U.S. judge labels antiwhaling group ‘pirates’


A U.S. appeals court has labeled militant conservationist group Sea Shepherd as pirates and cleared the way for Japanese whalers to pursue legal action against them.

“You don’t need a peg leg or an eye patch” to be a pirate, declared Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, overturning a lower court’s ruling against Japanese whalers, who he said were “researchers.”

“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,” Kozinski said.

This is true “no matter how high-minded you believe your purpose to be,” he added in a ruling that dubbed Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson as “eccentric.”

Sea Shepherd boats are currently chasing the fleet hunting whales off Antarctica as they have done for years.

Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research and others are pursuing legal action in the United States, seeking an injunction against their activities on the high seas.

In its ruling Monday, the court overturned a U.S. district judge’s ruling that Sea Shepherd were not pirates. This allows the Institute of Cetacean Research to pursue their action against the antiwhaling group.

The plaintiffs “are Japanese researchers who hunt whales in the Southern Ocean,” which is regulated by an international convention, of which the United States and Japan are signatories, it noted.

The convention “authorizes whale hunting when conducted in compliance with a research permit issued by a signatory,” said the ruling.

“Cetacean has such a permit from Japan. Nonetheless, it has been hounded on the high seas for years by a group calling itself Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and its eccentric founder, Paul Watson.”

It concluded: “The activities that Cetacean alleges Sea Shepherd has engaged in are clear instances of violent acts for private ends, the very embodiment of piracy. The district court erred in dismissing Cetacean’s piracy claims.”

Japan conducts its scientific research using a loophole in an international whaling ban under the International Whaling Commission but makes no secret that the meat ultimately end up on dinner plates.

Japan defends whaling as a tradition and accuses Western critics of disrespecting its culture. Norway and Iceland are the only nations that hunt whales in open defiance of the 1986 IWC moratorium on commercial whaling.

  • nobuo takamura

    I’m relieved to read this news in the USA, though I don’t eat whale. Piracy is another word of theft, I think.

    • Guest

      i call it terrorism

      • WithMalice

        Call it what you like.
        But I’d be interested to know what you call the slaughter of whales under the absolutely false title of “research”… ?
        Oh… and while we’re at it: what do you call the slaughter of dolphins at Taiji?

        Yet another person being extremely selective with what he chooses to look at.

      • Call what you like. But two wrongs don’t make it right. Good call Judge.

      • doobieibood

        …And you protest the killing of each and every animal everywhere? Or just whales and dolphins?

      • robertwgordonesq

        You’d call it the same thing as the mass slaughter of cows, chickens, and pigs for commercial profit. When the rest of the world becomes vegetarian, then maybe…just maybe we can talk about Japan.

      • Guest

        Who cares what was ruled in a US court? It’s not like Japan has taken any heed of rulings on this matter in Australian courts. This is a waste of Japanese taxpayers money!

  • Guest

    YAAYYYY. I’ve said this for years. Floating around in the sea is dangerous enough without some creep (multiple creeps) trying to sabotage you. The Japanese are NOT breaking any laws and the vigilantes are.

    • WithMalice

      Excuse me? An Australian court stated that they were exceeding whaling limits…
      So… you’re cherry-picking which laws are to be broken?

      • Masa Chekov

        What does an Australian court ruling have to do with a Japanese fleet in international waters? Answer: nothing.

        And even if it did, it’s certainly not Sea Shepherd’s right to act as law enforcement.

  • Richard Laidlaw

    Japan’s whaling “research” is a transparent sham to provide whale meat for the small following that eating it has in Japan. Nutrition-rich Japanese do not need to eat whale meat and why they should want to is at best a curiosity. That said, there are international rules that sensibly govern the conduct, safety and security of ships at sea and self-appointed activists break the law when they interfere with navigation. The place to challenge Japan (and the few other whaling countries) is in the international courts, backed up with diplomatic pressure and if necessary economic measures. Piracy is against the law. It also unnecessarily puts lives at risk.

  • Firas Kraïem

    Two wrongs don’t make a right, and this goes for both sides. If all those alledged acts are true, then “pirates” seems like an appropriate term to me. At the same time, it is amply documented that virtually nobody in Japan wants to eat whale meat, which means most of it goes right to the trash (or is subreptitiously served, I think there has been an occurrence where it was found in school meals). This means that Japan is basically doing it just because they can even though they know it angers some people, and the approriate term for that is “provocation”. The false pretense of “research” only adds insult to injury since they are basically taking everyone else for a fool (in addition to giving researchers everywhere a bad name).

    • Masa Chekov

      It’s on the menu in tons of places, openly labeled. Not served surreptitiously at all.

  • In corrupt social systems such as ours, the relationship between law and ethics is rarely parallel. Laws exist to protect the powerful rather than the powerless, and ethics serve as an alibi for wrongdoing and evil. Thus, what is ethically right is not typically embodied in law, and what is legal rarely seems moral . . . but rest assured no law that these courts will pass can justify what the whalers are doing to those whales in Antartica!

    Truly disappointed that saviours are labelled as sinners on this planet!!!