Whale Wars became a hit for the channel and has received mostly positive reviews. While discussing the high ratings, the president and general manager of Animal Planet said that the show was a "great example of where we wanted to go into competitive adult TV." Review aggregation site MetaCritic has scored Whale Wars 71 out of 100 based on 6 reviews. Neil Genzlinger of the New York Times wrote: "Whale Wars splashes across the increasingly exhausted genre of people-at-work reality series like icy seawater, jolting you awake with a frothy, briny burst of — well, you get the idea. This is one spunky show."
The show has also been criticized for being biased, and the Sea Shepherd crew has been ridiculed. Nancy Dewolf Smith of The Wall Street Journal wrote: "What is shocking at first is how unprepared most of these people are for their self-appointed mission as planet savers. Although the word "deadly" is used often to underscore the risks the crew face, alone out in the wild Antarctic seas – their own incompetence can seem the most frightening." The satirists of South Park spoofed the show and the Japanese whalers in the 11th episode of season 13, as "Whale Whores." When one of the South Park characters takes command of the ship, a fake news headline states: "Whale Wars Gets Better: Things Actually Happen!" David Hinckley of the New York Daily News wrote: "Because the cameras obviously operate from the conservation ship – named the Sea Shepherd and, for this voyage, also called the Steve Irwin – we get all the drama on this side and virtually none on the other." Marjorie Kaplan, president and general manager of Animal Planet, says that they have requested access to the Japanese ships for filming but have repeatedly been declined.
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