Sea Shepherd captain Paul Watson believes whaling in the Antarctic is at a tipping point, but no thanks to the "useless" New Zealand Government.

The outspoken, uncompromising eco-warrior will soon hoist his ship's Jolly Roger for conservation group Sea Shepherd's eighth voyage to the Southern Ocean to chase and harass Japanese whalers.

This summer's battle is expected to be fiercer than usual because the Japanese are sending a strengthened fleet with armed guards to the Antarctic for the first time in three years.

Watson, 60, is in Auckland to attend the New Zealand premiere of a biographical documentary Eco-Pirate.


He said he had hoped the Government would send a naval vessel to the Antarctic to act as both a witness and a potential rescue ship.

He also criticised the Government for seeking an international compromise which would allow Japanese whaling to continue with a reduced catch limit.

'We're not disappointed in the New Zealand people, who are very much against whaling. But we are disappointed in the New Zealand Government, who seem more interested in appeasing Japan than their own people."

Foreign Minister Murray McCully has sought a diplomatic end to whaling, but has not gone as far as backing Australia's legal case against the harpooning of whales under the guise of research.

There is a widespread belief that whale meat is no longer a profitable industry, and that the whaling expedition now relies heavily on funding from the Japanese Government.

Australian director Jeff Hansen said that this year it seemed the Japanese whalers had the "perfect excuse" to cease their operations, because the country was dealing with the social and financial fallout from the March earthquake and tsunami.

Watson will set sail with the Steve Irwin, the Bob Barker and the Brigitte Bardot. The most important factor in his campaign was finding the Japanese fleet early, something tourist and fishing boats have helped with.