License article

Australian government air spy on Japanese whaling fleet

The federal government has begun whaling patrol flights, circling conservation group Sea Shepherd's ship in the Southern Ocean as skirmishing begins with Japanese whalers.

The flights this summer by a long-range Airbus A319 are intended to monitor movements of the whaling fleet if it is hunting off Antarctica in Australia's search and rescue zone.

Sea Shepherd captain Peter Hammarstedt said the aircraft circled his ship, the Bob Barker, for about eight minutes on Sunday morning. No contact was made with the plane.

''When any whaling monitoring mission has been completed, we will provide a public report,'' a spokesman for Environment Minister Greg Hunt said.