Sea Shepherd Takes Battle Against ICR to U.S. Supreme Court
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Joins Sea Shepherd at National Press Club to Announce Legal Action Against Japan’s “Pirate” Whaling Fleet
In a press conference Monday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Sea Shepherd Conservation Society announced it has filed an application with the U.S. Supreme Court against Japan’s Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR) — a government-subsidized front for commercial whaling. The action comes in response to a highly irregular injunction handed down in December by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in favor of the ICR, which preliminarily enjoins Sea Shepherd U.S. from navigating “dangerously” and “physically attacking” or coming within 500 yards of ICR’s whaling vessels.
“It is our belief that The Ninth Circuit Court incorrectly issued the injunction without any party filing a motion asking for such an order and without issuing a written opinion explaining why it issued the injunction,” said lead counsel for Sea Shepherd U.S., Charles Moure. “This irregular action provided absolutely no opportunity to brief the legal issues and put forth arguments against the injunction,” he stated. “It also ignored a well-reasoned ruling in Sea Shepherd’s favor by a District court in February of last year and did not require the ICR to post bond to secure its preliminary injunction, which is standard and generally required under the law when any party obtains an injunction. Sea Shepherd is seeking relief with regard to the injunction while awaiting the Ninth Circuit’s opinion,” he concluded.
Moure was joined by staff from Sea Shepherd U.S. headquarters and a very special guest, iconic Environmental Attorney and President of Waterkeeper Alliance, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., son of the late political icon Robert F. Kennedy. Kennedy, Jr. phoned into the briefing in a show of solidarity with Sea Shepherd and its esteemed founder Captain Paul Watson, to urge the U.S. to support the group’s work. He had been scheduled to attend the press conference but his plane was fogged in at the last minute, so he addressed press conference attendees via telephone.
"It’s a mission that only they are capable of accomplishing and that is absolutely vital to the enforcement of international agreements on the high seas which otherwise go unenforced," Kennedy, Jr. told reporters. In referring to the legal troubles that have kept Captain Watson at sea to avoid being extradited to Japan on politically motivated charges, Kennedy Jr. called Japan’s ICR “a pirate organization masquerading as a scientific research group.” He stated, “We ought to be not trying to impede Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd, but we should be issuing him letters of marques in order to support and recognize the important value of his activities to our country and to the world community in battling a pirate organization that is in violation of international law. He is performing a profound public service for all of us…” Both Kennedy, Jr. and Captain Watson have been named Time Magazine’s Heroes of the Planet.
Susan Hartland, Administrative Director for Sea Shepherd, said Sea Shepherd is guided by the United Nations World Charter for Nature, and is the only organization whose mission is to enforce international conservation regulations on the high seas. “The ICR not only has the unmitigated gall to flout international law in order to poach whales in a designated sanctuary, but it is also coming into the U.S. with its highly paid lobbyists and lawyers and dares to sue a highly rated, bonafide 501(C)3 charity supported by citizens of the U.S. and the world over,” she said. “If the U.S. was doing its job of enforcing existing maritime agreements, we would not be in this position,” she added.
Despite the Ninth Circuit Court’s preliminary ruling enjoining Sea Shepherd U.S. from its whale defense campaign in the Southern Ocean, Scott West, Sea Shepherd’s Director of Intelligence & Investigations, said Japan’s whalers are the “criminals and aggressors” in this scenario. “The fact is, the Ninth Circuit injunction is a most irregular and possibly illegal order. This is why we have applied to the U.S. Supreme Court. We are asking the Supreme Court to bring reason back to the Ninth Circuit, prevent the Ninth Circuit from coddling these criminals, and to vacate the injunction against Sea Shepherd,” he concluded.
Sea Shepherd U.S. has enforced the integrity of the internationally established Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary against Japanese whalers for eight seasons and has done so legally, effectively, and with an unblemished safety record. (This season, its ninth, is being run by Sea Shepherd Australia, a separately governed entity.) On October 2, 2012, the New York Times reported Sea Shepherd cost the whalers $20.5 million USD for the 2010-2011 season alone. The organization’s effectiveness has made it the target of a $30 million attack campaign by the Japanese government using taxpayer funds as well as monies siphoned from Japan’s Tsunami Relief Fund, which were donated by citizens from around the world to help Japan’s citizens —many still in need — not to subsidize a failing and destructive whaling industry. The United States along with Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands have stated publicly that they ‘resolutely oppose’ the hunting of whales (including endangered) in a sanctuary, but the U.S. has done little to back-up its rhetoric. The Supreme Court filing will force the issue in the hope of bringing this ongoing battle to a successful conclusion for the whales and for the future of our oceans.