The flights by a long-range Airbus A319 are intended to monitor movements of the whaling fleet if it's hunting off Antarctica in Australia's search and rescue zone.
Sea Shepherd captain Peter Hammarstedt said the aircraft circled his ship Bob Barker for about eight minutes last Sunday morning and came close enough to be clearly identified. No contact was made. A spokesman for Environment Munster Greg Hunt said: "When any whaling monitoring mission has been completed, we will provide a public report." Bedtime reading...
The flight came after the first clash of this year, which resulted in a diplomatic protest to the Netherlands, flag state of SS's ship Steve Irwin. Its skipper Siddarth Chakravarty deployed two small boats whose crew used lines in a bid to slow down the whalers' security ship, Shonan Maru No.2, which is tailing SI: "When this was met with aggression from the crew of Shonan Maru No.2, in terms of throwing grappling hooks at the small boats and hitting two of the crew members, as well as attempts to jab the crew with long poles, I retrieved the small boats."
Meanwhile the Yushin Maru No.3 also pursued Bob Barker, but it stopped the chase when BB crossed Australia's EEZ, 200 miles off Macquarie Island. The harpoon ship stopped one mile outside the zone. SS Australia chairman Bob Brown said Munster Hunt had been in touch with Japanese authorities over the impending incursion into the Australian Whale Sanctuary.