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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
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Whaling Opponents Fail|to Secure 9th Circ. Stay

PASADENA, Calif. (CN) - Environmentalists barred from disrupting Antarctic whaling failed Thursday to have the 9th Circuit intervene in compliance proceedings.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is already in hot water with the federal appeals court after a panel found last year that the group was in contempt of court for trying to continue the activity that courts had previously likened to piracy.

Now under a mandate that gives the U.S. District Court in Seattle jurisdiction over its compliance with the injunction, the group and its founder, Paul Watson, sought to have the 9th Circuit stay that mandate pending their filing of a petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The group anticipated that the mandate would allow the District Court to make a decision on coercive sanctions against it in light of the contempt finding.

But Judges Alex Kozinski, A. Wallace Tashima and Milan Smith denied them a stay Thursday.

Noting that close to 20 months have passed since it issued the mandate, the appellate panel said it would not revisit the issue.

Thursday's order calls the request "untimely and futile," faulting Sea Shepherd for not explaining why the June 7, 2013, mandate "should be recalled at this late date."

Sea Shepherd's attorney Clair Loebs Davis said the activists would move on as planned.

"Regardless of the court's order today we still intend to petition the Supreme Court for certiorari and believe we have a strong legal basis to do so," Davis said in an interview.

Though whaling has been banned internationally since 1986, Japanese government research contracts allow the Institute of Cetacean Research to kill whales in the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has embarked on campaigns against the institute for the last 10 years. The group's missions against the whalers are documented in the Animal Planet television series "Whale Wars."

The whalers asked the federal judge in Seattle back in 2011 to enjoin Sea Shepherd and Watson, claiming that the group had rammed its vessels and launched acid-filled bottles and smoke bombs at Japanese crew.

While the 9th Circuit sided with the whalers on this point, both parties have called each other pirates.

"You don't need a peg leg or an eye patch," Judge Alex Kozinski wrote of Sea Shepherd's tactics. "When you ram ships; hurl glass containers of acid; drag metal-reinforced ropes in the water to damage propellers and rudders; launch smoke bombs and flares with hooks; and point high-powered lasers at other ships, you are, without a doubt, a pirate, no matter how high-minded you believe your purpose to be."

The court's ruling reinforced a December 2012 injunction barring Sea Shepherd and Watson from coming within 500 yards of Japanese vessels or attacking them.

The contempt finding against Sea Shepherd came next after the 9th Circuit said Sea Shepherd had given ships and equipment to an Australian arm of the organization to get around the injunction and continue its missions.

The whalers attorney John F. Neupert declined to comment on the appeals court's latest order.

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