A US court has declared the conservation group Sea Shepherd to be “pirates” and ordered it to stop its aggressive actions against Japanese whalers.
The ruling was issued on Wednesday by chief judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th US circuit court of appeals.
In his 18-page opinion, he wrote: “You don’t need a peg leg or an eye patch. When you ram ships; hurl 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 lawsuit was brought by a group of Japanese researchers who hunt whales in the Southern Ocean, collectively referred to in the judgment as “Cetacean”. Their legal action to halt Sea Shepherd comes after years of clashes at sea.
The appeals court also sharply criticized judge Richard Jones who presided over the original case. His decision raises “doubts as to whether he will be perceived as impartial in presiding over this high-profile case”, Kozinski wrote.
As a result of Wednesday’s ruling, which grants Cetacean an injunction against Sea Shepherd, the American branch of the conservation group has severed ties with its Australian counterpart. Cetacean currently faces legal action from Australia, which has banned all whaling in its waters, a fact which Judge Kozinski noted, but reasoned: “It is for Australia, not Sea Shepherd, to police Australia’s court orders.”
Scott West, a spokesman for Sea Shepherd, told the Guardian that Kozinski’s opinion is “only an opinion”, and that the label of “pirate” is “ludicrous” given that “there is no personal gain, and there’s no violence”. The case will be transferred to a district court, though Sea Shepherd may choose to appeal against the injunction. Read more…