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Sea Shepherd conservation organization convicted of piracy by appeals court

A Washington-based animal conservation group has been convicted of piracy in its efforts to protect whales. On Wednesday, Feb. 27, The Seattle Times reported that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared the members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) to be pirates.

Sea Shepherd conservation organization convicted of piracy by appeals court
Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images for MAT
Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd
Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images for MAT

The SSCS, which stars in the Emmy-nominated Animal Planet Show "Whale Wars," has been ordered to cease its actions against Japanese whalers. The non-profit marine conservation organization is based in Friday Harbor, San Juan Island in Wash. and was founded in 1977 by Paul Watson. The SSCS uses various tactics to disrupt the actions of Japanese whalers and animal advocates in Seattle and beyond have applauded their efforts.

But the Japanese whalers see their actions differently - and now, so does the court of appeals.

On Feb. 25, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the SSCS crew were modern-day pirates. The ruling overturned a Seattle trial judge’s decision, where he threw out a lawsuit filed by Japanese whalers who sought a court-ordered halt to their tactics.

"You don't need a peg leg or an eye patch," wrote Chief Judge Alex 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."

According to the court of appeals, the Sea Shepherd engaged in acts that were “clear instances of violent acts for private ends, the very embodiment of piracy" in its efforts to protect marine animals.

In Dec., the 9th circuit ruled that the SSCS had to stay at least 457 meters from Japanese whalers.

According to Brian Eley, Animal Planet's Senior Director for Communications, "Whale Wars" has extended its contract for a sixth season.

The Sea Shepherd has embarked on over 200 voyages to defend marine animals and currently has multiple campaigns for animals including dolphins, seals, sharks, and whales.

To learn more about the Sea Shepherd, visit their website here.

Updates to this story will be posted as they occur.

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