The Australian government on Friday lodged a protest with Tokyo after a ship from the Japanese whaling fleet entered its exclusive economic zone in the Southern Ocean near Macquarie Island.
Canberra is strongly opposed to whaling and launched legal action challenging the basis of Japan's so-called "scientific" hunt in December 2010.
The Japanese fleet left for the Southern Ocean in late December, planning to catch up to 935 Antarctic minke whales and up to 50 fin whales and the Shonan Maru No.2, a support vessel, strayed into Australia's economic zone on Thursday.
"The government strongly objects to whaling vessels passing through Australian territorial seas or our exclusive economic zone," Environment Minister Tony Burke said.
"Australia has made it clear to Japan on a number of occasions that vessels associated with its whaling programme are not welcome in Australia's exclusive economic zone or territorial sea.
Japan claims it conducts vital scientific research using a loophole in an international ban on whaling, but makes no secret of the fact that the animals ultimately end up on dinner plates.AFP