Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) founder Paul Watson testified before a U.S appeals court on Thursday, claiming that they are not pirates, after an earlier ruling by the court referred to the organization as such. The group is accused of violating a court order that asks the eco-activists to stay 500 yards from the whaling ships.
“We’re not pirates. . . . Protesting against illegal activity is not piracy,” Watson shared with the court that will determine whether he and the organization should be held in contempt. It was December last year, just before the start of the whaling season, when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a restraining order against Sea Shepherd. The Japanese whalers say that the activists violated that order 10 times this year, which includes a confrontation in the high seas that ended in damage to their fuel ship which was allegedly rammed by one of their protest vessels. They are asking for a fine of $100,000 for each violation but they said they are willing to waive it if the protestors will stop interfering with their whaling operations. Watson argued that while they are ordered to stay 500 yards from the whaling vessels, it does not say “whether the Japanese whaling vessels could come within 500 yards of us.”
The SSCS says that they have already withdrawn from participating in the anti-whaling campaign this year and Watson has even stepped down from the organization. Their cousin Sea Shepherd of Australia Ltd. is the one running point for this campaign since they aren’t subject to the U.S court’s order. The director of the Australian chapter said that he believes they do not have jurisdiction over international waters and so whatever ruling is handed down will not affect their plans to disrupt Japan’s whaling fleet early next year. “We’re answering to our clients, which is the whales,” he added.