[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Monday that the US-based anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) [advocacy website] are modern-day pirates, clearing the path for Japanese whalers to pursue legal action against them. The decision overturns a lower court ruling which found against whalers Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) [advocacy website], who claim that SSCS and its founder Paul Watson are preventing them from engaging in what they say is lawful activity. The whalers claim their activities are permitted under Article 8 of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling [text, PDF], which allows for the taking of whales if a signatory nation has issued them a license. ICR possesses a license issued by Japan. Writing the opinion for the appeals court, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski said of SSCS:
You don’t need a peg leg or an eye patch. When you ram ships; hurl glass containers of acid; drag metal-reinforced ropes in the water to damage propellers and rudders; launch smoke bombs and flares with hooks; and point high-powered lasers at other ships, you are, without a doubt, a pirate, no matter how high-minded you believe your purpose to be.
In rebuking the trial court judge’s “numerous, serious and obvious errors,” Kozinski suggested justice would be better served by remanding the case to a different district court judge selected at random.
Japan’s whaling program remains extremely controversial. ICR filed the suit [JURIST report] against SSCS in December 2011. In July 2010 a Japanese court convicted New Zealand anti-whaling activist Peter Bethune on charges of assault, trespass, destruction of property, illegal possession of a weapon and obstruction of business for boarding a Japanese whaling vessel [JURIST reports] as part of an anti-whaling protest in January of that year. Berthune, who called the charges “bogus,” was extradited to New Zealand, and he will not serve prison time unless he returns to Japan. In May 2010 Australia initiated proceedings [JURIST report] when it brought a complaint [materials] against Japan in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] for its whaling practices in the Antarctic. Commercial whaling has been banned by the International Whaling Commission [official website] since 1986.