Sea Shepherd Resolves Contempt Dispute with Whalers

By MarEx 2015-06-08 21:43:41

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a U.S.-based non-profit marine conservation organization, has resolved its long-running legal dispute with Japan’s Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR) over whether Sea Shepherd and its affiliated parties were in contempt of a 2012 injunction entered by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Sea Shepherd will pay ICR $2.55 million under the terms of a settlement reached on Monday. In exchange, ICR will dismiss its action for more than $4.1 million in damages related to contempt, and drop all claims against the former Sea Shepherd board of directors. Funding for the settlement will come from money from other legal actions and settlements, and will not include donor funds.

“Sea Shepherd does not agree with the Ninth Circuit’s holding that it was in contempt, but after more than two years of litigation, we are very pleased to be putting the contempt action behind us,” said Claire Loebs Davis, Sea Shepherd legal counsel and partner at Lane Powell. “By its very nature, the contempt action was a one-sided inquiry. We look forward to focusing on the continuing litigation in the district court, which provides Sea Shepherd with the opportunity to expose ICR’s dangerous and illegal activities in the Southern Ocean – including the violent actions taken against those who have tried to stop it from killing whales in violation of international law.”

ICR first filed suit against Sea Shepherd and founder Paul Watson in 2011 in federal district court in Seattle. In March 2012, District Court Judge Richard Jones denied ICR’s motion for a preliminary injunction, but in December 2012, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and entered its own temporary injunction, prohibiting Sea Shepherd, Watson, and any party acting in concert with them from approaching ICR’s vessels closer than 500 yards in the Southern Ocean.

This injunction came on the eve of Operation Zero Tolerance, a campaign planned to intervene against ICR’s whaling in the Southern Ocean during the 2012-2013 season. In response, Sea Shepherd withdrew from Operation Zero Tolerance and all future Southern Ocean whale-protection campaigns, but the campaigns continued under the leadership of independent foreign groups.

ICR filed a motion for contempt in early 2013, and after an eight-day trial, an Appellate Commissioner recommended that neither Sea Shepherd nor any of its affiliates be found in contempt. In December 2014, the Ninth Circuit disregarded this recommendation and found Sea Shepherd, Watson, and the former members of the Sea Shepherd Board of Directors in contempt of the injunction based on the actions of the independent foreign groups. The Ninth Circuit also ordered the payment of damages resulting from this contempt, including any money that ICR had “wasted” as a result of Operation Zero Tolerance.

“Although we believe we abided by the injunction, and the Appellate Commissioner agreed, we must accept that the Ninth Circuit found Sea Shepherd and its former board of directors to be in contempt, and it is time to put this dispute behind us,” said Ethan Wolf, current president of the Sea Shepherd board. “This court action has been a necessary part of the larger battle to save the oceans, but resolving it enables Sea Shepherd to renew our focus on our other campaigns to protect marine life around the world.”

Wolf noted that Sea Shepherd was also very pleased to be able to resolve all of the claims against its former volunteer board. “Sea Shepherd thanks its former directors for the service that they provided to the organization. It’s unfortunate that ICR pulled them into this dispute, but we are happy that all claims against them will be dismissed,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sea Shepherd’s legal efforts will continue to support its mission by pursuing claims against ICR in district court, where ICR is still seeking a permanent injunction against Sea Shepherd.

In a case set for trial in the fall of 2016, Sea Shepherd is seeking a declaration that ICR’s whaling in the Southern Ocean is illegal under international law, as well as an injunction preventing ICR from using violent and dangerous tactics to protect its illegal activities. Sea Shepherd is also asking the district court to award damages for ICR’s deliberate ramming of the Sea Shepherd vessel ADY GIL in 2009.

“It is crucial that Sea Shepherd be able to support its direct-action campaigns on the seas with forceful action in the courts, against those who plunder the world’s oceans in violation of international law,” said Sea Shepherd founder and board advisor Captain Paul Watson.

“We never expected our efforts to stop illegal whaling in the Southern Ocean to be easy. After all, we have been challenging one of the world’s economic super powers for over a decade,” Watson said. “We weathered the violence directed at us by the whalers, we weathered the storms, the ice, the politics and the legal assaults directed at us, and in the end we prevailed where it was most important, in the fact that thousands of whales that would otherwise be dead, are alive and free in the Southern Ocean, and Japanese whaling has been internationally exposed as an illegal operation by both the International Court of Justice and the International Whaling Commission.”


Footage Shows Damaged Chinese Cruise Ship

By Wendy Laursen 2015-06-08 21:28:21

Search crews have recovered 434 bodies from the cruise ship which capsized during a storm in the Yangtze River last week. Eight people remain missing.

