Russia seizes Japan research whaling patrol ship in Sea of Okhotsk

Russia has seized a Japanese research whaling patrol ship in the Sea of Okhotsk on suspicion of intruding into Russia's territorial waters, Japanese government sources said Friday.

The 712-ton Shonan Maru No. 2 left Japan on Aug. 8 to visually examine whales in the Sea of Okhotsk at the request of the government-linked Fisheries Research Agency.

Russian authorities say the Japanese patrol ship failed to notify them of a change in its planned route, with research originally set to take place in Russia's exclusive economic zone, and that the ship intruded into Russia's territorial waters, the sources said.

The skipper and crew members of the ship have been questioned by Russian authorities since Aug. 15 on a voluntary basis and have not been detained. The Shonan Maru No. 2 has been anchored at a Russian port, according to Japan's Fisheries Agency, part of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The ship, which used to accompany Japan's research whaling fleet in voyages to the Antarctic Sea, has been conducting a visual check of whales in accordance with plans worked out by the International Whaling Commission.

The skipper is believed to have refused to admit the ship intruded into Russian territorial waters, the sources added.

In a past voyage to the Antarctic, the Shonan Maru No. 2 was boarded by members of the antiwhaling group Sea Shepherd during clashes with Japan's whaling fleet.