctuary. However, the
government of Australia has been loath to take more affirmative
enforcement actions against Japan out of diplomatic considerations. As a
helicopter from the Sea Shepherd vessel, Steve Irwin, named for a Australian celebrity naturalist, approached the Nisshin Maru, whalers rushed about to hide their explosive harpoons and cover the dead minkie whale with a tarp. The Sea Shepherd's plan is to intercept the Japanese fleet and close down its operations. The whale conservation organization was fined by a US federal court $2.55 million for harassing the so-called Japanese scientific program that was found to be a front for commercial whaling operations by the International Court of Justice and International Whaling Commission in 2014. In 2016 Japan killed 333 minke whales including more than 200 pregnant females.