The Eastern Star was righted and raised on Friday, allowing rescuers in to clear away debris, break down cabin doors and look for bodies. Footage released by The Guardian shows rescue teams using circular saws to cut through muddy mangled metal in the hull as passengers’ personal belongings lie strewn around.

The rescue and recovery operation has involved nearly 150 other ships, 59 machines, 3,400 Chinese troops and 1,700 paramilitary personnel, reports news agency Xinhua.

Officials have expanded the search area to include more than 600 miles downstream and warned ships to look out for floating bodies, reports CNN.

The majority of the 405 passengers on the vessel were between 50 and 80 years old, but the youngest was three. There were also 46 crew members and five travel agency workers on board. All those on board were reported to be Chinese, says CNN.

The China Meteorological Center said a tornado less than one kilometer in diameter and lasting 15 to 20 minutes occurred.

The suddenness of the storm might explain why the no emergency call was sent, and why there were so few survivors despite enough lifejackets being available for those on board.

Some have questioned why the vessel was sailing given that there were multiple weather warnings issued by regional authorities in Hubei and Jingzhou. At this stage, it is not clear if the captain received the warnings.

The company which operated the ship has apologized for the disaster and said it would fully cooperate with the investigation. Beijing has pledged there would be no cover-up.

Police have detained the captain and chief engineer for questioning as part of the investigation. An initial probe found the ship was not overloaded and had enough life vests on board.

The captain Zhang Shunwen, and chief engineer Yang Zhongquan both report the vessel being caught in a freak storm, and BBC reports one passenger describing the ship as tilting at a “45-degree angle” before going down.

Zhang was quoted as saying by Xinhua that the ship overturned within one or two minutes.

He could be found culpable if he had abandoned the ship, said James Hu, professor at the Shanghai Maritime University and an expert in maritime law, although there is no evidence he did.

“China has one rule that it’s particularly strict on – the captain must be the last one to leave the ship,” Hu said. “If the leader of the ship is not the last to leave the ship, it is a jailable offence.”


Santa Barbara Anti-Drilling Bill Passes Senate

By MarEx 2015-06-08 21:06:17

Two weeks after a ruptured pipeline led to a devastating oil spill along the Santa Barbara County coastline, a bill jointly authored by Senator Mike McGuire (D- Healdsburg) and Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) to ban new offshore oil drilling in a nearby Marine Protected Area in the Santa Barbara Channel known as Tranquillon Ridge passed off the Senate floor. The vote was 21-13.

In 1994, the California Legislature banned any new offshore oil and gas leases when it passed the California Coastal Sanctuary Act. But a loophole in state law left Tranquillon Ridge, which extends into state and federal waters, with reserves that are currently being tapped in federal waters from Platform Irene, uniquely vulnerable to offshore drilling.

SB 788, the Coastal Protection Act, closes the loophole by repealing Public Resources Code 6244, effectively banning any new drilling in these state waters.

In 2007, Tranquillon Ridge was designated as a Marine Protected Area because of its sensitive marine ecosystem.

“The Refugio Oil Spill has been a dramatic wake-up call, reminding us just how destructive and dirty oil can be, “ said Jackson. “Tranquillon Ridge is one of the most important bio-regions on the planet. It is a place of extraordinary and wonderous diversity. If there’s ever a place and time where were should commit to no new offshore drilling, it should be here, in this extraordinary place known as Tranquillon Ridge, and it should be now, when the consequences of oil – oil-covered birds and an oil-drenched coastline – are so fresh in our minds.”

“California’s coast is truly a worldwide wonder. Its natural beauty attracts 150 million visitors annually from all across the planet. It is a core part of this great state’s identity and our coastal economy is a main driver of our statewide economic engine. In the wake of last month’s devastating oil spill, we cannot afford to wait any longer to permanently ban new oil drilling off our coast,” said McGuire.

“In 1969, 35 miles of Santa Barbara County’s pristine coast was devastated by an oil slick resulting from offshore oil extraction. Yet again, the residents of my district are faced with a devastating oil spill. It’s clear that, despite assurances from the oil industry, we will continue to face tremendous environmental threat as long as we authorize offshore drilling. This bill closes an obvious loophole in the law and brings us one step closer to avoiding catastrophic events like these in the first place,” said Assembly member Das Williams, D-Carpinteria, a co-author of the bill.

