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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Japanese Whalers Sue Sea Shepherd

SEATTLE (CN) - A Japanese whaling group asked a federal judge to freeze the assets of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and bar the environmentalists from "violently and dangerously attacking" ships engaged in "research whaling."

The Institute of Cetacean Research claims it has Japanese permits to "kill, take and treat whales for purposes of scientific research" but Sea Shepherd and its founder Paul Watson have vowed to stop the hunts "even if death is a consequence," and have named the latest campaign "Divine Wind," English for "kamikaze," according to the federal complaint.

Critics of whaling claim the Institute of Cetacean Research is a cover for a planned, annual violation of international treaties to protect whales. The Japanese government issues the permits not for research, but to satisfy its people's taste for whale meat, the critics say.

The plaintiffs say the environmental group is violating the High Seas Convention by using direct action to prevent whaling.

"Defendants have flouted these internationally recognized norms by intentionally and unlawfully interfering with plaintiffs' right to freedom of navigation. Among other things, defendants have (1) directed vessels and their crew to drag ropes and other devices in front of and around plaintiffs' vessels to disable or slow the vessels; (2) launched acid-containing projectiles against plaintiffs' vessels and crew, causing injury and damage; (3) launched incendiary devices against the vessels and crew; (4) rammed plaintiffs' vessels with their vessels; and (5) navigated their vessels in a manner endangering plaintiffs' vessels and crew and resulting in collisions between vessels," according to the complaint.

The whalers want an injunction barring the Sea Shepherd from attacking any vessel or crew member or interfering with navigation of the whaling ships by approaching too close. They also say that Watson and Sea Shepherd are engaged in "piracy."

"Indeed, the vessel M/V Steve Irwin, which is commanded by Watson, flies a pirate flag, and Watson deems himself a pirate albeit a 'good pirate.' The law does not countenance 'good pirates,'" the complaint states.

The whalers say the environmentalists are violating The International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and want to freeze the group's assets.

"From their base in Friday Harbor, Washington, defendants unlawfully and willfully provide or collect hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars intending that they be used to carry out acts in violation of the SUA Convention. Through these funds, defendants are able to send their fleet of ships manned with crews to the Southern Ocean to carry out Divine Wind. Through operation Divine Wind, defendants intend to engage in acts to endanger the safe navigation of plaintiffs' fleet.

"Defendants unlawfully and willfully provide or collect funds intending that they be used, in part, to carry out acts intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to a civilian when the purpose of such an act, by its nature or context, is to compel a government to do or to abstain from doing any act. Endangering plaintiffs' ships by employing the means defendants have used in the past can be intended only to risk death or serious bodily injury to the individuals aboard those ships. Defendants' actions are being done in an effort to compel the government of Japan to cease its authorization of research whaling," according to the complaint.

Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha, a Japanese company that provides whaling vessels, and ship masters Tomoyuki Ogawa and Toshiyuki Miura are also plaintiffs. They want a preliminary injunction before the start of the whaling season in late December.

They are represented by John Neupert with Miller Nash in Portland, Ore.

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