Despite an international ban on commercial whaling in place for 25 years,

Japan has continued to send its ships to the Antarctic in the autumn or winter each year to catch whales by the hundreds. To prevent the killings, the anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd has been chasing and harassing the Japanese whale fleet in the frigid southern waters for years.

Antarctic whaling confrontation. (Photo: Sea Shepherd)

Breaking news

San Francisco, Monday–a judge of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling against Sea Shepherds clearing the way for Japan whaling interests to launch more extensive legal action against the group.

“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,” the judge said. “The activities that Cetacean [the Japanese whalers] alleges Sea Shepherd has engaged in are clear instances of violent acts for private ends, the very embodiment of piracy.”

Sea Shepherd boat harassing Japanese whaler. ((Photo: Sea Shepherd)

Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson

described the judge’s opinion that he is a “pirate” as one-sided and irrelevant, saying the judge had ignored aggression from the Japanese fleet. “He didn’t mention anything in there about the fact that the Japanese have destroyed one of our ships (the Ady Gil in 2010), they’ve thrown concussion grenades at us, hit us with water cannons and laser beams.” As for the judges accusations. “We don’t throw acid. We throw rotten butter. We haven’t rammed a single Japanese whaling vessel down here in the entire nine years. We’ve been rammed multiple times.”


The issue of piracy

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

was addressed by Robert Kennedy, Jr., senior attorney for the National Resources Defense Council, and President of the Waterkeeper Alliance, at the National Press Club one week ago:

“The organization that brought this lawsuit (against Sea Shepherds), which is the so-called Institute for Cetacean Research, which is an arm of the Japanese government, is really a private organization masquerading as a scientific research group. For may years they’ve obtained permission to kill thousands of whales every year using as a pretense that they weren’t doing this for businesses reasons, which would have been illegal, but that they were killing the whales for scientific research. Since 1986 when they obtained this scientific research exemption they have killed 20,000 whales and they have not produced a single peer-reviewed article in any scientific publication.

Japanese whaling. (Photo: Sea Shepherd)

“…The Institute for Cetacean Research, (takes) the whale meat back to Japan and they claim that this is a Japanese cultural necessity, but in reality according to a recent study by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, fewer than 2% of people in Japan actually eat that meat, and that number is declining rapidly because of the widespread knowledge now that whale meat is heavily contaminated with neurotoxoic mercury.

“In 2010 (Japanese whalers) sank a Sea Shepherd ship in an act of piracy. The Sea Shepherd ship had the right-of-way, they cut it in two, and almost killed six people, and they sank the ship. Then they arrested the captain of the ship and they charged him, and what was the charge? It was interfering with a business enterprise. Yet they’re telling the world that this is not a business enterprise, it is a scientific enterprise.

“The (whaling) business is completely based upon them receiving enormous subsides from the Japanese government including $30 million in subsidies raised by people in the country and around the world for tsunami relief in Japan, that was handed over last year to the Institute of Cetacean Research.

So…it’s a pirate industry. The International Whaling Commission has recognized that the scientific research claims are dubious and has imposed a moratorium on whaling, an international moratorium, and the Institute of Cetacean Research is violating that moratorium. In other words, they are today in violation, by sending these ships out. The two harpoon boats and their factory processing ship in the Southern Ocean, they are violating not only Australian law—the Australians and Chileans have chased them out of their territorial waters and forbidden them from coming into those waters and their Antarctic waters—they are in violation of international law.

“The term for this is piracy. If you are violating international law on the high seas, you are a pirate.”

Captain Paul Watson and the crew of the Steve Irwin. (Photo: Sea Shepherd)

Australia is currently taking international legal action against Japan to stop the whaling.