• Kyodo

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U.S.-based activist group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has reached a court-mediated settlement in which it is permanently prevented from “physically attacking” Japanese whaling vessels and crew, Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research said Tuesday.

Despite the settlement, Sea Shepherd Australia said later Tuesday that the development will not affect its activities in the Southern Ocean as it was reached over a case fought in a U.S. court.

“Sea Shepherd Australia remains committed to upholding the Australia Federal Court ruling banning the slaughter of whales in the Australian Whale Sanctuary,” said Jeff Hansen, managing director of Sea Shepherd Australia, in a statement.

“We are not concerned about the U.S. court settlement as it does not have any effect on Australian law,” the statement said.

Under the U.S. settlement, Sea Shepherd and those acting in concert with it are “permanently enjoined from physically attacking the research vessels and crew and from navigating in a manner that is likely to endanger their safe navigation,” the government-affiliated whaling organization said.

Sea Shepherd, Paul Watson — the Canadian environmental activist and founder of the group — and their parties will also be banned from approaching Japanese whaling research vessels at distances “any closer than 500 yards (about 450 meters) on the open sea,” according to the statement.

The settlement concludes a case brought to a U.S. federal court by the Japanese organization in 2011 seeking an injunction against Sea Shepherd’s efforts to obstruct what Japan calls research whaling.

In December 2012, an appeals court also issued an injunction, but Sea Shepherd continued to obstruct Japan’s whaling fleets.

The group agreed last year to pay $2.55 million in damages to the Institute of Cetacean Research and Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha Ltd., the provider of vessels and crew for the whaling activities, over its continued obstruction of Japanese whaling vessels.

Under the latest agreement, the Japanese organizations will pay back part of the damages to Sea Shepherd as settlement money, but the U.S. group is prohibited from using the money to fund acts of sabotage.

Sea Shepherd was established in 1977, funded by donations from celebrities and other individuals.

The group, based in Washington state, is known for its radical methods of protecting whales and other marine life, such as attacking whaling vessels and pointing laser beams at their crews.

Japan has placed Watson, who stepped down as head of Sea Shepherd in 2013, on an international wanted list through Interpol.

While Japan halted commercial whaling in line with an international moratorium, it has hunted whales since 1987 for what it calls scientific research purposes. Environmentalists have condemned the activity as a cover for commercial whaling.

Last December, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and European countries jointly protested Japan’s decision to resume its research whaling in the Antarctic Ocean this season.

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