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Whaling Activists Settle Attack Claims for $2.55M

(CN) - Environmental group Sea Shepherd has agreed to pay $2.55 million to settle claims it violated an injunction by attacking whalers in the Southern Ocean off Antarctica.

On Tuesday, Institute of Cetacean Research released details of the $2.55 million settlement. It resolves a finding by the Ninth Circuit that Sea Shepherd Conservation Society was in contempt of a court order barring it from coming within 500 yards of Japanese whaling ships.

In a statement, Sea Shepherd's attorney Claire Loebs Davis said the group did not agree with the Ninth Circuit's ruling but was pleased to be "putting the contempt action behind us."

"We look forward to focusing on the continuing litigation in the district court, which provides Sea Shepherd with the opportunity to expose Institute of Cetacean Research's dangerous and illegal activities in the Southern Ocean - including the violent actions taken against those who have tried to stop it from killing whales in violation of international law," said Davis, a partner with Seattle firm Lane Powell.

Institute spokesman Gavin Carter said the settlement was a "significant development" and the "underlying case goes on."

"Sea Shepherd has behaved as if the law does not cover any of their actions that take place on the high seas," Carter said during a telephone interview. "This settlement demonstrates that there are consequences of breaking the law."

The whalers are seeking a permanent injunction in Seattle federal court against Sea Shepherd as part of the ongoing litigation.

In an amended counterclaim filed last month, Sea Shepherd asked the court to declare the institute's whaling activities illegal under international law.

In 2014, the International Court of Justice ordered Japan to stop granting permits to the institute, concluding that the hunt was not of scientific value and violated international bans.

Sea Shepherd has campaigned against whalers for the last 10 years. The group's missions are documented in the Animal Planet television series "Whale Wars."

It is also seeking an injunction to prevent the whalers from attacking Sea Shepherd activists.

In April, Sea Shepherd also asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the court order barring its anti-whaling activities.

But the Supreme Court on Monday denied the group's request for review.

Sea Shepherd expressed its disappointment in a statement on its website. Davis said high court review was always a "long shot."

The Ninth Circuit ruled that Sea Shepherd and its founder Paul Watson were in contempt after the group gave ships and equipment to an Australian arm of the organization.

"Sea Shepherd admitted in court that the vessels Steve Irwin, Bob Barker, Sam Simon and Brigitte Bardot all breached the 500-yard perimeter established by the court," the institute said in a statement. "The violent attacks by the Steve Irwin and Bob Barker were later broadcast by Animal Planet on its show 'Whale Wars.'"

The institute's case is scheduled to go to trial in October 2016.

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