Sea Shepherd claims anti-whaling victory in trick

Radical environmental group Sea Shepherd claims they have tricked Japanese whalers by luring them near to New Zealand's Auckland Islands while another of its vessels gets away.

On Monday the organisation said its two ships were seeking refuge in the Auckland Islands, 1000 kilometres south of Bluff, and planned to refuel them there.

They demanded New Zealand instruct two pursuing Japanese vessels not to enter territorial waters.

But now Sea Shepherd Paul Watson said it was a ruse.

One of its ships, Steve Irwin, has been pursued by a Japanese harpoon vessel and the Japanese whaling fleet security vessel.

While this was happening, another ship, Bob Barker slipped away into Wellington and refuelled.

On Monday, Sea Shepherd then said Bob Barker was to head to the Auckland Islands to refuel Steve Irwin.

Watson said the real Steve Irwin mission was to decoy the two Japanese ships away from the Bob Barker.

He said the two Japanese ships followed Steve Irwin and illegally entered the Australian Economic Exclusion Zone where they have been prohibited by order of the Australian Federal Court and the Government of Australia.

After a day at Macquarie Island, Steve Irwin made the move northward to Auckland Islands with the group saying it planned to refuel from Bob Barker.

The Yushin Maru No. 3 and the Shonan Maru No. 2 followed.

"Bob Barker was never planning to go to the Auckland Islands where the two Japanese ships waited for the refuelling operation that we never intended to actually happen.

"Bob Barker will chase the Japanese whaling fleet for the remainder of the season, to the end of March if need be, while the Steve Irwin returns to Australia.

"We have placed the Japanese security ship, the Shonan Maru No. 2, and the harpoon vessel, the Yushin Maru No. 3, a great distance from the whaling operations and the factory ship Nisshin Maru,'' Watson says.

''It could take them more than a week to return. It was a very successful ploy that has allowed the Bob Barker to be free of its tail and to knock out two of the Japanese ships from the game for more than two weeks.''

He said the Japanese wasted tons of fuel and weeks of time to accomplish nothing more than to escort the Steve Irwin back north.

''Now they have no one to follow anymore and the Bob Barker is free to continue the chase,'' Watson said.

With only three weeks left in the season, the whalers are quickly running out of time. They have not had much time, or the harpoon vessels, to realise their quota.

''Because we lost our scout vessel Brigitte Bardot, we have been handicapped this season. Despite that, we have chased this outlaw fleet more than 16,000 miles from west to east and from north to south. I am confident that we have severely impacted their kill quota once again.''