Three men from the environmental group Forest Rescue Australia have boarded the Japanese whaling ship Shonan Maru No2 around 16 miles (26 kilometres) off Australia's west coast on Saturday night.
Forest Rescue said it wanted to prevent the Shonan Maru from tailing the Steve Irwin, a ship from anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd, back to the Southern Ocean, where the shonan Maru is undertaking its annual whale kill.
The three men will be hoping for action from the Australian Government who up until now, has been less than dazzling in their opposition to the annual Japanese whale hunt .
"We have come from the forests of Australia to defend the whales being slaughtered in Australian territorial waters.
We are Australian citizens and we have boarded the Japanese flagged Shonan Maru #2 in Australian territorial waters at a position of (32 degrees zero minutes south and 115 degrees 21 minutes east) We have taken this action of boarding the Shonan Maru #2 to protest the fact that this vessel is part of a whaling fleet that is operating in contempt of the Australian Court and is in Australian waters in defiance of the Australian Federal court ruling and the will of the Australian people.
“We are onboard this ship because our government has failed to uphold its pre-election promise to end whaling in the Southern Ocean,” said Simon Peterffy.
Forest Rescue has decided to take action to prevent the Shonan Maru #2 from tailing the Steve Irwin back to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
We are taking this action to remind the Australian government of their obligation to enforce existing laws pertaining to the prohibition of whaling ships in our waters.
We as Forest Rescue are insulted and disappointed in our government for allowing the transit of whale poaching vessels in Australian waters.
The three men Geoffrey Tuxworth (47) of Perth, Simon Peterffy (44) of Bunbury and Glen Pendlebury (27) of Fremantle,are seeking return to Australia since the ship was in Australia's exclusive economic zone ,but Australian Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said they may face international law.
"We hope that it won't come to that, but you do have to look at the past to know that it is likely these three Australians may be taken back to Japan," she told ABC radio.
It is not the first time that the Shonan Maru No 2 has been boarded. Back in the 2009/10 whaling season New Zealander Pete Bethune boarded the ship and was arrested and taken back to Japan and waited for months in a Japanese jail for his trial.the New Zealand Government may have been paddling their feet below water but there was no visible outcry from them at that time.
"We are in diplomatic discussions, we hope there will be an opportunity to ensure their safety and well being soon," Ms Roxon said, but warned that it was tricky because the incident did not happen in Australia's territorial waters.
"Because it was only in our exclusive economic zone that doesn't give us automatic rights to assert Australian law," she said.
"In fact, the clearest advice that we have is that Japanese law would be likely to apply."
"If the Japanese authorities decide to investigate and bring charges on these grounds, the Australians will find themselves being sent to Japan to face court."said Donald Rothwell, an international law expert from ANU.
The Steve Irwin returned to Australia last week because another Sea Shepherd ship, the Brigitte Bardot, was damaged in high seas and needed escorting home, setting back the group's annual harassment of the whalers.
Japanese whaling spokesman Glen Inwood, from the Institute of Cetacean Research,which is a front for the whaling industry in Japan said the men were being treated well, but warned they could be on the ship for months with the whale hunt only just beginning.