U.S. Out-of-Court Whaling Decision Means Nothing


By MarEx 2016-08-23 18:16:40

Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) and Kyodo Senpaku (KS) are hailing a successful outcome to their dispute with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) in the U.S. with the announcement that they have filed a stipulated motion for entry of a permanent injunction to resolve the safety at sea case they filed against Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) and Paul Watson.
The stipulated permanent injunction and judgment formally concludes the legal action that was initiated in 2011.

However, Sea Shepherd Australia, a separate legal entity to SSCS, says the result means nothing. "This decision does not impact Sea Shepherd Australia's mission to protect the whales of the Southern Ocean," said Jeff Hansen, Managing Director Sea Shepherd Australia.

"Sea Shepherd Australia remains committed to upholding the Australian Federal Court ruling banning the slaughter of whales in the Australian Whale Sanctuary. We are not concerned about the U.S. court settlement as it does not have any effect on Australian law," said Hansen.

The Australian entity has run the organization’s anti-whaling campaign since the end of 2012.

Should ICR or KS attempt a similar legal battle in Australia, they have a A$ million fine awaiting them first. On November 18, 2015, the Australian Federal Court found the Japanese government-funded whaling company, KS guilty of breaching a 2008 order to stop killing whales in the Australian Whale Sanctuary, and fined it A$1 million for the breach.

The Original Complaint

ICR and KS filed their original complaint in the Washington Federal District Court in Seattle on December 8, 2011, seeking injunctive relief from violent behavior that threatened the safety and lives of their researchers and crews. They claimed Sea Shepherd and Paul Watson attempted to sabotage research activity by ramming vessels, dragging ropes to damage propellers and throwing and firing glass projectiles from close quarters.

Sea Shepherd, in turn, claims that they have had bamboo spears thrown at them, and were subject to long range acoustic riot devices and water cannons.

On December 17, 2012, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a preliminary injunction enjoining further attacks against the research vessels. In February 2013, it reversed on all counts the District Court ruling denying a preliminary injunction and ruled that Sea Shepherd and Paul Watson's alleged activities, “are clear instances of violent acts for private ends, the very embodiment of piracy.” 

Following the continuation of SSCS operations after the preliminary injunction, in December 2014 the Ninth Circuit found that SSCS, Paul Watson and SSCS board members at the time concerned were in civil contempt of its injunction. The parties to the contempt action settled these proceedings with a payment from SSCS to ICR and KS of $2.55 million.

The Resolution

Against this background, and as the case was continuing in the Washington Federal District Court to obtain a permanent injunction, ICR, KS, SSCS and Paul Watson successfully resolved the dispute through mediated negotiations held earlier this month.

Under the stipulated permanent injunction and final judgment, SSCS, Paul Watson and persons acting in concert with them are permanently barred from physically attacking the research vessels and crew and from navigating in a manner that is likely to endanger their safe navigation. The parties cannot approach the research vessels any closer than 500 yards on the open sea and SSCS cannot provide funds to facilitate attacks by other Sea Shepherd entities.

SSCS and Paul Watson are also permanently barred from expending any part of the settlement consideration to be paid to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to fund acts barred by the permanent injunction, including against third parties anywhere in the world.

Watson Speaks

“Now that this litigation is behind us, we can focus precious resources on our direct-action campaigns to save the oceans,” said Paul Watson, the founder and CEO of Sea Shepherd.

 Watson emphasized that while Sea Shepherd USA will continue to comply with the legal restrictions of the injunction, Sea Shepherd and Watson remain adamantly opposed to the unconscionable Japanese whaling which has now been declared illegal by the International Court of Justice.

“Sea Shepherd has always abided by the law, as our history demonstrates, and we will continue to do so. The International Whaling Commission, the International Court of Justice and the Australian Federal Court have all condemned Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean as illegal,” Watson said.

“Sea Shepherd brought this illegality to the attention of the world. Our efforts resulted in achieving worldwide condemnation of Japan’s unlawful whaling operations. Our efforts have resulted in Japan’s illegal activities being exposed, and condemned by the international community,” Watson said.