The European Union has joined other countries in urging Japan to halt a whaling expedition that could kill at least 1,000 whales.
An EU statement issued Tuesday said there is no need to use lethal means to obtain scientific information about whales. The EU also expressed particular concern that the hunt will include the threatened humpback whale and the endangered fin whale.
Japan claims it needs to kill whales to conduct research on their reproductive and feeding patterns, and says the number it kills is too small to endanger their populations.
The environmental group Greenpeace says the five-month expedition will be Japan's largest since an international moratorium went into effect over 20 years ago.
The group's plans to use its own ship to shadow the whaling fleet suffered a setback when it failed to meet the fleet as it left port on Sunday.
The crew of Greenpeace's ship, the Esperanza, say the ship is being followed by another vessel as they head towards the waters of Antarctica in search of the Japanese fleet.
The International Whaling Commission allows scientific whale hunts, but critics say Japan uses this as a cover for commercial whaling.
The United States, Australia and New Zealand have also urged Japan to call off the hunt.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.