US conservation group Sea Shepherd vowed to fight a court order to
stay at least 500 yards away from Japanese whaling ships, and to keep
protecting whales "with our ships and our lives".
was ordered by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in the
latest step in a legal battle between the anti-whaling group and
Japanese authorities over vessels in the Southern Ocean.
Sea Shepherd and Canadian militant conservationist Paul Watson, who is
wanted by Interpol, "are enjoined from physically attacking any vessel
engaged by plaintiffs", including Japan's Institute of Cetacean
In addition, they are banned from "navigating in a
manner that is likely to endanger the safe navigation of any such
vessel", said the order, issued on Monday.
"In no event shall
defendants approach plaintiffs any closer than 500 yards (meters) when
defendants are navigating on the open sea," it added. The joint
plaintiffs are Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha, Ltd., Tomoyuki Ogawa and Toshiyuki
In a statement, the Institute of Cetacean Research and
Kyodo Senpaku said they "welcome" the injunction, which remains in force
until the US court issues its opinion on the currently pending appeal.
Numata, an official in charge of whaling at the Japan's Fisheries
Agency, told AFP in Tokyo: "Sea Shepherd carries out sabotage in the
form of acts of violence that endanger the life and assets of the
research fleet and its crew.
"We hope that the injunction will
help the whaling and research mission in the Antarctic Ocean to be
conducted safely and smoothly."
Charles Moure, an attorney for
Oregon-based Sea Shepherd, told AFP in an email that the court
injunction was "very disappointing," adding: "We intend to fight the
It was not immediately clear what impact the ruling would have, or how it would be enforced.
follows the issuing in August of an arrest notice by Interpol for
Watson, Sea Shepherd's founder, who had jumped bail in Germany in July.
He had been arrested there on charges from Costa Rica relating to a high-seas confrontation over shark finning in 2002.
In a statement on its website, Sea Shepherd called the new US court ruling "the first shot of the season" by Japanese whalers.
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," it said.
"In addition the Court 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."
It vowed to continue to protect whales in
the Southern Ocean, saying that Japan's fleet "will find when they
arrive that we will still be there guarding the Southern Ocean Whale
Sanctuary with our ships and our lives.
"We will defend these
whales as we have for the last eight years — non-violently and
legally," said Watson, quoted in the statement.
between the whalers and activists have escalated in recent years, and
the Japanese cut their hunt short in early 2011 due to Sea Shepherd
Japan hunts whales using a loophole in a global
moratorium that allows killing the sea mammals for what it calls
"scientific research", although the meat is later sold openly in shops
Watson, whose whereabouts had been a mystery
since July, confirmed this month that he is back onboard a Sea Shepherd
vessel and ready to confront Japanese whalers.
ninth campaign, named Operation Zero Tolerance, is its largest ever
against Japan's whale hunt and involves four ships, a helicopter, three
drones and more than 100 crew members.
Three of the vessels, the
Steve Irwin, Bob Barker and Brigitte Bardot, are all at sea while the
Sam Simon is at an undisclosed location.
– by AFP