Sea Shepherd accused of using aggressive 'pirate' tacticsUPDATED 11:02 AM HST May 19, 2014Video Transcript
The underwater beef between an aquarium fish collector and a member of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has become all-out war! Good evening, I'm Yunji de Nies. And I'm Paula Akana. Both sides are accusing the other of misleading the public about the dramatic showdown off the Big Island's Kona Coast. Sea Shepherd Conservation has already been deemed "pirates" by a federal judge because of its aggressive tactics on the open ocean. Now the group is being accused of taking those tactics underwater. Here's KITV4's Andrew Pereira with our top story tonight at 6. Ramming, destroying propellers and blocking vessels. Tactics like these led federal appeals judge Alex Kozinski to label the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society "pirates" "You don't need a peg leg or an eye patch," the judge wrote in February, 2013. "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." PAUL WATSON: "WE'VE BEEN ACQUITTED, THIS IS NO LONGER AN ISSUE." Or is it? Sea Shepherd is being accused of taking its open- ocean tactics below the surface off the Kona coast. MAKANI CHRISTENSEN: "YOU KNOW THAT'S JUST NOT RIGHT FOR ANOTHER ENTITY TO COME DOWN AND HARASS THESE INDIVIDUALS WHILE THEY'RE DIVING." Makani Christensen is friends with two brothers who were gathering aquarium fish in Keawa-iki Bay when they were approached and recorded by several Sea Shepherd divers. The encounter ended with one of the brothers seeming to rip the regulator out of the mouth of Rene Umberger. Sea Sheperd founder Capt. Paul Watson says in no way did his divers instigate the alleged attack. PAUL WATSON: "YEAH, WE CARRY A VERY DANGEROUS WEAPON, IT'S CALLED A CAMERA. AND WE WERE DOCUMENTING WHAT WAS HAPPENING THERE AND ONE OF THE DIVERS WAS ATTACKED UNPROVOKED." Christensen doesn't condone any violence beneath the waves, but notes the two brothers were gathering aquarium fish legally. YOU KNOW IT'S THEIR LIVELIHOOD AND IT'S A SUSTAINABLE CROP; IT'S A SUSTAINABLE FISHERY. IT SHOULD BE SOMETHING THAT... SOME LAW OR SOMETHING THAT PROTECTS US FISHERMEN TO DO WHAT WE'RE DOING." However it's Sea Shepherd that's demanding an arrest, calling THIS attempted murder. The organization says it won't back down from its mission in Hawaii. PAUL WATSON: "IT'S PART OF A GLOBAL MISSION TO INVESTIGATE THE HEALTH OF OUR REEFS, CORAL REEFS AND THE IMPACT THAT THE AQUARIUM TRADE CAPTURES OR IS HAVING ON THE HEALTH OF THOSE REEFS." DLNR is currently investigating last week's incident. The agency confirms the two divers who were gathering fish do have State Aquarium Permits. Divers who gather aquarium fish are considering reaching out to Sea Shepherd representatives for a face-to-face meeting. Paula?