New Zealand Australia and the Netherlands have issued a joint statement, calling for "responsible behaviour" as Japan begins its whaling season in Antarctica.

The joint communique said the three nations remained "resolute in our opposition to the so-called scientific whaling" but condemned "dangerous or violent activities" by whalers and protesters.

"The Southern Ocean is a remote and inhospitable region where the risk of adverse incidents is high and the capacity for rescue or assistance is low. Our Governments jointly call upon all parties to exercise restraint and to ensure that safety at sea is the highest priority," the communique said.

The statement, issued by Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully, said the three countries would be using diplomacy and the International Whaling Commission to fight for whale conservation.

The Japanese whaling fleet has recently left Japan for the Southern Ocean while the protest group, the Sea Shepherd, set sail in the Steve Irwin from Australia yesterday.

Greenpeace is not sending a vessel to the Southern Ocean.

Greenpeace New Zealand oceans campaigner Karli Thomas said the organisation will be campaigning for an end to whaling in Japan by taking a case to the Japanese Supreme Court.

- NZHERALD STAFF