The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship Steve Irwin is presently pursuing criminals in the territorial waters of Australia along the coast of the Australian Antarctic Territory.
The Japanese fleet is in clear violation of an Australian Federal Court order prohibiting whaling operations inside the Australian Economic Exclusion Zone.
The Court order was issued on January 15, 2008 by the Federal Court of Australia. The Court found that the Japanese whaling fleet killing whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary contravenes the Environment Protection and Bio-Diversity Conservation Act of 1999 of the Commonwealth of Australia.
Specifically the Court ruled that:
1. THE COURT DECLARES that the respondent has killed, injured, taken and interfered with Antarctic minke whales (Balaenoptera bonaerensis) and fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) and injured, taken and interfered with humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in the Australian Whale Sanctuary in contravention of sections 229, 229A, 229B and 229C of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth), (the "Act"), and has treated and possessed such whales killed or taken in the Australian Whale Sanctuary in contravention of sections 229D and 230 of the Act, without permission or authorisation under sections 231, 232 or 238 of the Act.
2. THE COURT ORDERS that the respondent be restrained from killing, injuring, taking or interfering with any Antarctic minke whale (Balaenoptera bonaerensis), fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) or humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) in the Australian Whale Sanctuary, or treating or possessing any such whale killed or taken in the Australian Whale Sanctuary, unless permitted or authorised under sections 231, 232 or 238 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has 17 Australian crewmembers on the international crew of 33 onboard the Steve Irwin. Nine of these Australian crew have agreed to undertake a citizens arrest of Japanese whalers in accordance to the Australian Federal Court ruling that the whalers must "be restrained from killing, injuring, taking or interfering with" any whales in the Australian Whale Sanctuary.
In addition to upholding the Australian Federal Court ruling, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society intends to uphold the regulations of the International Whaling Commission (I.W.C.), the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) and the Antarctic Treaty.
Fin Whales are an endangered species and the Japanese whaling fleet does not have a permit from CITES to take any fin whales.
The killing of whales for commercial purposes is a violation of the IWC global moratorium on commercial whaling that has been in effect since 1986.
Additionally the IWC declared the Southern Oceans Whale Sanctuary in 1994. Whaling is prohibited in the Southern Oceans Sanctuary. The killing of whales in the Sanctuary would continue to be restricted even if the global moratorium on commercial whaling is lifted.
The Japanese whaling fleet is in violation of IWC regulation 19(a). The IWC regulations in the Schedule to the Convention forbid the use of factory ships to process any protected stock: 19(a) It is forbidden to use a factory ship or a land station for the purpose of treating any whales which are classified as Protection Stocks in paragraph 10. Paragraph 10(c) provides a definition of Protection Stocks and states that Protection Stocks are listed in the Tables of the Schedule. Table 1 lists all the baleen whales, including minke, fin, and humpback whales and states that all of them are Protected Stocks.
In addition the IWC regulations specifically ban the use of factory ships to process any whales except minke whales: Paragraph 1o(d) provides: (d) Notwithstanding the other provisions of paragraph 10 there shall be a moratorium on the taking, killing, or treating of whales, except minke whales, by factory ships. This moratorium applies to sperm whales, killer whales, and baleen whales, except minke whales.
This season, the Japanese whaling fleet had intended to target 50 endangered humpback whales.
Commercial activities exploiting wildlife are prohibited by the Antarctic Treaty. Refueling of ships at sea is a violation of the Antarctic Treaty.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is legally authorized to intervene in accordance with the United Nations World Charter for Nature that was ratified by the U.N. General Assembly in 1982.
Section 21 of the World Charter for Nature states:
States and, to the extent they are able, other public authorities, international organizations, individuals, groups and corporations shall:
(c) Implement the applicable international legal provisions for the conservation of nature, and the protection of the environment.
(d) Ensure that activities within their jurisdiction, or control do not cause damage to the natural systems located within other States or in the areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.
(e) safeguard and conserve nature in areas beyond national jurisdiction.
