Environmental activist group Sea Shepherd announced late Monday it is abandoning its annual anti-whaling activities in Antarctic waters, citing increased use of sophisticated technology by Japanese whalers and lackluster support from the Australian government.
Sea Shepherd has run a 12-year campaign against Japan's so-called scientific whaling program in Antarctic waters, previously disrupting and interfering with the whale hunting operations of Japanese ships.
In a statement, Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson said Japanese whaling ships are employing military-grade surveillance technology, allowing them to easily evade Sea Shepherd ships.
"We cannot compete with their military-grade technology," he said.
Watson, who was placed on an international wanted list through Interpol in 2012 at Japan's request, also claimed that Japan planned to deploy armed forces to defend its whaling ships.
The sea captain was also critical this week of the Australian government -- which opposes to Japanese whaling activities and successfully won a temporary ban in the International Court of Justice in 2014 -- accusing it of not "living 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," Watson said.
"Instead of supporting Sea Shepherd, the Australian government has been supporting the Japanese whalers by harassing Sea Shepherd and obstructing Sea Shepherd's ability to raise funds by denying our charitable status."
Watson said that while anti-whaling vessels will not be going into Antarctic waters this year, the group will not be abandoning its goals.
"We need to cultivate the resources, the tactics and the ability to significantly shut down the illegal whaling operations of the Japanese whaling fleet," he said.
While Japan halted commercial whaling in line with a global moratorium adopted by the International Whaling Commission in 1982, it has hunted whales since 1987 for what it calls scientific research purposes.
In March, Japanese whaling ships returned from Antarctic waters with a catch of 333 minke whales.
Conservationists have condemned the activity as commercial whaling in disguise, since the meat is sold on the open market in Japan.
Last month, Australian environment minister Josh Frydenberg said his government was "deeply disappointed" by Japan's earlier announcement that it has resumed whaling activities in the North Pacific, despite what he said were "clear and unambiguous conclusions of the IWC's review process that Japan has not demonstrated the scientific need for the whaling."
Australia, he said, is "resolutely committed" to the IWC's global moratorium on commercial whaling and "will continue in its tireless efforts to put greater pressure on Japan to end its so-called 'scientific' whaling."