Member log in

Anti-whalers just a gang of violent pirates

Colourful US judge Alex Kozinski was on the button this week declaring the so-called Sea Shepherd anti-whaling group and its eccentric founder Paul Watson pirates.

“You don’t need a peg leg or an eye patch," says Judge Kozinski.

"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.”

Judge Kozinski, the chief judge of the US Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit, does not mince words.

In a unanimous decision with two other judges he overturned a Seattle trial judge’s earlier decision siding with the whaling protesters and tossing out a lawsuit filed by the Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research seeking a court-ordered halt to the aggressive tactics.

The Appeal Court also said the injunction should go back to the lower court and – because of the numerous, serious and obvious errors of the original hearing judge – be heard by a different judge.

US District Court judge Richard Jones sided with Sea Shepherd on several grounds, rejecting the whalers’ piracy accusations and refusing to stop the group’s protests which Judge Jones figured were not violent.

Much of the case hinged around the definition of Sea Shepherd’s “private ends”.

In totally disagreeing with the lower court judge, the appeal judges concluded “that ‘private ends’ include those pursued on personal, moral or philosophical grounds, such as Sea Shepherd’s professed environmental goals. That the perpetrators believe themselves to be serving the public good does not render their ends public.”

Equally off-base

Judge Kozinski says the district court’s interpretation of “violence” was equally off-base.

“Citing no precedent, it held that Sea Shepherd’s conduct is not violent because it targets ships and equipment rather than people.”

He said this ran afoul of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which prohibits “violence ... against another ship” and “violence ... against persons or property.”

The Court likened violence to an inanimate object as when a man violently pounds a table with his fist.

“Ramming ships, fouling propellers and hurling fiery and acid-filled projectiles easily qualify as violent activities, even if they could somehow be directed only at inanimate objects,” the Court found.

Judge Kozinski says that regardless, Sea Shepherd’s acts fit even the district court’s constricted definition.

“The projectiles directly endangered Cetacean’s crew, as the district court itself recognised.

"And damaging Cetacean’s ships could cause them to sink or become stranded in glacier-filled, Antarctic waters, jeopardizing the safety of the crew.

"The activities that Cetacean alleges Sea Shepherd has engaged in are clear instances of violent acts for private ends, the very embodiment of piracy.

"The district court erred in dismissing Cetacean’s piracy claims.”

The Appeal Court found Judge Jones failed to recognise that Sea Shepherd – which has rammed and sunk several other whaling ships in the past – at the very least attempted to endanger the navigation of Cetacean’s ships.

Sea Shepherd adorns the hulls of its ships with the names and national flags of the numerous whaling vessels it has rammed and sunk.

At loggerheads

By violating UNCLOS and other conventions Sea Shepherd was at loggerheads with the public interest of the United States and all other seafaring nations in safe navigation of the high seas, Judge Kozinski says.

Enjoining piracy sends no message about whaling: “It sends the message that we will not tolerate piracy,” the judge says.

“This is hardly a controversial view, as evidenced by a joint statement from the United States, Australia, the Netherlands and New Zealand condemning dangerous activities in the Southern Oceans.”

Refusing the Cetacean injunction, Judge Koxinski says “sends a far more troublesome message that we condone violent vigilantism by US nationals in international waters”.

Ronald Reagan-appointed and Romanian-born Judge Kozinski – praised for plain language commonsense decisions – visited New Zealand briefly in September 2011 on his way to Sydney as keynote speaker at the 25th annual conference of the Intellectual Property Society of Australia and New Zealand.

In an exclusive interview on that occasion he told the National Business Review American judges faced the same dilemma as New Zealand judges with the amount of civil court work lost to mediation in “private courts”.

More by Jock Anderson

Comments and questions

The green taliban - to papaphrase Obi-Wan
"You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy"

I sense something... a presence I've not felt since...

From the land that hunted Dotcom on false pretences?

Anyone else think the pirates are similar to the unions when they don't get their way either?

The deliberate business sabotage with the likes of PoAL and attempted hijacking of The Hobbit are two prime examples. Wait about 3-4 weeks from Christmas and I'll give you more examples down the inter-island ferries, too...

Why would NZInc even allow such handbrakes on our productivity?

Handbrakes on productivity? Because contrary to your deviant fantasies, NZ is not a business and the national Government is constrained from its own piracy (only) by the judiciary.

When will the whaling stop and why does the judge not condemn it in a language that is unequivocal and clear and able to offer a sense of guidance that does not give the impression that he thinks that the whaling activities should continue unmolested?
Is he trying to halt the protests in general? If those who are trying to have the issues in the media so that the public can lobby their politicians to address them are the only ones protesting, then why does he make it seem as if he is happy to prevent it?

Are the Japanese right to be able to hunt whales in Antarctic waters, or anywhere else for that matter? No. Should they be stopped? Yes. Who else will do it if not Sea Shepherd? Good on them I say.

>"“You don’t need a peg leg or an eye patch," says Judge Kozinski."

This is quite wrong. Every pirate should have a peg leg or eye patch.

Dont forget the wenches.

Go the Sea Shepard... doing our dirty work.

At last someone who speaks it as it is - the pirates use a well-known tactic, deliberately manouevring so as to seem to put the other ship in a "give-way" position. In particular, when two ships are re-fuelling, they are constrained in their movements. And what is that nonsense from Sea Shepherd, that the Japanese ships were "illegally refuelling". Who says it's illegal? (Apart from the pirates - "please sir, he deliberately hit my fist with his nose")

The eco-terrorist pirates are unnecessary.
Japanese whaling could easily be stopped by consumers. Pick a brand of Japanese vehicle, e.g. Toyota. Run a campaign via Twitter, Facebook, etc to encourage a mass boycott of that company's product until whaling stops.
For that matter, you could run an international campaign to boycott all of the large Japanese car manufacturers.
Sure, there would be some cost and/or inconvenience to consumers but I am guessing that it would only need to run for six to nine months before the "institute for cetacean research" was pressured to research something else.

