A US-based marine conservation organization Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has filed claims against Japan’s Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR) in the US District Court for the Western District of Washington, seeking a declaration that ICR’s whaling in the Southern Ocean near Antarctica is illegal under international law.
Sea Shepherd asked the Court to prohibit future whaling by ICR in the Southern Ocean, on the grounds that its killing of whales violates international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Whaling Convention, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and the World Charter for Nature.
Sea Shepherd also claims that ICR is guilty of piracy for illegally killing and taking whales from the sea for commercial profit, and for engaging in violent actions against Sea Shepherd volunteers – including ramming vessels, hurling stun grenades and grappling hooks, employing bamboo poles as spears, and firing water cannons at vessels and helicopters.
In addition to injunctive relief, Sea Shepherd is requesting damages done to its vessels in past years, including for the deliberate ramming and destruction of the Sea Shepherd vessel Ady Gil in 2009.
These requests are part of the counterclaims that Sea Shepherd filed in response to a lawsuit brought by ICR seeking a permanent injunction to prevent Sea Shepherd from interfering with ICR’s whale hunt.
ICR’s lawsuit resulted in a temporary injunction by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that required Sea Shepherd and Watson to stay at least 500 yards away from ICR’s whaling fleet while it is killing whales in the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica. The case is set for trial in fall 2016.
”Sea Shepherd intends to defend the whales in court just as it has done at sea,” said Sea Shepherd attorney Claire Loebs Davis, a partner at Seattle-based Lane Powell PC.
”Although Sea Shepherd maintains that the U.S. federal courts do not have the jurisdiction to intervene in disputes occurring on the high seas on the other side of the globe, once the courts are involved, they must take into account that ICR is engaged in activity that is illegal under international law, and is using violent and aggressive measures to protect that illegal activity.”
The request for the injunction against Japanese whaling coincides with the meeting of the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) scientific committee currently taking place in San Diego, which will consider whether Japan’s latest proposal to continue to kill whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary complies with the IWC’s global moratorium on commercial whaling and its ban on whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.