US Court labels Sea Shepherd as 'pirates'
The conflict between Japanese whalers and the Sea Shepherd anti-whaling fleet continues to escalate in the Southern Ocean, with reports of further confrontation coming to light.
The Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR), the Japanese entity behind the Nisshin Maru and Yushin Maru whaling vessels, says the Sea Shepherd fleet launched an ‘attack’ on both ships on Monday night.
In a media release, the ICR claims that Sea Shepherd used three inflatable boats get close to the Yushin Maru, before trying to tangle their rudder and propeller with wire rope.
According to the Japanese, the protesters then focused on the Nisshin Maru - using the inflatable boats to get close enough to plug the draining outlets on the ship’s hull.
The ships responded by firing a water pump at the activists and broadcasting a warning message asking them to stop, the ICR says.
Sea Shepherd is yet to produce their version of events.
The alleged action comes only days after dramatic video footage emerged of a Sea Shepherd vessel and the Nisshin Maru colliding in the Southern Ocean.
Both sides claim to be in the right over the clash, where the smaller Sea Shepherd ship rammed the larger Nisshan Maru.
US Court: Sea Shepherd ‘modern-day pirates without eye patches’
Sea Shepherd’s actions have been condemned by a US federal appeals court which released its decision on the Antarctic confrontation yesterday.
In the decision, chief judge Alex Kozinski slams Sea Shepherd as “modern-day pirates” who are “disingenuous” and “destructive”.
“You don’t need a peg leg or an eye patch,” he says.
“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.”
The Japanese fleet is seeking a permanent ban on Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd organization he founded from disrupting the annual whale hunt in the waters off Antarctica.
The Sea Shepherd's efforts are the subject of the television show Whale Wars.
In December, the same court ordered the organisation to keep its ships at least 500 yards (457 metres) from Japanese whalers. The whalers have since accused the protesters of violating that order at least twice this month.
But Watson and his lawyers contend US courts don't have jurisdiction in the Southern Ocean.
In a column published in the Guardian last week, Mr Watson said that his organisation was not subject to US law.
“The Japanese whalers, however, mistakenly thought that the US courts could exercise jurisdiction over Dutch and Australian-flagged and owned vessels,” he wrote.
“They are also in contempt of an Australian federal court ruling from 2008 that specifically forbade them from killing whales in the waters of the Australian Antarctic territory.”
The US faction of the activist group halted all anti-whaling action after the court ruling in December, Mr Watson says.