Whalers Win Shield From So-Called Pirates
SEATTLE (CN) - Activists must stay 500 yards away from Japanese whaling vessels and are barred from "physically attacking" the ships and crew, the 9th Circuit ruled.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, founded by Paul Watson, has sent a fleet of boats to disrupt the last seven whaling seasons. The environmentalists use confrontational direct action methods, and their tactics have been featured on the "Whale Wars" television series on Animal Planet.
In a 2011 complaint against the Sea Shepherd and Watson, the Institute of Cetacean Research requested an 800-meter safety zone that would block environmentalists from attacking its crew or interfering with the navigation of whaling ships.
The Institute of Cetacean Research has permits from the Japanese government to kill whales for scientific research, but critics say the whales killed are used for food and that the research permits circumvent the International Whaling Commission's ban on commercial whaling.
U.S. District Judge Richard Jones denied a preliminary injunction, after finding that Sea Shepherd has "hurt no one despite using essentially the same tactics for eight whaling seasons."
On appeal to the 9th Circuit, the whalers said the lower court "misapplied" the standard for evaluating the likelihood of irreparable harm.
During oral arguments in October, the Sea Shepherd's attorney faced heated questioning from a three-judge panel.
The court followed through with an injunction Monday but gave no explanation of its reasoning. It set the safety zone at 500 yards instead of the requested 800 meters, or 874 yards.
Since the whalers also claim that Sea Shepherd engages in "piracy and terrorism," the court will hold a trial in 2013 as to whether the activists' assets can be frozen under the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.