Japan's government says a Japanese whaling ship has handed over two anti-whaling activists to an Australian government vessel.

The activists climbed aboard the Japanese harpoon ship Tuesday to protest its whaling activities. They were detained by the crew.

Japan's fisheries agency says the whaling crew transferred the two men Thursday to an Australian customs ship that was sent by Australia's government to pick them up.

The activists, an Australian and a Briton, belong to the U.S.-based Sea Shepherd group, a radical offshoot of environmentalist movement Greenpeace.

Japanese officials accused the men of attacking the Japanese whaling crew with bottles of acid. The activists' group described the men as hostages and said the Japanese crew was demanding they stop disrupting the whale hunt.

Japan says international whaling conventions allow it to catch a specific quota of whales each year for scientific research. Anti-whaling activists say Japan is acting illegally, and they have vowed to keep harassing Japanese whaling ships.

(afp, kyodo, prev.)