Japanese whaling fleet heads for humpbacks, pursued by Greenpeace

A large Japanese whaling fleet is on its way to waters off Antarctica with plans to resume hunting of protected humpbacks in defiance of international opposition. The environmental group Greenpeace has vowed to disrupt the expedition. Greenpeace said its protest ship, Esperanza, would chase the fleet to the southern ocean. "We are going to do everything in our power to reduce their catch," Esperanza expedition leader Karli Thomas told The Associated Press by telephone Sunday. "Japan's research program is a sham." But in a farewell ceremony Sunday at the southern Japanese port of Shimonoseki for the four-ship expedition, officials told a send-off crowd that Japan should not give in to militant activists. "They're violent environmental terrorists," mission leader Hajime Ishikawa said. "Their violence is unforgivable ... we must fight against their hypocrisy and lies."