Sabotage by environmental activists and dismal weather have driven the Japanese Antarctic whaling fleet to return home after catching less than a third of its planned catch at 267 whales, Tokyo said.


While the fleet is returning “on schedule”, Japan’s Fisheries Agency acknowledged that the catch was much lower than officials had hoped for.


Whalers killed 266 minke whales and one fin whale instead of the 900 they had planned for upon leaving Japan in December, the agency said.


“The catch was smaller than planned due to factors including weather conditions and sabotage acts by activists,” an agency official said, AFP reports. “There were definitely sabotage campaigns behind the figure.”


Green group Sea Shepherd chased the Japanese fleet for most of the season, throwing stink bombs at the vessels and using ropes as they attempted to tangle their propellers. The whalers fought back with water cannon.


“This is the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary. What is it about the word ‘sanctuary’ they don’t understand?” asked Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson, ABC Radio Australia reports.


In the 2010-2011 season, the Japanese went home early after catching only 172 whales because of harassment by environmentalists.