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ATAAC | Australian Teens Against Animal Cruelty - PAUL WATSON SHOT

Paul Watson, captain of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society protest ship the Steve Irwin, said he felt a thud and found a bullet lodged in his bulletproof vest during a clash today between the two vessels.

He said the crew of the Steve Irwin was throwing stink bombs at the whaling ship the Nisshin Maru when Japanese coastguards responded by throwing flash grenades.

Mr Watson claimed one person was injured by the flash grenades and he felt the impact soon after.

"I felt an impact on my chest at one point and didn't think too much of it at the time and then when I opened up my survival suit - I had a bulletproof vest (on) - and there was a bullet lodged in it," he told ABC radio.

The bullet also hit and bent a badge Mr Watson was wearing underneath.

"If I wasn't wearing the vest it would have been pretty serious," he said.

There was no immediate comment from Japan, which conducts whaling in the Southern Ocean under the guise of scientific research.

However the Australian government said Japan had advised the Australian Embassy in Tokyo that a Nisshin Maru crew member had fired "warning shots" during a confrontation with the Steve Irwin.

Australian officials in Japan were seeking further information, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said.

"I absolutely condemn actions by crew members of any vessel that cause injury - or have the potential to cause injury - to anyone on the high seas," Mr Smith said.

"The Australian government once again calls on all parties in the Southern Ocean - including all protest and whaling vessels, and their respective crews - to exercise restraint."

The latest clash follows a confrontation earlier this week between the two vessels, during which Sea Shepherd activists threw stink bombs and "slippery" poweder at the Japanese whaler.

Japan claimed four of its crew members were injured in the clash, which Mr Watson denied.

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