Additionally, Section 24 states:
Each person has a duty to act in accordance with the provisions of the present Charter; acting individually, in association with others or through participation in the political process, each person shall strive to ensure that the objectives and requirements of the present charter are met.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society believes that the acts of illegal exploitation of whales by the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Whale Sanctuary is in violation of the laws and regulations of the IWC, CITES, and the Antarctic Treaty and in violation of and contempt of an Australian Federal Court ruling defines the Japanese whaling vessels as poachers.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society regards the vessels of the Japanese whaling fleet as outlaw ships being operated for the purpose of committing criminal activities.
Therefore the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society regards the boarding of, damage to and interference of the operations of such ships as being appropriate tactics for opposing said criminal operations.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society however does not see any justification for inflicting any physical injuries against Japanese whalers in accordance with Sea Shepherd internal policies prohibiting the causing of harm to any sentient being.
What is clear is that the Japanese whalers are engaged in criminal operations and that the U.N. World Charter for Nature allows for Sea Shepherd crewmembers to intervene against these illegal activities.
The Australian Federal Court has issued a court order specifically ordering that the Japanese whalers be "restrained" from continuing to kill whales. The Australian crewmembers onboard intend to uphold that court order.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is not pursuing the Japanese whaling fleet to protest whaling nor to document and witness whaling operations. Sea Shepherd crewmembers are pursuing the Japanese whaling fleet for the purpose of intervention against crimes against Australian law and against international law.
If Australia or any other nation opposes Sea Shepherd actions then they should demonstrate how and why enforcement of the laws by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society cannot be tolerated in the same waters where clear violations of the law are being exercised by the Japanese whaling fleet.
If killing whales by Japan is a violation of Australian law then interference with the killing of whales by Japan by Australian citizens must be viewed as actions endorsed or at least legally tolerated by Australian law.
If nothing else such intervention will result in legal procedures that will test Sea Shepherd's interpretation of the U.N. World Charter for Nature as an instrument to intervene to uphold the laws.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is a law abiding organization that is quite willing to accept all legal and moral responsibility for actions taken to protect endangered species being killed in violation of international and Australian law.
Furthermore, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society only acts when there is refusal to uphold existing laws by nations due to obstructions caused by trade and political considerations. When the nations that sign laws do not take action to enforce these laws, Sea Shepherd believes that we can operate under "colour of right" to act when conflicts of interest prevent the enforcement of the law by nation states.
An Australian Federal Court has issued a Ruling specifically prohibiting the killing and injuring of whales in the Australian Antarctic Territorial waters. Australia has neglected to enforce this court ruling. The Australian citizens onboard the Steve Irwin intend to enforce the court ruling in the name of the people of Australia and in the absence of judicial responsibility of the Australian government.
The international crew on board the Steve Irwin intend to enforce the regulations of CITES and the IWC in the absence of the signatory nations of the IWC and CITES to uphold their obligation to enforce the conventions protecting endangered species.
For this reason, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is issuing its own warrant to intervene and restrain the illegal activities of the Japanese whaling fleet. The warrant cites the U.N. World Charter for Nature as the authorizing body in accordance with the definition of implementation that allows non-governmental organizations and individuals to "implement the applicable international legal provisions for the conservation of nature, and the protection of the environment."
On February 21, 2008, Captain Paul Watson wrote up the following order:
In accordance with the provisions defined in the United Nations World Charter for Nature, I hereby issue an order to uphold the rules and regulations of the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) and the regulations of the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
The order also calls for action to restrain Japanese whaling activities in accordance with the January 15, 2008 ruling of the Australian Federal Court.
This warrant hereby authorizes the crew of the Steve Irwin to board if required, to disable equipment if necessary, to destroy harpoons if possible and to intercept, blockade and harass all illegal whaling and poaching activities in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
The warrant is signed by Captain Paul Watson - Master of the vessel Steve Irwin.
Click here to read the full text of the Federal Court of Australia Decisions regarding Humane Society International Inc v. Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha