( AP )- The Greenpeace protest ship Esperanza has confronted Japan's whaling fleet in Antarctic waters, the environmental organization announced Saturday.
A Greenpeace statement said that the Japanese ships, which are trying to catch nearly 1,000 whales in a so-called research programmed, immediately fled, and Esperanza was in high-speed pursuit in the Southern Ocean.
"While the fleet is on the run, the whalers are unable to hunt," Greenpeace said. "If they try to start whaling, the Esperanza's international crew of activists will take non-violent, direct action to prevent the Japanese government's slaughter of nearly 1,000 whales, including 50 endangered fin whales."
Greenpeace said that its Japan whale's campaigner Sakyo Noda radioed a statement to the whaling fleet in Japanese and English, saying, "Our vessel and crew are here in the Southern Ocean to condemn your hunt, which includes endangered species, and to insist that you leave the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and return to port immediately.
"Your so-called scientific whaling is a hoax and has been dismissed as useless by the International Whaling Commission. Modern scientific research on whales does not require killing them."
It is the ninth time that Greenpeace has mounted an anti-whaling expedition in the Southern Ocean.
The Japanese have announced they are trying to kill 935 minke whales and 50 endangered fin whales. After international protests last month, they abandoned plans to also catch 50 threatened humpback whales.