TOKYO, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- Japanese officials say whalers will receive extra protection from anti-whaling activists during their upcoming antarctic whale hunt.
Japan, which has been under growing international pressure to stop hunting whales in the antarctic, said it will send a Fisheries Agency patrol boat to accompany the fleet in an effort to thwart potential disruption from conservation groups, the Financial Times reported Tuesday.
Last year's hunt was cut short after confrontations with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society prompted concern for the safety of crew and ships.
Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson said activists, scheduled to return to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in early December, will take aggressive measures to stop the Japanese whale hunt.
"They will have to kill us to prevent us from intervening once again," Watson said Friday in a release. "Are the Japanese people ready to take human lives in defense of this horrifically cruel and illegal slaughter of endangered and protected species of whales?"
This will be the eighth year Sea Shepherd has sent ships to the coast of Antarctica to frustrate Japanese whaling operations. The group claims it saved more than 800 whales during last year's whale hunt.