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In February 2011, in the midst of Japan's widely-criticized research whale hunt, the Japanese Agriculture Minister Michihiko Kano called the whaling fleet home months ahead of plan and hundreds short of its kill quota. The reason given for the abrupt end to the whaling season was harassment by a nongovernmental organization (NGO) called the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (Sea Shepherds). For years, the Japanese fleet had taken pride in its ability to outrun environmental activists, and Japan had refused to put an end to its research whaling operations in the face of resolutions from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and repeated cessation requests. Ultimately, it was confrontation instigated by a renegade group, rather than any international resolution or NGO pressure, that brought an abrupt end to Japan's controversial whaling practices.

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