An anti-whaling group patrolling the Ross Sea off Antarctica has offered a $25,000 reward to any person or group that can provide coordinates of the Japanese whaling fleet operating in the area.
The U.S.-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society announced the reward in the midst of its "Operation Leviathan" mission to disrupt Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean.
"We're here to stop them from killing whales and we will do all we can without risking human lives to do that," said Captain Alex Cornelissen from the ship Robert Hunter, one of two Sea Shepherd ships involved in the anti-whaling campaign.
"We're waiting for more information about the coordinates of the Japanese fleet to track them down, and hope the reward will help deliver that news soon," Cornelissen told Reuters on Monday via satellite telephone from his ship.
Paul Watson, the captain of the second ship Farley Mowat, told local radio that the New Zealand Government knew the location of the Japanese whalers because its air force had filmed the fleet.
"We know there are people who have this information and the coordinates for the Japanese fleet and quite frankly it will save us that much in fuel if we can get those coordinates," he said.
The Sea Shepherd ships have another three weeks before they must leave the area to refuel and pick up supplies.
Watson said he believed the Japanese fleet was within 500 miles of his ships.
In addition, a Greenpeace ship set sail from New Zealand last Friday to start its 2007 anti-whaling campaign, again trying to come between Japanese whalers and their prey in the Southern Ocean.
A global moratorium on commercial whaling has existed since 1986, but Japan kills hundreds of whales each year under a scientific whaling program. Iceland and Norway are the only countries to ignore the moratorium and conduct commercial hunts.
Japan has called a special February meeting of members of the International Whaling Commission in an attempt to help lift the whaling moratorium, but 26 anti-whaling nations, including Australia, have said they will boycott the meeting.