The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s flagship vessel Steve Irwin is still berthed at Holmsgarth Pier in Lerwick as the protest group’s lawyers deal with a court order served in relation to its campaigning activities in the Mediterranean.Founder of the organisation Paul Watson said the civil suit was a “minor inconvenience”, but because it had only been served at 4.30pm on Friday it had been too late for the group’s legal team to respond, causing the Steve Irwin and its 30 or so crew members to be stuck here over the weekend.
Although the Steve Irwin has a writ attached to its mast, the society’s other vessel Brigitte Bardot was able to leave Lerwick at 8.30am on Sunday to head for Faroese waters, where the activists are campaigning against the annual slaughter of pilot whales, known as the “Grind”. She had to return to Collafirth briefly after encountering strong winds, but is now back on track.
Mr Watson said the legal action had come from a large Maltese bluefin tuna company, Fish & Fish, which his group had confronted in the Mediterranean last year. The activists had damaged fishing gear, including nets, in order to prevent what Mr Watson described as the company’s “illegal fishing” of the endangered species.
The protesters’ London-based legal team are negotiating bail conditions and Mr Watson said that, while the legal action would delay the passage of the vessel to Faroe by a few days, it would neither deter nor prevent them from defending the whales.
He said he was “confident we’ll win the case” having obtained evidence that the tuna company was breaking the law. “In the meantime they’re trying to seize our assets,” he told The Shetland Times. “We’re used to this, it’s no big deal.”