Sea Shepherd Denied by US Supreme Court And Ordered To Pay Whalers Millions

yushin maru whaling japanese cetacean research sea shepherd
A whale tied to the side of Japanese Research vessel Yushin Maru No. 2 is dragged through the ocean in Mackenzie Bay, Antarctica, in this picture provided by Sea Shepherd Australia and taken February 15, 2013. Photo courtesy Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

The hard-line antiwhaling group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society says it has agreed to pay US$2.55 million in damages for its continued obstruction of Japanese whaling vessels. The damages will be paid to Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research (IRC), the operator of Japan’s so-called “research whaling”. 

Related Book: Interview With A Pirate
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Sea Shepherd will pay ICR $2.55 million under the terms of today’s settlement. In exchange, ICR will dismiss its action for more than $4.1 million in damages related to contempt, and drop all claims against the former Sea Shepherd board of directors. Funding for the settlement will come from money from other legal actions and settlements, and will not include donor funds.

“Sea Shepherd does not agree with the Ninth Circuit’s holding that it was in contempt, but after more than two years of litigation, we are very pleased to put this behind us,” said Claire Loebs Davis, Sea Shepherd legal counsel. “By its very nature, the contempt action was a one-sided inquiry. We look forward to focusing on the continuing litigation in the district court”

ICR filed suit against Sea Shepherd and founder Paul Watson in 2011 in federal district court in Seattle. In March 2012, District Court Judge Richard Jones denied ICR’s motion for a preliminary injunction, but in December 2012, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and entered its own temporary injunction, prohibiting Sea Shepherd, Watson, and any party acting in concert with them from approaching ICR’s vessels closer than 500 yards in the Southern Ocean.

This injunction came on the eve of Operation Zero Tolerance, a campaign planned to intervene against ICR’s whaling in the Southern Ocean during the 2012-2013 season. In response, Sea Shepherd withdrew from Operation Zero Tolerance and all future Southern Ocean whale-protection campaigns, but the campaigns continued under the leadership of “independent foreign groups”.  Since that date, Sea Shepherd has been fighting payment of damages to ICR.

“This court action has been a necessary part of the larger battle to save the oceans” said Ethan Wolf, current president of the Sea Shepherd board” resolving it enables Sea Shepherd to renew our focus on our other campaigns to protect marine life around the world.”

Wolf noted that Sea Shepherd was also very pleased to be able to resolve all the claims against its former volunteer board. “Sea Shepherd thanks its former directors for the service that they provided to the organization. It’s unfortunate that ICR pulled them into this dispute, but we are happy that all claims against them will be dismissed,” he said.

When informed of the decision Sea Shepherd founder Captain Paul Watson remarked “It is crucial that Sea Shepherd be able to support its direct-action campaigns on the seas with forceful action in the courts, against those who plunder the world’s oceans in violation of international law”.

Further deepening this wounding news Sea Shepherd was also disappointed to learn today that the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review an appellate decision holding it in contempt of court based on the activities of foreign groups that opposed illegal Japanese whale hunting in the Southern Ocean.

Sea Shepherd filed a petition with the Supreme court in April asking for the high court to hear the appeal, and the Court considered it in a judicial conference on June 4.  The Court’s decision was released today. 

The Supreme Court only hears appeals in about 75-80 cases each year, out of about 10,000 petitions that it receives annually.

“Supreme Court review is always a long shot, because the Court takes only a tiny percentage of the cases that it is asked to review each year,” said Claire Davis, the lawyer representing Sea Shepherd.  “Nevertheless, we were hopeful that the Supreme Court might consider this case, because it raises important questions about the power of the U.S. courts to regulate conduct occurring in other parts of the globe.