Australia protested to the Japanese government today after a whaling fleet support vessel sailed into Australian waters in pursuit of anti-whaling activists.
Environment Minister Tony Burke said that the Shonan Maru No 2 had entered Australia's exclusive economic zone near Macquarie Island in the Antarctic.
"Australia has made it clear to Japan on a number of occasions that vessels associated with its whaling programme are not welcome," he said.
The ship is owned by the Japanese government and provides security for the whaling fleet conducting the country's annual hunt.
The ship tailed anti-whaling ship Bob Barker toward Macquarie Island over two days, said Sea Shepherd Conservation Society spokesman Bob Brown.
Mr Brown said the ship stopped just outside Australian territorial waters but remained inside its exclusive economic zone as the Bob Barker proceeded up the island's coast.
"Tokyo has ignored the call from the federal government for this part of the whaling fleet not to enter the zone," said Mr Brown.
A spokesman for the whaling organisation insisted that there was no legal obstacle to Japanese ships entering either area.
He claimed that Japan had been forced to defy Australia's wishes because Sea Shepherd deployed dangerous tactics to sabotage the whaling fleet.
"Since Sea Shepherd has been putting Japanese lives and property at risk, it's been necessary to move as close to Australian territorial waters as possible to keep an eye on them," the spokesman said.
Australia maintains whale hunting violates Japan's international obligations and is seeking a ruling by the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
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