Underwatertimes.com News Service - January 3, 2006 00:00 EST

Despite a 20-year-old international moratorium on whale hunting, three countries have increased their quotas to more than 2,000 whales this year.

Japan, Norway and Iceland have already begun harpooning minke, fin whales and humpbacks.

Greenpeace has sent two of its large campaigning vessels, Arctic Sunrise and Esperanza, to the Southern Ocean to try to hinder Japanese whaling operations. In the past 10 days, there have been a series of confrontations between Greenpeace and the Japanese fleet, The Independent reported Tuesday.

Japan is hunting 935 minke whales, more than double the number it took last year, under what it calls "scientific" whaling; as is Iceland, which plans to take 40 minkes. Before Christmas, Norway's parliament unanimously approved increasing its 2006 whale hunting quota by a further 250 animals to 1,052.

Some campaigners are calling for the anti-whaling countries led by Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Britain to take legal action against Japan over the "scientific" whaling issue.