Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, said in a statement published Sunday on his group's Web site that his flagship vessel, the Steve Irwin, is heading to port in Australia, wrapping up this whaling season's confrontations with Japanese ships.
"I am not prepared to do to the Japanese whalers what they do to the whales, and the escalating violence by the whalers will result in some serious injuries and possibly fatalities if this confrontation continues to escalate," Watson said, adding that Sea Shepherd has been operating at a disadvantage against three Japanese harpoon boats that are superior in speed and maneuverability to the Steve Irwin.
The protest ship and whalers collided twice in recent days, with Watson ramming the Irwin into the harpoon boats Yushin Maru No. 2 and Yushin Maru No. 3 on Feb. 6, the Japanese news agency Kyodo reported.
Officials said no Japanese whalers were injured during confrontations with Sea Shepherd this year, but one crewmember fell overboard Jan. 5 and is presumed dead, the news agency said.