Judge Rules Sea Shepherd Wrongfully Sank Crippled 'Whale Wars' Vessel
The unfortunate drama surrounding the collision and sinking of the Ady Gil has finally reached a conclusion. An arbitrator last week ruled that the Sea Shepherd acted “wrongful” in their decision to scuttle the ship and not allow for proper salvage efforts.
The trimaran, named for its benefactor and owner Ady Gil, a Hollywood TV businessman and animal activist, famously collided on January 7th, 2010 with a Japanese whaling vessel. The event, captured on film for Animal Planet’s “Whale Wars” reality series, drew international attention for both the conservation organization and its anti-whaling mission.
While the Ady Gil was disabled by the collision, it was by engineering standards apparently never in jeopardy of fully sinking. In rendering her decision, arbitrator Jean Kalicki said Sea Shepherd’s interests were not for the vessel, but likely for the television ratings and public favor to be gained in its demise.
“Respondents nonetheless concocted and implemented a secret plan to scuttle the vessel, for their own reasons and without consulting the vessel’s owner,” she writes in a portion of the ruling (not subject to the protective order) sent to us by Ady Gil. “This decision was not made for the primary reason of reducing navigational hazards….but for purposes of continuing their mission and more fundamentally maintaining the high drama that they believed the Whale Wars audience had come to expect, and on which SSCS’s own popularity (and potential future fundraising) in part depended.”
The arbitrator adds that the Sea Shepherd’s decision was ‘wrongful,” with the matter not nearly so dire that the organization had any right to take the situation into its own hands without first contacting Mr. Gil.
In characterizing testimony for the suit, the arbitrator was particularly harsh on Paul Watson; finding the Sea Shepherd founder in some instances to “be highly evasive, internally contradictory, or at odds with his own prior written statements, and in certain areas simply lacking the basic indicia of genuineness that instinctively inspires confidence and trust.”
As for Gil, she stated his “testimony appeared genuine in intent if somewhat fuzzy in detail, and perhaps colored in hindsight by strong emotions of betrayal on the part of those in whom he had placed a perhaps naïve degree of trust.”
In siding will Mr. Gil, the arbitrator awarded him compensatory damages of $500,000 plus interest from January 8th, 2010 forward.
Over email, Mr. Gil stated that he’s satisfied with the decision and that he “cared more about the truth which came out, than the money.” He added that the compensatory damages received will go back to his foundation, AGWC, to help animals.
Sea Shepherd released a statement to Ecorazzi stating that while they were pleased further damages sought by Mr. Gil were not awarded, they were nonetheless disappointed that any financial obligation regarding the Ady Gil was necessary.
“As Sea Shepherd has always maintained, responsibility for the loss of the Ady Gil lies with the Captain of the Japanese vessel Shonan Maru #2, who destroyed the ship without consequence,” the organization said. “Sea Shepherd has been pursuing the Japanese whalers in court to compensate for its loss of the use of the vessel and will continue to do so.”
They added: “Sea Shepherd went to the Southern Ocean prepared to risk our lives and our ships; achievement was spectacular in terms of the thousands of whales saved. While we regret the loss of the Ady Gil, we do not regret the fact that our actions not only saved whales but also contributed to the International Court of Justice verdict that declared Japanese whaling operations in the Southern Ocean illegal.”