A Japanese whaling fleet has started whaling again after spending more than 40 hours trying to escape Greenpeace protesters in remote icy waters near Antarctica.
CANBERRA, Australia A Japanese whaling fleet has started whaling again after spending more than 40 hours trying to escape Greenpeace protesters in remote icy waters near Antarctica, the environmental group said.
Two Greenpeace ships, which tracked down the Japanese fleet on Thursday after a month-long search, had been deploying inflatable boats to harass Japanese "catcher boats", positioning them between the whales and harpoon gun.
But Greenpeace said the Japanese fleet then tried to outrun it ships.
"Every hour that the fleet is on the run, more whales will live," Greenpeace's expedition leader in the Southern Ocean, Shane Rattenbury, said in a statement.
Greenpeace said the Japanese fleet managed to resume whaling later on Saturday and had killed five whales. Due to rough seas Greenpeace said it was unable to launch its inflatable boats to try and disrupt the whaling.
In Australia, a likely confrontation between Greenpeace activists and one of the whaling ships was averted on Saturday.
The whaling ship had been due to deliver a sick crew member to hospital in the southern city of Hobart but the man was airlifted from the vessel instead.
The Japanese ship is now heading back to rejoin the fleet, Greenpeace said.
But the environmental group which, along with the minority Australian Greens party, had called for the Australian government to stop the boat from returning to the fleet, went ahead with a planned protest in Hobart on Saturday.
About 100 people gathered for the rally, carrying signs reading "Whale killers not welcome" and "Shame on Japan: whalers and woodchippers".
Japan abandoned commercial whaling in 1986 in line with an international moratorium and began what it calls a research programme the following year. Critics said the scientific programme was a disguised commercial hunt for meat to supply upscale restaurants.
Despite international disapproval, Japan announced in June plans to nearly double its annual catch of minke whales to 850 and add fin whales and eventually humpbacks -- two types of whales conservationists say whose survival is threatened.
Australia is a staunch critic of Japan's whaling programme and Prime Minister John Howard reiterated his opposition in a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the margins of a regional summit in Malaysia last week.