( dpa ) - Two anti-whaling activists held on board a Japanese harpoon vessel after boarding it in a protest in Antarctica were released Friday and taken on board an Australian government customs ship.
Australian Benjamin Potts, 28, and Briton Giles Lane, 35, from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's protest boat Steve Irwin, had been detained since they forced their way aboard the Japanese whaler in the Southern Ocean on Tuesday.
Glenn Inwood, spokesman for the Japanese, told Radio New Zealand that the whaling fleet, which is on its annual hunt for nearly 1,000 whales for a so-called research programme, would now resume whaling that had been suspended because of the protest action.
The Australian government negotiated the release of the protestors with Japanese officials in Tokyo. They were transferred to the Oceanic Viking, a customs ship Australia sent to Antarctic waters to monitor the Japanese fleet.
Inwood said it was not known whether the two men would remain on the Oceanic Viking or be returned to the Steve Irwin, whose skipper Paul Watson has vowed to keep up protest activities to try to halt the whaling.
"It was certainly quite handy for the Japanese government that the vessel was there because it helped them resolve the situation with the two illegal intruders," Inwood told Radio New Zealand.
"It became very clear yesterday after 24 hours of receiving no communication from the Sea Shepherd organisation that they had no intention of removing the men from the Japanese vessel and therefore the Australian government was asked to intervene and take them men aboard their Customs vessel."