Fat Boy and Little Man also worked pretty well back in the 1940s

Based on the first court ruling its probably OK if the Sea Shepherd sinks...

I have no sympathy for the Sea Shepherd. The right to protest is one thing, but it does not give them the right to sabotage and endangering others. I do not support whaling, and I do not support idiots either.

Last I checked American courts believe that corporations are people too!

Suggest you check again. I think you will find they regard them as separate legal entities... in the exact same way as our courts do.

The Royal Navy was orginally a force of privateers. Hawkins, Raleigh and Drake were pirate admirals doing the job the crown wanted but was not prepared to finance or do for financial, political, dynastic and risk reasons. As Watson and his trusty 36 year old Steve Irwin basically a Scottish Mk 1 OPV has dieseled thu the icebergs flying the Jolly Roger over the Southern Ocean he could be regarded at least as the private representative of Jullia Gillard's,- Kevin Rudd'sAustralia and the Dutch Government.
Ultimately the Japanese whaling and predatory fishing will probably only be controlled and stopped by physical force. But considerable cause belli's are required and the action has to continue in the courts and in Sea Shepherds harrasment of the whaling fleet. The RAN should stay out and the RNZN provide a cabability presence from Devonport until there is a serious incident. An exclusion zone for navy's of 150km around the whaling area will be set up in which only protestors and whalers ( or those present on a set date) can enter until there is loss of life or a ship, in which case the whalers and protestors will be banned from the Southern Ocean.

Now that we've re-classified them as "pirates," can we start dropping drones on them?

Might make for good TV entertainment.

This was a shot across the bow of all environmental movements by a chief judge whom is a self described egotist and has a particular bad taste for anyone speaking out on environmental issues. He speaks in his writings about the lunacy of climate change, the banning of DDT, degraded water supplies, etc. as if those exposing these threats are nutters. He also espouses that all good Americans should arm themselves because the Big Bad American government is one step away from tyranny and we need to protect ourselves from this imagined soon-to-be tyrannical government. Besides, the SSCS US is no longer in the business of protesting illegal whaling, so his ruling is moot. He has no jurisdiction over non-US nationals. Calling Paul Watson eccentric in his ruling is like the pot calling the kettle black.

Why has it taken so long to have a judge anywhere in the world issue a statement that these so-called protesters are conducting acts of reclessness and sheer piracy.
When are the New Zealand and Australian governments going to support this statement and then take steps to ensure that this group and any like them are not supported by any New Zealand port or other agency?
Notwithstanding, they should actively be arresting and prosecuting any and all involved.

The whales are endangered. Hunting them is like hunting Kiwis. The Japanese must be stopped. Go the Sea Shepherd.

You really need to inform yourself before making inaccurate statements. The whales that the Japanese whalers hunt are NOT endangered. On the contrary, excessively high numbers of minkes relative to the truly endangered species such as the blue, fin, sei and humpback is actually HURTING the environmental cause. Lots of minkes = less food for the endangered species to eat.

Let me make it clear, Im a lifelong vegetarian and would prefer that whaling did not take place. But how is eating small, less intelligent and non-endangered species of whale any different from eating cows or sheep? If I drove around the hills outside Christchurch throwing acid at farmers and crashing a tank into the shearing sheds and slaughterhouses (as my "principles" as a vegetarian say I should), what would happen to me?

Damn straight. Id be arrested. And would thoroughly deserve it.

Its about time somebody stopped pretending that this double standard was in any way defensible. Sea Shepherd are a criminal gang causing property damage and endangering lives of people who are simply doing their jobs in an entirely legal enterprise. There is no justification for that. None whatsoever.

Go Sea Shepherd. The whaling needs to stop.

And sitting around wringing our hands and wailing isn't going to do it!

Whale meat actually tastes pretty good. Tried it once in Tokyo. It's awesome!

Now go cry a river, you softie.

Sea Shepard and the likes, are just the sort of vessels/organisations that a Green/Labour government would welcome to our shores for the use of our Port facilities.

The judge's reasoning would criticise most governments and most people who engage in any kind of activity, including self-defence. It doesn't matter what your cause is, if you fight for something using any kind of weapon you are a pirate/terrorist? At the end of the day, the morality of the issue is everything. Is America a terrorist? Is someone who defends themselves against a terrorist when the law clearly says that self-defence can be a defence to a criminal charge? Ridiculous. It's all about proportionality. What response did you take to the degree of the threat?

Sea Shepard are doing what the UN and all those other pencil pushing politician type folk dont have the balls to do.

Words will not work, affirmative action is whats needed.

Do you think the japanese would go whaling if a couple of thier boats sank and a few hundred lives were lost ?

This coming from a country that has the largest population of inmates and this judge is a killer of wildlife himself.
No country holds up the law,when it comes to whaling so this judge is a sick joke.
He should ask Japan about the tsunami funds that people worldwide donated.

Ester, this is a lie that the Ecoterrorists have somehow managed to get a lot of people to swallow. The Japanese govt did indeed give some of the JAPANESE GOVERNMENT'S relief funds (ie. money from the government budget, earmarked for the tsunami-affected regions) to people who lost their boats in the tsunami. How is that unfair? Whaling personnel are people just like any other person, and if they are hurt by a natural disaster they deserve some of the govt's disaster relief money.

But none of the money from international organizations -- not one single yen -- went to the whaling industry. You can verify this by contacting the International Red Cross or any other charity which was involved in the tsunami relief. The idea that whalers got money from "donations" is an outright lie.