SYDNEY - Activist group Sea Shepherd Tuesday pulled the plug on its annual campaign to disrupt Japanese whaling, saying it can no longer match the country's military and economic power.
The organisation has waged a 12-year high-seas battle against whaling in the Southern Ocean, claiming success for saving thousands of the giant mammals and bringing the slaughter to world attention.
But the group's founder Paul Watson said his ships would not sail this year, with different strategies and tactics needed to hinder the hunt.
"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," he said in a statement.
"We cannot compete with their military-grade technology." He claimed that for the first time this year, Tokyo also planned to deploy its armed forces to defend the whalers, making it increasingly difficult to compete with "a major economic superpower".
"The decision we have had to face is: do we spend our limited resources on another campaign to the Southern Ocean that will have little chance of a successful intervention or do we regroup with different strategies and tactics?," he said.
"If something is not working the only recourse is to look for a better plan, because when a plan no longer works, the only alternative is an improved course of action.
"We need to formulate this new plan and we will." Japan has previously sought to close down the anti-whaling campaigns in court, saying Sea Shepherd activists ram their ships, snare propellers with ropes and harass crew with paint and stink bombs.
Tokyo claims to conduct vital scientific research using a loophole in an international whaling ban, but makes no secret that the mammals end up on dinner plates.
It was forced to call off the 2014-15 hunt after the International Court of Justice ruled its annual Antarctic foray was commercial, masquerading as science. But it resumed in late 2015.