Sea Shepherd inspecting net pens in the Mediterranean during Operation Blue Rage. (Photo: Barbara Veiga)
Sea Shepherd wins court ruling against Fish & Fish
Friday, June 29, 2012, 03:00 (GMT + 9)
Maltese tuna ranchers Fish & Fish have been ordered to pay EUR 250,000-worth of Sea Shepherd’s legal fees after a UK court dismissed their lawsuit.
Justice Hamblin of the Admiralty Court announced his decision this week in London, saying the UK court was not the proper place to file the suit against the green group and ordered the case against the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Sea Shepherd UK and Captain Paul Watson dismissed.
Fish & Fish have requested an appeal but the judge refused it. The firm could still appeal to a higher court.
Pending a possible appeal, Sea Shepherd will have the EUR 1 million bond returned, but Fish & Fish were ordered to pay a percentage of Sea Shepherd's legal fees, which could reach over EUR 250,000, Malta Today reports.
The firm claimed it had incurred EUR 1 million in damages to its bluefin tuna ranching gear by Sea Shepherd when the organisation's vessel Steve Irwin rammed their tuna pen in the Mediterranean Sea.
Just as the Steve Irwin was about to depart the Shetland Islands to embark on Operation Ferocious Isles targeting the slaughter of pilot whales in the Faroe Islands last year, two court officials served it with a detainment notice. Fish & Fish filed a civil suit in the British High Court claiming that the NGO had damaged its property.
|Underwater bluefin tuna net pens. (Photo: Simon Ager/Sea Shepherd)
The ship was detained on a EUR 1 million bond. But in only 10 days, Sea Shepherd raised that amount via an internet donation campaign and got the Steve Irwin back.
In 2010, Sea Shepherd, as part of their Operation Blue Rage campaign, freed 800 bluefin tuna ranched by Fish & Fish, which the group believes had been illegally caught. The Rural Affairs Ministry had defended the company, insisting that all the paperwork was in order.
Fish and Fish had estimated that the cost of losing 600 fish, weighing some 35 tonnes, plus the damage caused and the lawsuit, would reach EUR 1 million.
"What we did in 2010 we have no apologies for," Sea Shepherd's founder, Captain Paul Watson, said.
"We freed 800 large endangered bluefin tuna illegally caught by poachers off the coast of Libya. We cut the nets and when the Maltese company that claimed ownership of these liberated fish sued us, we stood our ground in court and we won, the tuna won, and the poachers lost,” he continued.
Watson said he is confident that if an appeal is granted, the appeal court will uphold this ruling.
“Bottom line and most importantly, the fish were freed and the company failed to recover their requested losses for their illegal catch," he added.
- Sea Shepherd vessel blocked by Maltese tuna fishing firm
By Natalia Real