WA Conservationists Branded As 'Pirates'

By Tom Bacon

If you think pirates are just the stuff of legend and B-movies or scruffy bandits from Somalia, think again.  Some aggressive marine conservationists based in Washington State have been branded as pirates by federal appellate judges because of their attacks on Japanese whaling ships.

Here's what 9th Circuit Court chief judge Alex Kozinski wrote about the Sea Shepherd Society based in the San Juan Islands of Washington - "You don't need a peg leg or an eye patch. When you ram ships, hurl glass containers of acid, drag metal-reinforced ropes in the water to damage propellers and rudders, you are, without a doubt, a pirate, no matter how high-minded you believe your purpose to be." 

Kozinski's unusually blunt language came in a continuing fight between Sea Shepherds and a Japanese whale research group. The panel of judges ordered a Seattle federal court to issue an injunction against Sea Shepherds to keep its boats away from the Japanese whalers, and to consider the Institute of Cetacean Research claims of piracy against the whaling opponents.

The judges held that as barbaric as whale killing might be, to ignore the Japanese demand for an injunction would  "send the far more troublesome message that we condone violent vigilantism by U-S nationals in international waters."

The judges also sharply rebuked the Seattle federal judge who had heard the case, finding that he made "numerous, serious and obvious errors," and ordered the case assigned to another judge.
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