The comments by the Institute of Cetacean Research follow claims by Sea Shepherd that the Japanese whaling fleet is on the run and have been prevented from killing whales. Captain of the Sea Shepherd's vessel Steve Irwin, Paul Watson said his ship was in pursuit of the factory ship Nisshin Maru and while the factory ship was on the move the fleet could not kill whales. He said the Nisshin Maru was sailing well east of its normal hunting grounds and was in New Zealand territorial waters in the Ross Sea. "We have been pursuing them for nine days and in that time they haven't been able to kill any whales. We have chased them over 1000 (nautical) miles (1852 kilometres). We are now in the Ross Sea," Capt Watson said. "If we keep the Nisshin Maru on the run it shuts down their whole operation." Capt Watson said the fleet would probably have killed around 30 whales before Sea Shepherd found them a week after the start of the season. Since then the fleet had been unable to take any whales, he said.

Spokesperson for the ICR Glenn Inwood said the fleet was sailing to the Ross Sea to undertake "lethal whale research" and intended to take its quota of 850 minke whales this season.

"The Sea Shepherd are 150 kilometres behind. How is that having the fleet on the run? There is more than one vessel in the fleet and research is continuing," Mr Inwood said.

Captain Paul Watson: Why would the Japanese whalers begin whaling near Commonwealth Bay on the extreme west of their hunting area and then once Sea Shepherd arrives, they decide to steam 2000 miles to the East to "begin" their whaling there instead. We are only concerned with one vessel - the Nisshin Maru. If we stop the factory ship, we stop the whaling. We are on the tail of the Nisshin Maru and they are running from us and that is a fact. They are not whaling and that also is a fact.

He said the slaughter of whales using harpoons that exploded inside the whale's head was "humane" and the cull "sustainable."

Captain Paul Watson: Whales take from 10 minutes to 45 minutes to die so that can hardly be called humane. Fin whales are an endangered species so that can not be "sustainable". The slaughter is also illegal under international Conservation law.

"Public opinion in Australia does not matter," Mr Inwood said.

He said the ICR did not recognise Australia's nor New Zealand's claims to any territorial waters off Antarctica.

Captain Paul Watson: Glenn Inwood is being incredibly arrogant for dismissing Australian public opinion as irrelevant. The whalers should get a more tactful public relations flunkie. Australia should send a message strong and clear to the Japanese government that Australian public opinion is not something to be dismissed so disrespectfully. They should demand the resignation of Inwood, a New Zealander whose allegiance is with the Japanese whalers.

Capt Watson said Sea Shepherd would not stop its frontline campaign to save around 1000 whales from slaughter this season.

"We will need to refuel sometime in January and when we leave the area the fleet will be able to kill whales but we will be coming back," Capt Watson said.