Conservation organisation Sea Shepherd has been granted charitable status in New Zealand by Charities Services.
Sea Shepherd is widely known for its direct and intensive efforts to halt whaling operations at sea, including in the Southern Ocean.
Founder Paul Watson said in a statement yesterday that Sea Shepherd was granted charitable status on May 28.
"This will make it easier for Sea Shepherd to undertake conservation activities in New Zealand waters and will greatly help in building up our New Zealand support base," Mr Watson said.
Both Sea Shepherd New Zealand Trust and Sea Shepherd New Zealand Limited are now registered charities, Roger Holmes Miller of the Independent Charities Registration Board said.
"The Board considers that the Trust advances education through, by way of examples, its informative talks at schools, other children’s spaces, Te Papa Tongarewa and in collaboration with Wellington and Auckland City Councils, and through the collection of marine wildlife data for Otago University and the provision of marine mammal medic training," they wrote.
"The Board considers the Trust also carries out tangible activities to protect the environment and advance animal welfare. For example, the Trust organises monthly beach clean ups, builds little blue penguin nesting boxes, conducts beached whale rescue operations, and monitors and collects data to support conservation of Hector’s dolphins.
"The Board considers these activities provide public benefit similar to previous cases on the protection of the environment and advancement of animal welfare."
Sea Shepherd's activities have at times been controversial, with Japan accusing them of being "eco-terrorists" after Sea Shepherd interfered with their annual "research" whale hunt.
However, the Board said there is no evidence Sea Shepherd New Zealand has ever done anything illegal.
"There is no evidence that Sea Shepherd New Zealand is involved in illegal activities from which an illegal purpose can be inferred," Mr Miller said.
Charities Services recently declined an application made by Greenpeace of New Zealand Inc to become a registered charity here, saying "it does not advance exclusively charitable purposes" and that its members were "involved in illegal activities".