Eco-terror group Sea Shepherd have been branded “pirates” by a US court, after the annual season of whaler hunting theatrics saw them claiming the whalers they rammed were attacking them.
Judge Kozinski overturned the decision of an earlier court that Sea Shepherd’s activities did not amount to piracy in response to an appeal by Japan:
You don’t need a peg leg or an eye patch. 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 judge’s decision itself was to reject the earlier ruling on the grounds that the court had incorrectly interpreted the phrase “private ends” as referring only to monetary gain, rather than to anything “non-public” and not engaged in by a government, including personal or political goals.
He also found the earlier court’s decision that their attacks did not constitute “violence” because they only attempted to destroy ships and not people dubious as well, and scrapped that too, concluding that attempting to sink whaling vessels is consistent with the legal definition of piracy:
The activities that Cetacean alleges Sea Shepherd has engaged in are clear instances of violent acts for private ends, the very embodiment of piracy. The district court erred in dismissing Cetacean’s piracy claims.
The ruling is part of an attempt by Japan’s “Institute of Cetacean Research” to sue the US-based group into oblivion in US courts, and the court’s recognition that Sea Shepherd’s antics amount to piracy are thought to be a significant success.
Sea Shepherd for its part still maintains its antics fall outside the jurisdiction of US courts, despite it being an Oregon-based NPO, as it uses non-US flagged ships and international crews.
Japan’s enthusiastic support for “scientific” whaling largely comes down to the political influence of the fishing industry and efforts to posture for the sake of fringe nationalists – both traditional concerns of the LDP, explaining fisheries minister Yoshimasa Hayashi’s unabashedly enthusiastic support for the industry:
“Japan is an island nation surrounded by the sea, so taking some good protein from the ocean is very important. For food security I think it’s very important.
So why don’t we at least agree to disagree? We have this culture and you don’t have that culture… so I just would like to say ‘please understand this is our culture.’”
The latest incident involving Sea Shepherd saw them accusing a Japanese whaling vessel of attacking them in Antarctic waters after they attempted to prevent it refueling from a Korean tanker by ramming both vessels – although it was Sea Shepherd who accused the Japanese of “grand piracy” and demanded Australian military intervention.