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article imageOp-Ed: Sea Shepherd '80 percent sure' whaling season 'may be over'

By Elizabeth Batt     Mar 1, 2013 in Environment
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) is reporting that "The Japanese whaling fleet has left the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and is heading north." Watson said he estimates that the whaling fleet killed "no more than 75 whales."
Watson reported the news this morning via Sea Shepherd Australia, adding that the conservation group is "not positive but ... 80% sure that it may be over."
If so, the whaling fleet never came close to achieving its quota. Watson said that this year surpasses even his own estimates. "Sea Shepherd reduced the whale kill to 26% of the kill quota last season and 17% the season before. This season we estimate it will be below 10%" he added.
Both groups leave behind an intense period of high drama and conflict that was fought both on land and at sea. The tumultuous season rippled across the US legal system, the media, and into the court of public opinion. It has been a season that few will forget, regardless of existing loyalties and beliefs.
Big ship, little impact
As the conflict in the Southern Ocean escalated, Sea Shepherd at first blocked the transfer of a harpooned whale. It then foiled repeated attempts by the Nisshin Maru to refuel from the South Koran tanker, the Sun Laurel. Japan responded by dispatching a Naval ship to the area.
After demands were made that Australia do the same, Environment Minister Tony Burke refused, but sought assurances from Japan that the 12,500 tonne Shirase was not engaging in the conflict.
The arrival of the armed vessel in Australian Antarctic Territory was certainly strange, given a 2008 Australian Court ruling that ordered Japan to cease whaling in the area. The act could have been perceived as a threat if Australia had been so inclined.
In the end, the 250-manned vessel operated by the Japanese Maritime Defense Force, had little effect. SSCS still prevented the whaler's massive factory ship from ever refueling.
Ninth US circuit court of appeals. Peg legs and eye patches
Frustrated, Japan's Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR) took the matter to the US Courts. Chief judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th US circuit court of appeals used strong words to declare the conservation group "pirates" in his 18-page opinion report. He said:
"You don't need a peg leg or an eye patch. When you ram ships; hurl 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."
Kozinski's assessment was a little off kilter. The 'acid' for example, is actually rancid butter, ropes were employed by both sides, and as for smoke bombs, the whaling fleet deployed its own flash bang concussion grenades, some of which exploded on the deck of the Sun Laurel.
As video continued to be released by both sides involved in the conflict, Kozsinki's opinion only served to spark another war of words across media outlets.
Expert -- Sea Shepherd crew not 'pirates'. Attorney calls for prison time
According to the New Zealand Herald, law professor Karen Scott said Kozinski's piracy opinion went "too far." It "cannot be supported under international law as it stands today," she said. Scott pointed out that if Kozinski's decision was followed in other jurisdictions, it would permit:
Sea Shepherd vessels to be boarded by any state on the high seas and for its crew to be prosecuted in any jurisdiction.
Did Judge Kozinski go too far in describing Sea Shepherd Conservation Society as  pirates?
Did Judge Kozinski go too far in describing Sea Shepherd Conservation Society as "pirates?"
Judge Alex Kozinski
As a result she added, it had "potentially far-reaching implications for international law." The law professor also expressed surprise that the US court did not take into account legal proceedings from Australia and New Zealand that challenge Japan's scientific whaling program. Scott said, "It would appear that not only is the battle in the Southern Ocean on-going but an equally undignified one is developing in the US courts over this matter."
For the National Review online however, it was a totally different kettle of fish.
Wesley J. Smith, an attorney and senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism, and a special consultant for the Center for Bioethics and Culture said:
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is a very radical environmentalist organization that is infamous for its (human) life-endangering vigilante tactics to save seal pups and whales.
Labeling Paul Watson a "fanatical anti-human leader", Smith didn't stop there. He affirmed his opinion of Japan's whaling program when he crossed out Japanese 'whalers' and inserted 'researchers.' But then he asserted, "I am against whaling based on animal-welfare standards."
Regardless of which side of the fence one is positioned on, it does not take an attorney to realize that there is no logical argument to Japan's research defense, and there never will be as long as they get to keep and sell the meat. This fact was only cemented further by statements out of Japan.
