Japan says it has suspended its annual whale hunt in the Antarctic after being hounded at sea by anti-whaling protesters.
There has been irritation in Japan at regular attempts by the US-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to stop whale hunts.
Recently activists have taken to chasing the Japanese fleet’s mother ship.
The government in Tokyo said it was stopping the hunt for safety reasons and may bring all its ships home.
“We find the Sea Shepherd’s harassment extremely regrettable and are asking all countries involved to take any action necessary against them,” said Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano.
Commercial whaling was banned 25 years ago but Japan says it follows a rule allowing hunting for scientific research. Much of the whale meat however is eaten.
Australia is taking Japan to the International Court of Justice to try to stop whaling in the Antarctic Ocean.