The prominent anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has agreed to refrain from hindering Japanese whaling activities under a US court-mediated settlement, a Japanese government-backed organization said Tuesday.
Under the settlement, the US-based group is "permanently enjoined from physically attacking" Japanese whaling vessels and crew members, the Institute of Cetacean Research said in a statement.
The group's members are also prohibited "from navigating in a manner that is likely to endanger [the whaling vessels'] safe navigation," the Tokyo-based institute said.
The settlement concluded a case brought before a US court in 2011 by the Japanese research institute, which sought an injunction against the anti-whaling group's attempts to hinder Japan's whaling programme.
However, Jeff Hansen, managing director of Sea Shepherd Australia, said the decision does not affect their "mission to protect the whales of the Southern Ocean."
"Sea Shepherd Australia remains committed to upholding the Australian Federal Court ruling banning the slaughter of whales in the Australian Whale Sanctuary," Hansen said in a statement.
"We are not concerned about the US court settlement as it does not have any effect on Australian law," he added.
The Sea Shepherd group is controversial due to its aggressive attempts at obstructing Japanese whaling.
In the past the group has rammed and attempted to board whaling ships, shone lasers into whalers' eyes and thrown bottles of foul-smelling liquid onto the ships.
Japan officially halted commercial whaling in 1987 in response to an international moratorium declared one year previously.
However, the country has used a loophole to continue whaling under the premise of scientific research, despite international criticism.
Japanese whalers captured 333 minke whales in the Antarctic in the most recent season which ended in March, but did not face any obstructive activities from the anti-whaling group.
The hunt was the first since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in 2014 that Japan's "research whaling" programme in the Southern Ocean contravened the moratorium.
Although most Japanese do not eat whale meat, critics say vested interests and former bureaucrats within the research group have kept the operation running.