Over the years, oil companies have made numerous attempts to tap into Tranquillon Ridge’s offshore reserves from state waters. Since 2003, an oil development proposal has been pursued to drill into Tranquillon Ridge reserves from an onshore location at Vandenberg Air Force base.

Slant drilling from onshore into offshore waters raises significant concerns about possible oil spills, impacts on marine life, air and water pollution, and contributions to global climate change.

SB 788 now heads to the Assembly.

Last year, Jackson authored an identical bill, SB 1096. It stalled on the Assembly floor last year after facing significant opposition from the oil industry.


Google Builds Underwater Street View

By Wendy Laursen 2015-06-08 20:36:03

The oceans are one of the most uncharted ecosystems on the planet, but Google is working to change this.

Google, in partnership with XL Catlin Seaview Survey, NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the Chagos Conservation Trust, has released new underwater Street View imagery of more than 40 locations around the world including the American Samoa and Chagos Islands and underwater dives in Bali, the Bahamas and the Great Barrier Reef.

ScienceAlert notes some highlights including views of a humpback whale, a great white shark and a sunfish.

“Mapping the ocean is key to preserving it,” says Jenifer Austin and Brian Sullivan of the Google Ocean Program. “Each image in Google Maps is a GPS-located digital record of these underwater and coastal environments, which can be used as a baseline to monitor change over time.”

Underwater Library

Project partner XL Catlin Seaview Survey started work on a visual underwater library back in 2012. The world’s reefs are in a dramatic state of decline with over 40 percent of corals over the last 30 years due to pollution, destructive fishing and climate change, says the group. According to the scientific community the decline is set to continue and will affect 500 million people globally who rely on coral reefs for food, tourism income and coastal protection.

In response the Survey is creating a baseline record of the world’s coral reefs in high-resolution 360-degree panoramic vision. The initiative aims to enable change to be clearly monitored over time to help scientists, policy makers and the public to see and understand the issues.


In addition to underwater and coastal Street View imagery, Global Fishing Watch, developed in partnership with nonprofits SkyTruth and Oceana, is producing the first public and interactive view of industrial fishing at a global scale. Global Fishing Watch aims to empower governments, industry, scientists and the public to be better informed about sustainable practices and management policies.

Knowledge Store

Google is also creating the largest store of knowledge in human history. To date the Knowledge Vault contains over 1.6 billion facts, reports New Scientist. This information will be used by search engines, smartphones and robotic intelligence. Google is racing Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon and IBM who are all attempting to build the same kind of database.


Lewek Constellation Sets Industry Record

By MarEx 2015-06-08 19:41:08

Singapore-based EMAS has announced that its flagship subsea construction vessel Lewek Constellation has established an industry record for pipelay in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

The Lewek Constellation has set an industry pipelay record in the GoM in 7,368 feet (2,246 meters) of water during its sea trials. In preparation for the execution of three subsea tie-back projects for Noble Energy, it performed its final pipelay trial, and during the deployment of the 3.2 kilometer, 16-inch diameter, 28mm wall thickness pipeline, complete with the second end pipeline end termination (PLET), the tension recorded was 632mt, rendering this the highest tension ever experienced in the history of rigid reeled-lay operations.

“Successfully laying the test pipe at this record-breaking top tension during pipelay trials is a significant achievement for EMAS and an industry first,” said Lionel Lee, Chairman, EMAS AMC. “It’s a testament to the experience and expertise of our people combined with the quality of our new vessel built by EMAS Group’s subsidiary Triyards in Vietnam. I want to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of our integrated project teams in preparation for this important milestone.

“What this record means for clients going forward is that we can offer a more efficient pipelay solution in ultra-deep water for pipelines up to 16 inch in diameter when compared to traditional S-Lay or J-Lay methods, even with thick insulation coatings, thereby giving our clients more options to consider,” said John Meenaghan, Vice President Global Operations.

The Lewek Constellation is an ice-classed, multi-lay offshore construction vessel with ultra-deep water pipe laying and heavy lift capabilities. It was initially conceptualized in 2009 and its hull was successfully launched in 2012. It measures 178.27m by 46.0m, features all single berth cabins and is designed to deliver complex projects in water depths exceeding 3,000m.

Additionally, the Lewek Constellation is only one of two vessels in the world in its class achieving the highest environmental and comfort notations, with an ice-classed hull capable of transiting through 0.8m of ice and a technologically advanced DP3 system. It also comes equipped with an 800mT Huisman multi-lay system that is able to support both rigid and non-rigid pipelines, a 3,000mT Huisman offshore heavy lift crane, two Schilling workclass remotely operated vehicles and a unique portable reel system which significantly reduces mobilization time.