In the picture above, released by Greanpeace on Tuesday, the remains of a whale are washed down on the deck of a factory ship, the Nisshin.
Tokyo denies its whalers are hunting commercially. But a Greenpeace spokesman, Robbie Kelman, said yesterday that Japanese whalers were hunting openly with harpoons uncovered, despite a six-week international treaty banning commercial hunting of whales in Antarctic waters.
Japan was the only nation on the International Whaling Commission that voted against setting up the sanctuary last year and has filed an objection to the commission, asking to continue "scientific" whaling. Tokyo licensed its whalers to kill 330 whales this summer in the 3-million-sq-mile sanctuary.
A fleet of three whale hunting vessels and a mother ship were surprised and photographed on Tuesday operating 750 miles inside the limits of the international sanctuary, above the Ross Sea, Greenpeace said.
Greenpeace activists, operating from the Rainbow Warrior II, were trying to disrupt the hunt by putting inflatable boats between the hunters and the whales and by using a helicopter. The meat from the slaughter of minke whales is sold in Japanese restaurants for about $160 (£103) a pound.