( AFP )- A militant anti-whaling group trying to stop Japanese hunters in the icy Southern Ocean on Sunday accused rival Greenpeace of "ocean posing" after it refused to hand over the coordinates of the fleet.
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society said it was forced to move away from the area by Australian officials aboard a customs vessel late last week when it made a rendezvous to pick up two of its activists rescued from a Japanese whaling ship.
As a result it lost track of the fleet, its chief Paul Watson told AFP from the society's ship the Steve Irwin.
Greenpeace officials on board their vessel the Esperanza know the location as it has been tracking the mother ship Nisshin Maru , but Watson told AFP that Greenpeace had refused to divulge the coordinates.
"I contacted Greenpeace. They refused. We said we have been giving you the coordinates," Watson said.
Greenpeace justified the refusal on policy grounds, Watson said, accusing Greenpeace of putting its money raising operations ahead of the safety of the whales.
He called its operations "ocean posing".
"Greenpeace needs to get their footage of a whale being shot," Watson told AFP. "They do it every year. If you really look at it Greenpeace invests more money in advertising than they do in the actual campaign."
Greenpeace campaign coordinator Sara Holden called the criticism "rubbish" and said Greenpeace's tactics of keeping the mother ship away from the rest of the fleet had proved effective.
"Our primary purpose for coming here is to stop whaling," Holden told AFP from the Esperanza. "We don't cooperate with Sea Shepherd. We don't give out our coordinates generally."
Without the mother ship available to process the meat, the harpoon ships could not effectively hunt whales, she said.
"They need to be processed very fast. If they cannot guarantee that they can make a fast transfer then they can't hunt. What we have done here might not look very exciting but it has been very effective," she said.
Greenpeace does not cooperate with Sea Shepherd on the grounds it promotes violent protest, she said. Sea Shepherd denies it promotes violence, although its tactics in the past have included ramming a vessel and Watson claims to have sunk whaling boats in the past.
Holden said Greenpeace still had the mother ship within its sights. However, she said the real battle was in Tokyo, where she said there were real signs of a shift in attitude, with even conservatives starting to question the value of the annual whale hunt.