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Whalers hit by foul Antarctic weather, protesters say Author:Unknown Date:03/25/14 Click:

SYDNEY (AFP) - Militant animal rights activists chasing Japanese whalers in Antarctic waters said Monday they were battling raging seas and snow storms that had put the hunt on hold.

"This is the roughest it's been for some time," captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society vessel, the Steve Irwin, told AFP by satellite phone.

Watson said his crew tried to board one of the whaling boats after catching up with them on Saturday but a snowstorm had obscured conditions, forcing him to abandon the attempt.

"But we're still ready to do that at the first available opportunity," he said.

"But right now we're just ploughing through these really rough seas and nobody can do anything in this kind of weather. We've got waves right over the bow, the visibility is almost next to nothing."

The Steve Irwin has been tracking the Japanese boats through the southern hemisphere summer to try to prevent them from slaughtering up to 1,000 whales as part of their annual hunt in the Southern Ocean.

Last month, two members of Watson's crew boarded a harpoon boat and were held for several days before they were taken off by an Australian Customs vessel monitoring Japanese operations in the remote area.

Watson said even if his vessel was not pursuing the whalers, the horrendous conditions would have prevented them from carrying out their work.

"They are not going kill, they are not going to whale, in these kind of conditions," he said.

Watson said with only three weeks of the season left, he was confident that the protesters could prevent the Japanese from reaching their quota.

"We know for a fact they haven't taken any whales (since Saturday) because of the speed they've been travelling," he said. "They have just been running. They know if they stop we'll be on them, so they've got to keep running."

"They haven't got even half of their quota right now and I think we can prevent them getting the rest," he added.

Japan exploits a loophole in an international moratorium on whaling to kill the animals in the name of research.

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