The Institute of Cetacean Research, which manages Japan’s whaling operations in the Antarctic, and Kyodo Senpaku, which owns the whaling ships, are seeking a court order against Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
The goal: to block Sea Shepherd from its “numerous violent and dangerous attacks against persons and vessels engaged in whaling, sealing and fishing.”
The lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Seattle, claims the court has jurisdiction over matters between U.S. and foreign citizens when the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. Sea Shepherd is based in Washington state, thus the filing in our region.
The ICR asserts that Sea Shepherd has violated international treaties and laws, including the “Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation” and the “Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.”
The lawsuit alleges that tactics used by Sea Shepherd have endangered Japanese whaling ships and their crews. Tactics listed include throwing butyric-acid-filled bottles, smoke bombs and incendiary devices; ramming one ship into another; and entangling the propellers with ropes.
Quoting from the lawsuit (PDF 176 kb):
“Unless enjoined as requested below, defendants will very soon engage in attacks on plaintiffs that will seriously endanger the safety of the masters, their crew and researchers, and the vessels owned by Kyodo Senpaku and chartered by ICR.
“Navigating in the Southern Ocean can be dangerous given the cold waters, the presence of icebergs, the possibility of storms, and its isolated location far from ready third-party assistance. If a ship lost propulsion or steerage due to a successful fouling rope attack, the ship, its Master, crew, and researchers could be put in serious jeopardy, especially in the vicinity of floating ice or if a storm or heavy seas occurred.
“The safety and health of the ship’s crew are endangered by the launching of projectiles against the ship, especially glass projectiles filled with butyric acid. A crew member could be blinded in such an attack or receive a blow to the head or body or be cut by pieces of glass. Such attacks also cause fear or distress in the crew, thus interfering with the normal operations on board. Incendiary devices like those launched in the past could cause a fire or, even worse, an explosion. Close-quarter attacks by SSCS vessels run the risk of a collision.
“Ramming of ICR’s and Kyodo Senpaku’s ships could cause them (or SSCS vessels) to sink or suffer other serious damage. The court should declare that defendants’ violent tactics employed in the past against ICR’s and Kyodo Senpaku’s activities in the Southern Ocean are unlawful, and the court should issue the injunctive relief requested below so that plaintiffs’ property and the lives of the Masters, their crew, and researchers are not endangered.”
I have not talked to Paul Watson about this, but the Sea Shepherd leader has commented in news stories that he is not concerned about the lawsuit. Here’s what Watson said in a press release from his organization:
“This is simply a case of using the courts to harass us. I don’t believe they have a case and I doubt a U.S. court would take this seriously. Unlike Japan, the courts in the United States don’t automatically do what the government demands that they do.”
Watson claims in the press release that the whalers have been the aggressors:
“We have the images of the Japanese whalers destroying one of our ships, ramming our ships, running over our crew, firing upon us, throwing concussion grenades, deploying acoustical weapons, hitting us with water cannons and bamboo spears and they are suing us because they are accusing us of violence towards them.”
In an article published yesterday (Monday), Watson told Radio Australia that he almost welcomes the lawsuit:
“In fact, it’s actually a very positive thing because by filing in a US court, that gives us the opportunity to counter sue them for the destruction of the Ady Gil and for illegal whaling in the Southern Ocean, so our lawyers are certainly going to take advantage of this.”