Conservation group Sea Shepherd was given an injunction by a U.S. court to stay at least 500 yards away from Japanese whaling ships when they go on their annual hunting trip in the Southern Ocean every year.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s ruling stated that Sea Shepherd must refrain “from physically attacking any vessel” belonging to the Japanese whaling fleet. Japan claims that its whaling expeditions are for “scientific research,” but conservation groups and governments including Australia and New Zealand say it’s a thinly veiled attempt at merely hunting whales for meat.
Japan and Norway are the only two countries to pursue whaling activities after South Korea announced earlier this month it would no longer partake in whaling.
For the past eight years, Sea Shepherd has been following the Japanese whaling boats, shot objects at them and tried to tie up their propellers. Its boats have also collided with the whalers’ boats and each side has accused the other of being overly aggressive.
The court said Sea Shepherd vessels cannot navigate “in a manner that is likely to endanger the safe navigation of any such vessel.” And as a result, none of its ships can go “any closer than 500 yards when defendants are navigating on the open sea.”
But Sea Shepherd said that it would still try to prevent the whaling ships from operating.
In an update posted on its website Monday, the conservation group said that the injunction, which comes before a trial set for September 2013, was previously denied by a judge in Seattle in February.
“It is a complex situation whereby a United States Court is issuing an injunction against Dutch and Australian vessels carrying an international crew, operating out of Australia and New Zealand in international waters,” the group said.
According to Sea Shepherd the court also “has ignored the fact that the Japanese whalers are in contempt of a court order by the Australian Federal Court and the whaling takes place in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.”
The group’s tactics or its approach will not change, despite the court ruling, the group said.
“We will defend these whales as we have for the last eight years—non-violently and legally,” stated Capt. Paul Watson.
Furthermore, the group said it believes that the Japanese whaling fleet sought the injunction before it went out on its annual trip.
The Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) and the Kyodo Senpaku lauded the court’s ruling, saying that it wanted the appeals court to review the situation because Sea Shepherd has announced it would disrupt whaling operations.
“ICR conducts its Antarctic whale research program under a permit issued by the Government of Japan in accordance with Article VIII of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling,” it said, maintaining that the whales are for its “research program.”
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