Sea Shepherd finds whalers

On board the Bob Barker

Anti-whaling activists have found the Japanese whaling fleet in Antarctic waters due south of Hobart after a pursuit across the ocean.

The fleet was first spotted by Sea Shepherd on Christmas Eve to the south-west of Western Australia.

It has since steamed at speed towards the other end of its expected whaling grounds, covering more than 1500 nautical miles.

Sea Shepherd said its long-range ship Bob Barker was today closing in on the Nisshin Maru, just to the north of the French Antarctic base, Dumont d'Urville, when the activists' ship was spotted by the harpoon ship Yushin Maru No.3.

"It appears that the Yushin Maru No.3 has not begun whaling activities, as its harpoon is still covered," Sea Shepherd leader Paul Watson said.

He said the Bob Barker was heading east in pursuit of the Nisshin Maru, followed at close range by the Yushin Maru No.3.

"Sea Shepherd can confirm that the Japanese whaling fleet is now in Australian Antarctic Territorial waters," Mr Watson said.

"Because the Nisshin Maru and the harpoon vessels have been moving continuously since first located by Sea Shepherd, they do not appear to have had any time to kill whales," he said.

"They know that if they slow down or stop, the Bob Barker will close the gap and will be on them."

Meanwhile, he said the storm-damaged Brigitte Bardot and its escort, the Steve Irwin, were still being tailed by the whalers' security ship, Shonan Maru No.2, deep inside the Australian 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone, south-west of Perth.

After being slowed by heavy weather, the Sea Shepherd vessels expect to arrive in Fremantle late tomorrow morning.

The Steve Irwin plans to refuel quickly and return to assist the Bob Barker in intervening against any whaling.

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