“You don’t need a peg leg or an eye patch,” begins Judge Alex
Kozinski, launching into a scathing ruling against Sea Shepherd
Conservation Society, which the judge calls a “pirate”
Kozinski, chief judge for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals,
concluded in a ruling today that U.S. District Judge Richard Jones
had made “numerous, serious and obvious errors” when he declined to
issue an injunction against Sea Shepherd for its high-seas battle
against Japanese whalers.
The three-judge panel ordered that the case be removed from
Jones’ jurisdiction and turned over to another Seattle district
judge drawn at random.
Meanwhile, the Institute of Cetacean Research — the Japanese
whaling organization — continues its effort to get a
contempt-of-court citation issued against Sea Shepherd, which has
increased its efforts to disrupt Japanese whaling in the Southern
Sea Shepherd remains under a U.S. Court of Appeals injunction,
which requires that the organization’s ships operate safely and
stay 500 yards away from the Japanese vessels.
I’ll provide an update on Sea Shepherd’s activities in a
separate blog post, but let me first tell you more about Kozinski’s
ruling (PDF 238 kb), which finds nothing commendable about any
of Sea Shepherd’s actions.
The Japanese whaling fleet killed 266 Antarctic minke whales
this year, compared to a government quota of 850, plus one fin
whale, compared to a quota of 50, according to Michihiko Kano,
Japan’s minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
The Mainichi Daily News, based in Japan, reports that the low
numbers were attributed to bad weather but noted that Sea Shepherd
obstructed the whaling operations 11 times during the season.
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has completed another year of
battling Japanese whaling ships in the Antarctic, and again this
year a camera crew was on board its ships to film a new season of
“Whale Wars.” The new season of the TV show will begin in June.
The Japanese whaling vessel Yushin
Maru 2 shoots its water cannons at a Sea Shepherd inflatable, which
had approached it.
Photo by Billy Danger, Sea Shepherd
The Japanese government reportedly provided $30 million from its
tsunami and earthquake relief fund to continue the whaling, which
the government allows as “scientific research.” The ban on whaling
includes an exemption for research, but the International Whaling
Commission has failed to preclude the commercial sale of meat from
“research” animals. The result has been an ongoing dispute about
whether commercial whaling should be considered research.
Needless to say, Sea Shepherd does not consider it research. For
the past eight years, the whale-advocacy group has followed the
whaling fleet and disrupted the hunt whenever possible.
For much of the recent whaling season, which began in December,
Sea Shepherd was able to divert the attention of two harpoon ships
and a security vessel. Sea Shepherd’s leader, Paul Watson, said the
whalers ignored their own protocols this year by going to the same
area as last year:
“This illustrates that they really have no scientific agenda at
all since their so-called survey requires them to ‘sample’ whales
from the two different areas alternatively each year. This is not
about science and it never has been. It’s not even about profit
anymore because we have negated their profits. It’s simply about
pride. Whaling in the Southern Ocean has become a heavily
subsidized welfare project for an archaic industry that has no
place in the twenty-first century.”
The following chronology was compiled from reports issued by Sea
Shepherd and by the Japanese Institute for Cetacean Research: (more…)
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
The goal: to block Sea Shepherd from its “numerous violent and
dangerous attacks against persons and vessels engaged in whaling,
sealing and fishing.”
Court exhibit allegedly showing rope
entangled on the propeller of the Japanese whaling ship Yushin Maru
(U.S. District Court filing)
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
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.
“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
Court exhibit allegedly showing
damage to rudder of Yushin Maru No. 3 from prop fouler.
(U.S. District Court filing)
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
“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.”
Unbridled joy has overtaken crews on three Sea Shepherd vessels
as they celebrate a Japanese surrender from whaling in the
Antarctic this year — and possibly for all time.
“Everybody is overjoyed, laughing and crying and hugging,” said
Izumi Stephens, who is serving aboard the Steve Irwin, one of the
three vessels harassing the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern
I spoke to Izumi by satellite phone after the Japanese
government announced an end to whaling a month early this year.
(See story by Martin Fackler in the
New York Times Global Edition.) Japanese analysts are now
speculating that whaling in the Southern Ocean may never resume,
because of the costs, challenges and changes in the market for
“We think the entire thing could be finishing,” Izumi said of
Antarctic whaling efforts. “This may be the last year in the
Southern Ocean for everybody.”
Check out recent stories in the Japanese news organization
Yomiuri Online, one of which includes this statement:
“In addition to Sea Shepherd’s acts of sabotage, low domestic
demand for whale meat — which used to be a valuable source of
protein during the food-scarce postwar years — also has made the
prospect of continuing whaling extremely gloomy, officials
Izumi, if you recall, is a Japanese woman who lives on
Bainbridge Island. After her husband died, she became committed to
opposing the killing of dolphins and whales. She joined Sea
Shepherd Conservation Society in November as a Japanese-language
translator and has spent the past three months involved in the
high-seas campaign against the Japanese whalers. See Water Ways for
Jan. 14 and
The so-called surrender has become big news in Japan, and Izumi
has taken calls from Japanese reporters and conversed in her native
“I’ve told them that this is a big, big victory, a big victory
for the whales. We are not against the Japanese people or the
Japanese government. We are against the whalers…. We are not
terrorists; we are just intervening against the commercial
Through the Internet, Izumi has been keeping up with numerous
Japanese news reports and blogs, where she has found herself under
“People in Japan are mad at me. They call me a traitor to my
Izumi is the first Japanese translator for Sea Shepherd to make
her identity known to the public. During taping for the television
show “Whale Wars,” she has not covered her face or kept her name
secret, as previous Japanese translators have done. The revalation
of a possible end to whaling in the Antarctic has raised her
profile more than she anticipated.
“I never expected that it would be like this final end,” she
She had imagined that the whaling season would end, as usual, in
March and she would return home to her family. Then she would have
all summer to decide if she should do it again. Instead, the
“Japanese surrender” a month early — with uncertain prospects for
the future — has created a media blitz and new level of anger in
“I can see in the newspapers that people are really mad,” she
said. “My face is coming up on Japanese TV.”
The Japanese whaling organization, known as the Institute of
Cetacean Research, consistently calls Sea Shepherd an eco-terrorist
organization. The group regularly complains that Sea Shepherd’s
flagship countries, Australia and the Netherlands, fail to take
action for acts of “terrorism and harassment,” including
bombardment with glass projectiles, smoke bombs and “incendiary
devices.” The latest reports talked about the use of lasers aimed
at the whaling ships. See ICR new releases.
According to the report in Daily
Yomiuri Online, the processing ship Nisshin Maru was unable to
shake off the faster Sea Shepherd vessels Bob Barker and
Capt. Paul Watson, who directs Sea Shepherd, said the ability of
his ships to stay with the whaling fleet made all the difference in
this year’s success in minimizing the number of whales killed.
Scroll down to the bottom of this entry to view the on-board video
that Watson issued Saturday.
Yomiuri story quoted anonymously a high-ranking ministry
official, who outlined four options for continued whaling:
Have the whaling fleet escorted by Japan Coast Guard vessels or
others, an idea discussed in 2007 but scrapped for lack of escort
Build new whaling vessels capable of traveling at high speed,
an idea considered “almost impossible” because of costs.
Replace research whaling with commercial whaling, an idea that
lacks support from other countries.
Continue current whaling arrangements, which has proven to be
costly and difficult given the interference of Sea Shepherd.
Izumi said none of the options seems likely, but one never
Another issue faced by the Japanese, she told me, is the success
of the television show “Whale Wars,” which has brought notoriety
and donations to the anti-whaling cause. The Japanese government
may be concerned that Sea Shepherd will use its new-found clout to
bring more attention to the decline of blue fin tuna (See Operation Blue Rage)
and to the slaughter of dolphins
in Taiji, Japan, and other places around the world.
For now, Izumi is eager to get home to Bainbridge Island.
“I am really homesick,” she told me. “I want to squeeze my kids
and pet my dogs and maybe take a nice hot shower. Yes, a long
“I have a crew of 88 very happy people from 23 different nations
including Japan and they are absolutely thrilled that the whalers
are heading home and the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is now
indeed a real sanctuary.”
The Steve Irwin is scheduled to meet up with the Bob Barker and
return to Hobart, Australia. Izumi hopes to fly back home to the
Puget Sound region on March 10.
Izumi Stephens, the Bainbridge Island woman who traveled to the
Antarctic to defend whales against Japanese whalers, has ridden an
emotional roller-coaster during her first 40 days at sea.
One thing Izumi has learned is that the sight of a humpback
whale can lift her spirits, she told me today by satellite phone
from the Southern Ocean.
A native of Japan, this single mom signed on with Sea Shepherd
Conservation Society as a translator. She is serving aboard the
Steve Irwin, which is part of a three-vessel anti-whaling fleet in
pursuit of four Japanese whaling ships. (Check out previous
descriptions of Izumi in the
Kitsap Sun Oct. 31 and
Water Ways Nov. 1.)
The Steve Irwin left Hobart, Australia, on Dec. 2. Izumi was at
sea about three weeks — having survived a bout of severe sea
sickness as well as homesickness — when she spotted a massive
humpback whale off the side of the ship.
“Before I saw a whale, I was desperately wanting to see my
daughter and go back home, and I wanted to touch my dogs,” she told
me. “Then I saw a whale, and I think my determination and
motivation and everything caught up with me.”
She still misses her children, her friends and her community,
she says, but seeing that first whale reminded her why she had
joined the battle in the first place.
“I’m doing this for the whales and our future and our
community,” she told me, “and I’m so proud.”
Spending weeks at sea is an experience like nothing she has ever
faced before, Izumi said. She takes her turn at mopping floors,
washing dishes and cleaning toilets. She has used her language
skills on only a few occasions — mostly to speak to Japanese
reporters covering the story and updating Sea Shepherd’s new
Watching whales swimming in the ocean has brought real meaning
to the anti-whaling campaign, she said. A day or two after that
first sighting, Sea Shepherd faced its first encounter with the
Japanese whaling fleet. (more…)
A Bainbridge Island resident, Izumi Stephens, will join Sea
Shepherd in its upcoming campaign against the Japanese whaling
fleet in the Antarctic, as I describe in a story in
today’s Kitsap Sun.
