Japanese whalers attack Sea Shepherd with U.S. law

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.”

Court exhibit allegedly showing rope entangled on the propeller of the Japanese whaling ship Yushin Maru No. 3
(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 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.”

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 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.”

For background on the Ady Gil, see Water Ways, Dec. 20, 2009. For all Water Ways entries on Sea Shepherd, visit this search page.

Another news release (PDF 12 kb) comes from the Institute of Cetacean Research, but reading the court complaint (PDF 176 kb) is more interesting.

11 thoughts on “Japanese whalers attack Sea Shepherd with U.S. law

  1. If the sea shepherds can sue to recover from the Ady Gil (in which both captains were found to be at fault) then he can sue for the Titanic also, the sscs did not own the Ady Gil, they refused to pay for it (that’s another lawsuit pending). I hope the court does the right thing, uphold the law is all that’s requested here.

  2. What a joke! All one needs to do is watch one episode of “Whale Wars” and see who the true aggressors are. This claim is laughable and requires a response. Keep the pressure on the “illegal” whaling performed by the Japanese fleet and don’t get discouraged.

  3. Scott Grout, that’s why the sscs took them to court, oh wait….
    maybe that’s why all 89 countries in the IWC condemned the violent and illegal acts calling them dangerous and in breach of maritime laws but that was against the sscs too, humm…

  4. ICR is in violation of the moratorium on commercial whaling and has been asked to stop by the IWC. They are also in violation of several other laws relating tot he use of heavy oil under 60 degrees south and refuelling under 60 degrees south. Nuff said. Go gettum SSCS.

  5. Scott, that rope around, and damage to the propeller of the Japanese ship doesn’t reconcile with your assertion that the Japanese are the aggressors here. Just sayin’.

    I’m not American, but I do trust the American legal system to do the right thing here.

  6. If the American crew is performing for a TV show, how can anyone believe they’re getting the whole truth? They’re filming for impact – how about getting the ‘other’ side of the issue too?

  7. imforthewhales
    The same IWC that thanked the ICR for the research this year in IWC-63? You don’t know what fuel the fleet is burning, the fleet is able to use lighter fuel and that’s all that is asked. The sscs has the same issue for their ‘pleasure crafts’, re-fueling isn’t a violation either, spilling fuel is. ”nuff said”? not until the case is closed. So in the newest act of desperation paul watson sent out a request for his supporters to harass the lawyers, let’s review, he’s accused of harassment so he asks his flock to harass, brilliant.
    Why doesn’t he just say guilty.

  8. I believe the real point of the issue is being missed. The Japanese whalers hunt and kill whales under the guise of “research”. It has always boggled my mind to figure out why they would require a thousand whales each year for “research”. Clearly, that is such a false front: They not only have the hunting ships, but also a meat processing plant afloat where they prepare and package the meat to sell. The question we must ask ourselves is, who will protect the whales from becoming extinct? Because at this rate, it will not be long.

    Diplomatic tactics, letter writing campaigns, and begging techniques have failed to stop the whale massacres. I do not approve of violence to solve anything, but I must wonder exactly what will work to get the Japanese to stop such incredible cruelty and disregard for these giant mammals. Exploitation of our planet’s oceans will affect each and everyone of us, to the detriment of humankind.

    Can anyone offer any alternative solutions?

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