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What’s in a name?

JAN. 17 — The flagship of an anti-whaling group is now officially considered a pirate ship.

The crew of Farley Mowat — a North Atlantic sea trawler owned by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society — was informed this winter that the boat’s registration in Belize, in Central America, had been cancelled, according to a press release on the society’s Web site . The Farley Mowat had set off from Hobart, Tasmania, and was headed for the Southern Ocean where it confronted Japanese ships hunting whales.

The cancellation was part of a plan by Japan to use its economic influence to dissuade nations from allowing the Farley Mowat to register under their flag, the organization says in the news release. “The oceans are crawling with poachers flying flags of convenience,” Sea Shepherd founder and president Capt. Paul Watson says in the release. “The Japanese and Norwegian registered whalers are illegally slaughtering whales in sanctuaries and killing endangered species, yet we are forced to have our flag struck for opposing these illegal activities.”

Under international law, non-flagged vessels can be boarded for inspection, and in case of any violation or piracy, has to be detained with its crew arrested, the news release says. Farley Mowat previously had registrations cancelled in Canada and England.

“If they want us to be pirates, [then] we will be damn pirates but we will not abandon the whales to the agony and misery of the harpoons without a fight,” Watson says in the release. “We are pirates of compassion in pursuit of pirates of profit.” Watson says he is happy to add his name to a list of honorable and noble” pirates like Sir Francis Drake, John Paul Jones and Jean LaFitte.

Jason Fell