A native of Japan, Izumi will serve as an on-board interpreter
for the anti-whaling group. While engaging whalers, Sea Shepherd
has an occasional need to converse with Japanese ship captains as
well as conveying information to Japanese news reporters.
If you’ve watched “Whale Wars” on television, you know about Sea
Shepherd’s highly confrontational approach to the Japanese fleet,
often maneuvering its vessels into dangerous positions in front,
behind and alongside the massive whaling ships.
Capt. Paul Watson, who heads Sea Shepherd, broke away from
Greenpeace in 1977 as he pushed for more severe actions against
whaling operations throughout the world. In 1980, “operatives” from
his three-year-old organization took credit for sinking the whaling
ship Sierra in Lisbon, Portugal — the first of many similar
Sea Shepherd, which operates throughout the world, has an
ongoing connection to the Northwest. Its international headquarters
is located in Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands, and Watson
frequently returns to this region. (more…)
UPDATE, Friday, June 25
“There are no winners and losers in this,” said Sir Geoffrey
Palmer, New Zealand’s former prime minister. “It ain’t over til
it’s over, and even then it ain’t over. There will be a pause. We
will resume discussions about this next year,” he told
The Associated Press.
As the IWC meeting ended today, Greenland’s native population
was granted permission to hunt a few humpback whales for the next
three years, expanding the list of species the Greenlanders are
allowed to kill under the license of subsistence hunting.
—– UPDATE, Wednesday, June 23
Whaling moratorium talks break down — so whaling nations will
continue to set their own limits. Changes in the governance of the
International Whaling Commission will be considered. See report in
—– UPDATE, Tuesday, June 22
A Norwegian delegate to the International Whaling Commission,
Karsten Klepsvick, told Reuters
reporters today that the compromise being debated behind closed
doors will fail:
“As we can see it today, we do not believe these negotiations
will succeed. There are at least eight, ten stumbling blocks, but
the main stumbling block is that those who are against whaling seem
to be willing to accept nothing but nil (quotas), and we cannot
The future of the International Whaling Commission — and perhaps
even the survival of certain whale species — rests on decisions
being made this week in Morocco.
While I have no personal insight into this story, I think it’s
worth summarizing activities swirling around the meeting that began
today. If you haven’t heard, a controversial proposal by IWC
Chairman Cristian Maquieira would lift the ban on whaling for
Japan, Iceland and Norway. In return, the three countries would
come back into the fold of the IWC, with new quotas officially
imposed by the commission to reduce recent harvest levels.
Maquieira says his plan could save thousands of whales a year.
(Check out an article Maquieira wrote for the BBC or read a
press release (PDF 40 kb) issued by the IWC.) As the annual
meeting of the IWC got under way today, Maquiera was not present
due to illness, according to reporter Arthur Max of the
Deputy Chairman Anthony Liverpool opened the meeting then
quickly moved the discussions behind closed doors for two days of
negotiations among the strident anti-whaling countries as well as
those that insist that whaling is a long-held cultural right. It’s
in those meetings that things may come to a head.
Currently, Japan, Iceland and Norway set their own whaling
quotas. Japan claims an exemption in the IWC Charter that allows
for the taking of whales for scientific research — even though
nearly all the whale meat ends up in the commercial market. Iceland
and Norway operate under a process that allows formal objections to
the whaling moratorium.
In a surprise move leading up to today’s meeting, Greenpeace,
the Pew Environment Group and the World Wildlife Fund said in a
statement (PDF 420 kb) that a compromise on quotas is possible
but only if six essential elements are met:
End all whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary near
All whale products must be consumed in the country for which
the hunt was authorized.
Catch limits must be calculated by the IWC’s scientific
committee to assure appropriate management procedures.
Harvest of threatened, endangered or vulnerable species would
not be allowed.
Scientific whaling beyond the limits set by the IWC would not
Contracting governments must agree not to operate under
objections to the agreement as originally allowed in the IWC
Meanwhile, other environmental groups argue that it is wrong to
kill whales and that any compromise serves to reward the whaling
countries for bad behavior. As Nikki Entrup of Whale and Dolphin
Conservation Society told John Vidal of
“It would be a fundamental mistake now to reward those three
whaling nations who have continued to ignore the international
consensus on commercial whaling and are opposed by millions of
people around the world. What kind of message does that give out to
countries like Korea who used to whale? I urge Greenpeace to
withdraw their position. They want to do the right thing in
principle but more whales are killed in the northern hemisphere
than in the south.”
Japan has hinted that it might pull out of the IWC if member
nations can’t abide its whaling activities. Meanwhile, Australia
has filed an action against Japan in the International Court of
Justice, saying Japan’s actions are a direct violation of the
international whaling ban in the Southern Ocean.
International politics and intrigue run thick through this whole
story. Check out last weekend’s
Times of London for an investigative report accusing Japan of
bribing officials of other countries to come to the IWC meeting and
It will be interesting to see if members of the IWC can find a
way to make the organization relevant again.