SAN FRANCISCO – Their supporters call them heroes. The Japanese government calls them terrorists.
Late Monday, the United States’ largest federal court labeled them pirates.
In doing so, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals castigated Paul Watson and members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society he founded for the tactics used in their relentless campaign to disrupt the annual whale hunt off the dangerous waters of Antarctica.
You don’t need a peg leg or an eye patch, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel. 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.
The same court in December ordered the organization to keep its ships at least 500 yards from Japanese whalers. The whalers have since accused the protesters of violating that order at least twice this month.
The ruling overturned a Seattle trial judge’s decision siding with the protesters and tossing out a lawsuit filed by a group of Japanese whalers seeking a court-ordered halt to the aggressive tactics, many of which were broadcast on the Animal Planet reality television show Whale Wars.