For the first time, Japan's government actually dropped the 'scientific' and 'research' justification for whaling in its responses to the latest conflict. Instead, the country's fisheries minister, Yoshimasa Hayashi, complained that all of the criticism was "a cultural attack, a kind of prejudice against Japanese culture."
Hayashi told the Japan Times:
“Whaling has long been part of traditional Japanese culture, so I just would like to say ‘please understand this is our culture.' "
Australia's Environment Minister Tony Burke, was swift to respond to the statement in the Sydney Morning Herald. Correspondent Andrew Darby wrote:
Mr Burke said Mr Hayashi had virtually conceded the hunt was nothing to do with science. ''It's significant for them to have abandoned any pretence of a so-called scientific reason,'' Mr Burke tweeted.
Furthermore, Burke added:
How absurd has the argument become, if Japan is now arguing that it has a traditional cultural practice of travelling from one side of the planet to the other to kill whales in a whale sanctuary.
Mr Hayashi's statement was also not easily applied to the rising voices of dissent occurring within his own country. Younger generations of Japanese people are rallying against the cost and even the morality of the government's whaling program.
Kozinski's decision, what does it mean?
Paul Watson described Judge Kozinski's decision as "an opinion entirely devoid of real evidence," and unlikely to have any impact on SSCS operations. In a Q&A session, Watson said that Sea Shepherd USA:
Has fully complied with the injunction and the Ninth District Court has no jurisdiction over Australians and other non-U.S. citizens on Australian- and Dutch-flagged vessels operating out of Australia and New Zealand in international and Australian waters.
Watson admits that "Sea Shepherd Australia will not have the financial resources from Sea Shepherd USA to fund an Antarctic Whale Defense Campaign" next season, but they remain confident that funds for Sea Shepherd Australia "can be raised in Australia by Australians."
Kozinski et al. Decision makes more waves
As for Kozinski and the Ninth District Court -- which also includes Judge Atsushi Wallace Tashima, and Judge Milan Smith Jr., their decision has attracted more criticism and further scrutiny -- this time in the US.
In an opinion piece posted at, Candace Calloway Whiting, a volunteer at the Center for Whale Research, called Kozinski's opinion "vitriolic" in nature, particularly for his labeling of Watson as "eccentric."
Whiting includes a 2008 LA Times story about Kozinski written by Scott Glover. Glover reported:
One of the highest-ranking federal judges in the United States, who is currently presiding over an obscenity trial in Los Angeles, has maintained a publicly accessible website featuring sexually explicit photos and videos.
Furthemore he added, materials posted on Kozinski's site:
Included a photo of naked women on all fours painted to look like cows and a video of a half-dressed man cavorting with a sexually aroused farm animal. Some of the material was inappropriate, he conceded, although he defended other sexually explicit content as "funny."
Although nothing to do with whaling, it is the principle behind Kozinski's statement that Whiting finds of concern. "Kozinski’s interests are distasteful to most of us, [but it] doesn’t mean that he is not a good judge on the nuances of the law," she said. However, "it certainly means that he is in no place to impugn the character of another judge, nor to use words like “eccentric” in describing another individual."
The impugned judge that Whiting is referencing is US District Judge Richard Jones who presided over the original case. Jones had sided with Sea Shepherd on several grounds by tossing out the whalers’ piracy accusations. He also refused to prohibit the conservation group's protests.
Kosinki's decision not only reassigned the ICR lawsuit to another Seattle judge, but his statement said that Jones had made 'numerous, serious and obvious errors' while ruling on the case previously.
Smith, explained Whiting, was the lone dissenting voice against Koszinki's assessment of Jones. Smith said there was "absolutely no evidence" that Jones acted improperly or out of bias Whiting explained, but he "concurred with Kozinski and Tashima on all other points."
For now it seems the conflict at sea is hopefully at an end, thankfully with no loss of life or limb. Sea Shepherd reports that its ships will "continue to follow the whaling fleet north to ensure that they do not return to kill whales."
Japan meanwhile is certain to continue to push its case through the US courts and when it can, through the International Whaling Commission. The battle however, remains far from over.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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