Simon Peterffy with police at Albany port.
Simon Peterffy with police at Albany port.

Environmental activist group Forest Rescue Australia has declared its mission to board the Japanese ship the Shonan Maru 2 an "absolute success" and called on the Japanese Government to foot the bill for their return.

Speaking about the experience for the first time, the three activists - Glen Pendlebury, Simon Peterffy and Geoffrey Tuxworth - described being guarded by at least two Japanese crew in a 2m by 2m cabin on the security ship and trading English lessons for cigarettes.

The trio boarded the vessel off Bunbury on January 8 to protest against the Japanese whaling hunt.

They were handed to Australian authorities in the Southern Ocean on Friday after agreement was reached between Canberra and Tokyo.

Two tenders from the Australian customs vessel the Ocean Protector dropped the trio off at Albany's port about 11am yesterday.

They were flanked by Australian Federal Police and customs officials.

To the sound of an "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie" chant, they waved to a small group of supporters who beeped their car horns and shouted: "You're all Aussie heroes."

Others were not so proud.

"A bloody waste of taxpayers' money, picking up you lot," one man shouted.

Seconds after placing his feet back on Australian soil, Mr Peterffy, founder of Forest Rescue Australia, was whisked away in an unmarked car by the AFP to Albany Regional Prison.

It emerged the ringleader of the ship boarding stunt had unpaid fines of $7707 and 10 outstanding warrants from previous activism.

Mr Peterffy was released after the fines were paid about 5pm by a group including Sea Shepherd and Forest Rescue Australia.

Glen Pendlebury and Geoffrey Tuxworth arrive in Albany. Pic: Astrid Volzke

Speaking late yesterday, Mr Peterffy said he and his fellow protesters were interviewed by AFP about their actions.

"But I refused to answer the questions," he said.

AFP confirmed investigations into the matter were continuing.

The three men said they were treated well by the Japanese.

"I wouldn't say we had a good time, but we definitely made some friends," Mr Peterffy said.

"I initially went on a hunger strike and said I'm not going back to Japan; they were cool.

"After a day or two they brought us some classic old films on a little DVD player, we also taught them English and we learnt some Japanese."

Mr Tuxworth said he was prepared for the long haul back to Japan.

Reflecting on the events of the past week, all three said they would do it again.

"It got the Australian public talking about the whaling issue and put it back on the agenda," he said.

"We are prepared to risk our lives for whales, and we'll do it again."

The men were travelling back to Perth last night.

Mr Peterffy is due to appear in Perth Magistrate's Court today to face charges of obstructing police, aggravated burglary, aggravated assault and damaging property. Those charges are unrelated to whaling protests.

The West Australian

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