It seems like there’s always something going on with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) and its feisty founder, Captain Paul Watson. This summer is no exception. Here’s what’s happening right now in the world of the Sea Shepherd and its fight to save whales:
1. A Year at Sea: Dodging Costa Rica, Japan and Interpol
Captain Watson is marking a somber anniversary this summer. As of July, he’s been on the high seas — constantly on the move, unable to go home, his location a secret — for an entire year.
Why the nomadic existence? Costa Rica and possibly Japan are seeking to extradite him as soon as he hits port in almost any country in the world. Watson, a Canadian citizen, was arrested in May 2012 in Frankfurt, Germany. He was charged with “violation of ships traffic” in 2002 in Costa Rica, which stemmed from an incident in which Watson and his crew attempted to stop illegal shark finning operations by a Costa Rican ship in Guatemalan waters.
While under house arrest, Watson was tipped off that he’d be extradited to Japan, not Costa Rica, if he stayed in Germany. Watson has been a highly effective thorn in the side of Japanese whalers for years, so this news didn’t bode well for his long term freedom.
“I decided I know if I go to Japan I’m not going to be released, ever. So I left Germany,” Watson told CTV. “I’m not really a fugitive. It’s just that if I enter a border point then that will immediately send a message to Japan to have me arrested and then extradited.”
A check of Interpol’s web site confirms that Watson is indeed “Wanted by the Judicial Authorities of Japan for Prosecution / To Serve a Sentence.”
Watch an Australian TV interview with Watson from February 2013 here:
Earlier this year, Watson stepped down from his leadership roles in the SSCS to comply with a court order requiring him and his crew to remain at least 500 yards away from Japanese whaling vessels.
2. Insurer Refuses to Cover Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
In June, SSCS’s insurance company asked a federal court for a declaratory judgment that it is not obligated to defend the SSCS or its members against Japanese whalers’ claims. In December 2011, the Institute of Cetacean Research, a Japanese whaling group, filed suit against the SSCS. They claimed that the Sea Shepherd’s crew rammed their ships and threw acid-filled and incendiary projectiles at their vessels and crew.
SSCS lost that suit, as well as their subsequent appeals. The 9th Circuit famously held that “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.”
Great American Insurance Co. says that by its terms, its coverage would only be available had SSCS reported the December 2011 lawsuit filed against it by Japanese whalers during the effective 2011 and 2012 policy periods or within 90 days after they expired. Apparently, that didn’t happen.
Additionally, the insurance company says that even had a claim for coverage been made by SSCS in the proper timeframe, the policy specifically states that the company is not obligated to defend the SSCS for claims “based upon, arising out of, relating to, directly or indirectly resulting from or in consequence of, or in any way involving: (1) bodily injury, sickness, disease or death of any person, assault or battery; (2) damage to or destruction of any tangible property or the loss of use of any tangible property….”
Sounds like the Sea Shepherd and its crew are on their own, doesn’t it?
(Update: After we published this post, Lisa Arrow, the senior media relations manager for SSCS, contacted Care2 to let us know that the organization does indeed have insurance).
3. Barred from International Court of Justice Hearings on Japanese Whaling
Sea Shepherd members were barred in July from the International Court of Justice on the last two days of hearings on Australia’s legal action against Japan’s whaling program, probably due to pressure from Japan.
Australia began its action against Japan in 2010, alleging that the “research-based whaling program” conducted by Japan is essentially a sham aimed at getting around international prohibitions on commercial whaling.
Geert Vons, head of Sea Shepherd Netherlands, told ABC News Australia he was blocked from attending the court during the last two days of Japan’s arguments in response to Australia’s allegations. This seemed odd, in that he had written confirmation that Sea Shepherd representatives were invited to attend all hearings. He was given no reason for his exclusion.
“I think it’s not the court themselves that had problems with members, representatives of Sea Shepherd getting in, I am sure it has to do something with pressure from Japan,” Vons said.
The International Court of Justice is the United Nations’ highest judicial body of the United Nations. It settles disputes between nations. Its decision in this case is not expected until later this year.
4. Newest Ship Named for Slain Costa Rican Turtle Conservationist
The Sea Shepherd UK is adding a new vessel to its armada, and will name it in honor of the sea turtle conservationist who was murdered in Costa Rica in May. The “Jairo Mora Sandoval” will be unveiled in August.
“We do not want the name of this courageous and passionate young man to be forgotten, and hopefully this will help to keep his memory alive,” Paul Watson posted on his Facebook page.
Watson is offering a reward of $30,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those who killed the 26-year-old activist.
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