Aussie Sea Shepherds pledge to continue chasing the Japanese whaling fleet
TOKYO, LOS ANGELES––The Institute of Cetacean Research, the front organization for the Japanese whaling industry, and Kyodo Senpaku, the company that owns and operates the Japanese whaling fleet, on August 23, 2016 globally publicized a claimed courtroom victory over the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
It was the Sea Shepherds, however, who reportedly got some of their money back after a five-year legal battle that in June 2015 saw the Sea Shepherds agree to pay the Japanese whalers $2.55 million.
Whalers dropped lawsuit
“In exchange,” the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society said at the time, “The Institute of Cetacean Research will dismiss its action for more than $4.1 million in damages related to contempt [of court],” for alleged Sea Shepherd violation of a preliminary injunction issued by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court in 2012. The Institute of Cetacean Research and Kyodo Senpaku applied for the injunction in 2011, accusing the Sea Shepherds and founder Paul Watson of “piracy,” after they had disrupted Japanese “research whaling” expeditions to Antarctic waters each winter since 2005-2006.
The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals followed up the injunction on February 27, 2013 by formally designating the Sea Shepherds “pirates.”
Wrote chief judge Alex Kozinski, “You don’t need a peg leg or an eye patch. When you ram ships; hurl glass containers of acid; drag metal-reinforced ropes in the water to damage propellers and rudders; launch smoke bombs and flares with hooks; and point high-powered lasers at other ships, you are, without a doubt, a pirate, no matter how high-minded you believe your purpose to be.”
“Under the latest agreement,” reported the Japan Times of Tokyo on August 23, 2016, “the Japanese organizations will pay back part of the damages to Sea Shepherd as settlement money, but the U.S. group is prohibited from using the money to fund acts of sabotage.”
Elaborated Paul Watson, who started the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society with one ship in 1977 and has expanded it to a fleet of five plus a helicopter, “The Japanese whalers have been condemned by the International Whaling Commission, fined $1 million Australian dollars for contempt by the Australian Federal Court and found guilty of illegal whaling by the International Court of Justice.
“Despite this the United States 9th Circuit Federal Court has allowed for a permanent injunction against Sea Shepherd United States to prevent Captain Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd USA from approaching within 500 yards of a Japanese whaler.
“Sea Shepherd USA and Captain Paul Watson have no choice but to comply with the United States Federal Court order, and thus cannot legally be involved in any activity, nor be party to any activity that approaches within 500 yards of a Japanese whaling ship in the Southern Ocean.”
Under the new agreement with the Institute of Cetacean Research and Kyodo Senpaku, Watson continued, “The preliminary injunction entered by the 9th Circuit Court in 2012 will become permanent.”
“Not bound by U.S. legal system”
Contended Watson, “Sea Shepherd has always abided by the law, as our history demonstrates, and we will continue to do so. The International Whaling Commission, the International Court of Justice and the Australian Federal Court have all condemned Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean as illegal.
“Sea Shepherd brought this illegality to the attention of the world.”
Added Sea Shepherd Global director Alex Cornelissen in a media statement, “The ruling in the U.S. courts affects only the U.S. entity. All the other Sea Shepherd entities,” worldwide, “are not bound by the U.S. legal system. Sea Shepherd Global and all other [Sea Shepherd] entities around the world will continue to oppose the illegal Japanese whaling in the Antarctic.”
“No effect on Australian law”
Agreed Jeff Hansen, managing director of Sea Shepherd Australia, the umbrella for Sea Shepherd campaigns against Japanese whaling in recent years, “Sea Shepherd Australia remains committed to upholding the Australia Federal Court ruling banning the slaughter of whales in the Australian Whale Sanctuary. We are not concerned about the U.S. court settlement as it does not have any effect on Australian law.”
Created, on paper, by the Australian Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act of 2000, the Australian Whale Sanctuary adjoins the Southern Oceans Whale Sanctuary, declared by the International Whaling Commission in 1994. Japan does not recognize either sanctuary.
Hansen separately told the BBC that if the Institute of Cetacean Research tried to pursue Sea Shepherd Australia in Australian courts, “They would be entering into a court system they are in contempt of, and we would welcome that.”
Japan officially ended commercial whaling in 1986, in compliance with a global moratorium declared by the International Whaling Commission, but immediately resumed whaling in commercial volume in the name of doing scientific research. Meat from the whales killed for “research” is nonetheless sold to restaurants and supermarkets, just as before.
The International Court of Justice ruled in 2014 that the Japanese “research whaling” expeditions violate the IWC treaty, established under auspices of the United Nations.
The Institute of Cetacean Research and Kyodo Senpaku did not kill whales in Antarctic waters during the winter of 2014-2015, but restructured their “research protocol,” and killed 333 whales in the Antarctic region during the winter of 2015-2016.
“Will not include donor funds”
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society pledged in 2015 that the $2.55 million it was to pay to the Institute of Cetacean Research and Kyodo Senpaku would “come from money from other legal actions and settlements, and will not include donor funds.”
ABC News reported that the amount to be paid would actually be $3.32 million, but did not say where or how it obtained the higher figure, which might have included legal fees as well as damages.
Either $2.55 million or $3.32 million exceeded the total Sea Shepherd annual budget as recently as 2006, according to IRS Form 990 filings, but the constellation of Sea Shepherd organizations has rapidly grown since then, propelled by the success of the Animal Planet reality television show Whale Wars, which has followed the high seas skirmishes between the Sea Shepherds and the Japanese whaling fleet.
Judicial concern about tactics
The payment, as announced in 2015, raised to circa $28 million the sum reportedly paid by animal advocacy organizations over the preceding 31 months to animal use industries in settlement of claims upheld by courts––and some individual judges––who were formerly friendly toward pro-animal cases.
Earlier, the Humane Society of the U.S. and American SPCA paid more than $25 million to Feld Entertainment, owner of the Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey Circus.
The verdicts appeared to signal increasing judicial concern about campaign tactics which may do more for fundraising than to expedite accomplishing advocacy goals.
The Sea Shepherd case focused on some of the incidents that made a hit of Whale Wars, while the HSUS and ASPCA case involved 10 years of litigation which never even got to a ruling on the basis of the advocacy claims, but was supported by many fundraising solicitations.