LOS ANGELES – The hard-line anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society said it has agreed to pay $2.55 million in damages to Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research over its continued obstruction of whaling vessels despite an injunction.
The agreement concerns a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last December that held Sea Shepherd in contempt of an injunction banning the body from attacking the Japanese government-funded whaling fleet in the Antarctic Ocean and approaching the fleet on the open sea.
The Institute, which manages Japan’s whaling operations in the Antarctic, and Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha Ltd., the provider of vessels and crew for the whaling activities, sued Sea Shepherd in a U.S. federal court in 2011.
In December 2012, the appeals court issued the injunction. But the anti-whaling group continued to obstruct the whaling fleet, prompting the court to find it in contempt of its order last December.
“Sea Shepherd does not agree with the Ninth Circuit’s holding that it was in contempt, but after more than two years of litigation, we are very pleased to be putting the contempt action behind us,” Sea Shepherd said Monday on its website.
Given that the lawsuit filed by the Japanese side is still pending, the group looks forward to focusing on the case, which “provides Sea Shepherd with the opportunity to expose (the institute’s) dangerous and illegal activities in the Southern Ocean,” it said.
The development came the same day the U.S. Supreme Court denied an appeal from Sea Shepherd over the appeals court’s decision that found the group in contempt of the injunction.
The group had argued that a U.S. court does not have jurisdiction over the case because it has transferred its vessels and other assets to Australia and other countries.
On Tuesday, the Fisheries Agency said Japan will conduct so-called research whaling in the northwestern Pacific starting Thursday. The catches will run through late August.
The program will be on a similar scale than last year, when it was scaled down from 2013. It will aim to take up to 90 sei whales and 25 Bryde’s whales, the agency said.
The agency restated its purported reasons for carrying out “research whaling,” calling it an ecological study of factors such as whales’ internal organs and the contents of their stomachs. It claims the program will contribute toward resource management.
Japan halted its southern “research whaling” after the International Court of Justice ruled in March last year that the Antarctic program violated the International Convention of the Regulation of Whaling. However, it continued to hunt whales in coastal waters and the northwestern Pacific.