Militant environmental activists said Saturday they had intercepted the Japanese whaling fleet in Antarctic waters and attempted to attack one of the boats with stink bombs.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship the Steve Irwin had found the Japanese harpoon vessel the Yushin Maru 2 in dense fog and dangerous ice conditions in the Southern Ocean, the group said in a statement.
"The Steve Irwin launched a Delta boat with a crew to attack the Yushin Maru 2 with rotten butter bombs," the statement said.
"Unfortunately, the wind increased to 50 knots with blizzard conditions. Captain Paul Watson called the small boat crew back for safety reasons when they were halfway to their target some three miles away."
The Steve Irwin was now in pursuit of the Japanese fleet, which had stopped whaling and was "on the run", Watson said.
He said the whalers were in Australia's self-declared Antarctic economic exclusion zone and urged Canberra to order the fleet to stop the hunt.
An international moratorium on commercial whaling was imposed in 1986 but Japan kills hundreds of whales a year in the name of research, with the meat nonetheless ending up on dinner tables.
For the past four years Watson has led a Sea Shepherd vessel to find, track and attempt to impede the whaling ships during their hunting season, the Southern Hemisphere summer.
He claimed earlier this year that his ship's harassment of the Japanese whalers last season had saved the lives of 500 of the giant mammals.
The International Whaling Commission has condemned Irwin's tactics, which include boarding the Japanese vessels, but he is unrepentant.
"It looks like Whale Wars, season two, is officially underway," Watson said in the statement Saturday. "We've got them on the run."
Last season, an Australian customs vessel shadowed the whalers, making videos and documenting their activities for a possible international court challenge.
Environment Minister Peter Garrett said Thursday the government was still considering legal action against Japan and was also "continuing to push very, very hard in the diplomatic environment" for an end to the annual hunt.© Wire reports