A federal appeals court panel has branded a Northwest anti-whaling group "pirates," ordering a halt to attacks on Japanese whalers in Antarctic waters.
The outspoken opinion, which reads at times more like "Moby Dick" than a court decision, hands a victory to Miller Nash, a Portland law firm that took the controversial step of representing Japan's whale hunters.
The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals opinion issued late Monday is also unusual for ordering the transfer of a lower-court judge from the case, finding that U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones made "numerous, serious and obvious errors" in the ruling that generated the appeal.
The majority opinion of the three-judge panel continues an earlier injunction ordering Sea Shepherd Conservation Society activists to stay at least 500 yards away from Japanese whaling ships.
"You don't need a peg leg or an eye patch," wrote Chief Judge Alex Kozinski in the majority opinion. "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."
The opinion is a blow to Sea Shepherd, registered in Oregon and based in Friday Harbor, Wash., known for combating whaling on the high seas. It's a win in a continuing legal battle waged by the plaintiffs, which are led by the Institute of Cetacean Research, a Japanese foundation that cites a scientific-research exception to an international whaling ban.
But the opinion isn't shutting down Sea Shepherd, which continued clashes this week off Antarctica, claiming whalers rammed one of its vessels and deployed stun grenades and a water cannon.
Sea Shepherd's latest antics in the Southern Ocean (trying to disrupt a refuelling operation) were stupid and incredibly dangerous. Survival times in the frigid southern waters are measured in seconds rather than minutes, and if the Sea Shepherd pirates insist on provoking confrontation with the whalers, it's only a matter of time until someone dies.
This is not to say that we are supportive of whaling; we aren't. But the Japanese are legally able to go about their work without the provocation that Sea Shepherd provides.
Sea Shepherd's head honcho Paul Watson is a wanted man as well. He is the subject of an Interpol Red Notice, but manages to avoid going ashore, or transfers to other vessels if Sea Shepherd's boats are entering ports where he could be arrested. .
Watson is previously on record as saying "There's nothing wrong with being a terrorist, as long as you win. Then you write the history.". Sea Shepherd lost in Court this week, so by Watson's own logic we reckon that means that there's everything wrong with being a terrorist and a pirate, especially when someone else is writing the story!