Skirmishes break out in Antartica between whalers and protesters

JAPANESE whalers allegedly fired water cannons at anti-whaling activists yesterday, just hours after the campaigners tracked down their ships in the seas off Antarctica.

Members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society are chasing the fleet in the hopes of interrupting Japan's annual whale hunt, which kills up to 1,000 whales a year.

The two sides have clashed violently in the past, including last year, when a Sea Shepherd boat was sunk after a collision with a whaler. Japan is accused by Sea Shepherd of abusing a ruling by the International Whaling Commission which permits it to harvest a quota of certain species of whales for research, rather than commercial, purposes.