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The Japanese whaling vessel Yushin Maru No. 2 shoots its water cannons at a Sea Shepherd craft during an altercation on Feb. 12, 2012. The photo was released by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. (AP)

Japanese Whalers Lose Bid To Block U.S.-Based 'Sea Shepherd' Activists

Feb 16, 2012

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Reported by

Bill Chappell

A group of Japanese whalers has failed to win an injunction against U.S. anti-whaling activists, as a federal judge refused their request for protections from boats owned by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

The ruling was made in Seattle, where the whalers' group, the Institute for Cetacean Research, had filed suit. In addition to restraints on Sea Shepherd, the whalers were hoping the judge would impose a freeze on the activists' finances.

From the Northwest News Network, Tom Banse reports:

"U.S. federal district court judge Richard Jones did not give a reason for denying the request for a preliminary injunction. It would have prevented the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society from interfering with the Japanese whaling fleet."

"Outside the courthouse, a spokesman for the whalers, Gavin Carter, expressed disappointment."

"'At the end of the day, you can't have lawlessness on the high seas. You can't have anarchy on the high seas,' he said. 'There has to be some structure under which ships can go about their legal business.'"

Sea Shepherd attorney Dan Harris tells Banse that his group, based in northwest Washington state, doesn't believe whaling is a legal business.

"If a heroin dealer came to federal court and sought an injunction to be able to continue to sell their heroin in a particular neighborhood without interference from anyone," he says, "I have no doubt that the court would turn them down."

The group of Japanese whalers insists that its crew members have come under dangerous attacks, by smoke bombs and projectiles filled with either paint or butyric acid. It maintains a webpage listing the alleged attacks.

Clashes between the two groups are also documented on the TV show Whale Wars — including one incident in early 2010, when a collision between two ships resulted in a Sea Shepherd vessel's bow being sheared off.

The AP reports, "Japan's whaling fleet kills up to 1,000 whales a year, an allowed exception under a ruling by the International Whaling Commission. Japan is permitted to hunt the animals as long as they are caught for research and not commercial purposes. Whale meat not used for study is sold as food in Japan, which critics say is the real reason for the hunts."

Japan's whaling season runs from November or December to February or March. Last year, the country ordered an early halt to the Antarctic season, citing potentially dangerous interference by Sea Shepherd.

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