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Japan Resumes Whaling Near Antarctica Day After Greenpeace Protest

A Japanese fishing fleet has resumed whaling in the Southern Ocean Saturday, a day after the environmental group, Greenpeace, said it had forced them to suspend activities. The organization says bad weather is keeping protesters from continuing their actions to disrupt the whaling near Antarctica. The Australian government is warning Greenpeace's tactics could be counterproductive.

After several days of confrontation in the icy waters near Antarctica, a Greenpeace spokesman claimed Friday the Japanese whaling convoy in the Southern Ocean was no longer trying to catch whales and was "on the run."

Dramatic footage of the standoff has been relayed on Australian television. Activists in small inflatable boats were shown moving between whales and harpooners, allowing several of the giant marine mammals to escape. Japanese crews responded by turning fire hoses on the protesters.

The Australian government, which opposes whaling, believes the protesters' actions could backfire. Australia's environment minister, Senator Ian Campbell, says the confrontation in the Southern Ocean could harden opinion in Japan.

"I think there's an argument to say, to the extent that you could entrench pro-whaling views in Japan, there is a risk that it's counterproductive," explained Senator Campbell. "The upside is, the world gets to see what's happening in the Southern Ocean, with very graphic, very clear digital photographs of the destruction of whales."

The Japanese have always insisted their whale hunt in the Southern Ocean is for scientific purposes. Critics claim it is a cover for the commercial killing of whales for consumption in Japan, where the meat is popular.