A three-person judge panel has ordered the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to stop attacking Japanese whalers in the Antarctic and reinforced an injunction requiring the group to remain 500 yards away from the whalers' ships at all times. The activist group, which is registered in Oregon, is known for harassing whalers in attempt to disrupt the international whaling industry, leading to a civil litigation from a group of Japanese plaintiffs and their Oregon-based attorney.
Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research sued Sea Shepherd in 2011 after the group allegedly attacked its crafts. The Institute contends that its own whaling efforts are not subject to an international ban because they are primarily focused on scientific research.
The 9th Circuit U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recent ruling sides with the Institute, claiming that Sea Shepherd's actions constitute piracy. The panel's majority opinion accused the group of attacking the plaintiff's ships with smoke bombs, containers of acids, high-powered laser, flares, and metal-reinforced ropes designed to damage the crafts' propulsion systems. One of the judges asserted that these acts make Sea Shepherd pirates regardless of "how high-minded [they] believe [their] purpose to be."
Despite the court's orders, whalers have reported continued attacks from Sea Shepherd crafts in Antarctic waters. A representative with Sea Shepherd argued that the attacks are the work of its Australian branch, which officially separated from its American counterpart following the Circuit Court ruling.
A judge with a lower court initially dismissed claims that Sea Shepherd was engaging in piracy, a decision that the Cetacean Institute quickly appealed. The Circuit Court ordered the judge removed from the case, accusing him of making "numerous, serious and obvious errors" in his handling of the case.
International litigation is typically complex and often involves multiple rounds of appeals. Individuals, companies or other parties in Oregon involved in such disputes significantly increase their chance of success by employing qualified attorneys with experience in commercial and business litigation.
Source: Oregon Live, "Sea Shepherd whale activists called pirates, lose ruling by 9th Circuit judges," Richard Read, Feb. 27, 2013