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Captain Paul Watson Interview

October 9, 2010

Captain Paul Watson

9 October 2010


Paul Watson is the founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Co-Founding Director Greenpeace Foundation

Paul majored in communications and linguistics atSimonFraserUniversity inBritish Columbia. He has lectured extensively at universities around the world, and was a professor of Ecology at Pasadena College of Design from 1990 through to 1994. Paul was also an instructor in UCLA’s Honors Program for 1998 and 1999.

Currently, Paul is a registered speaker with the Jodi Solomon Speakers Bureau of Boston, and regularly gives presentations at colleges and universities in theUnited States, and at special events throughout the world. Over the years, Paul has exhibited a remarkable diversity in his activism. Aside from being a co-founder of Greenpeace in 1972, Greenpeace International in 1979, and founder of Sea Shepherd in 1977; Paul was a Field Correspondent for Defenders of Wildlife between 1976 and 1980. He was a field representative for the Fund for Animals between 1978 and 1981, and a representative for the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals in 1979. He co-founded Earthforce Environmental Society in 1977 and Friends of the Wolf in 1984.

Paul’s primary interest is in defending and protecting marine life in our oceans. It is his deepest passion and it is a fight that he has been involved in all his life, a fight that he shall never retire from and will continue until the day he dies.

Paul is Captain and Educator, Author and Lecturer, Fund-raiser and Film-maker, Executive Director and Marine Conservationist.



ARZone:  How did you become interested in animal protection? Was there a defining moment for you?


Paul Watson:  I was raised in an Eastern Canadian fishing village and I used to swim with the beavers in the beaver ponds. Then the next year when I returned all the beavers were gone. I was told trappers had taken them and I became quite angry and that winter I began to walk the trap lines and free live animals from leghold traps and I would then destroy the traps.

When I was 18 I was the youngest founding member of Greenpeace. That was inVancouver.


You’ve said more than once that Sea Shepherd isn’t an animal rights group and that you personally are vegetarian for reasons other than ones based on ethical animal rights. Understanding that the mission of SSCS is one of conservation, have you considered the ethical arguments for veganism and animal rights and rejected them, or do you accept them and just not focus on them for reasons having to due with public support, coalition building, expediency or something else?

Wit violates the 3rd law of ecology that there is a limit to carrying capacity – the law of finite. To raise one salmon on a salmon farm requires catching 70 fish from the sea resources. Chickens eat more fish than puffins and albatross. The Danes catch the sand eels that the puffins eat in the North Sea to feed to factory farmed chickens inDenmark. To raise one salmon on a salmon farm requires catching 70 fish from the sea.

We are literally eating the oceans alive and if the oceans die, we all die.

There has been research which indicates the possibility of whales beaching themselves being caused by starvation. If this is correct, the whales are starving because humans are eating their food, obviously. I’d like to ask what, that you’re aware of, is being done to draw attention to this issue and more specifically if Sea Shepherd have any educational initiatives put in place to make people aware of this.

Everything in the oceans is being diminished.

Now they want to “harvest” krill and without any studies about the impact that will have on the foundation for food for all marine species. All marine mammals are endangered. I would say most fish are endangered. Oil spills are horrific of course but an even greater killer is plastic pollution, killing turtles, fish and birds. The oceans are dying and that is a reality.

We need to view the Earth as a Spaceship. That is in effect what it is. The biosphere is the life support system for this ship. There are two types of species onboard. Crew and passengers. The crew run the ship and maintain the life support system. The passengers just have a good time. The crew are the bacteria, the insects, the worms, the fish etc., and us passengers will be unable to support ourselves. We will die.


You have worked extensively to preserve marine life, yet the current situation for the world’s oceans and the lives contained therein is getting more precarious every day. There does not appear to be any end to deepwater drilling and the dangers inherent in that practice. There does not appear to be any end to fishing, capturing, or otherwise using marine animals for human purposes. How does that knowledge impact your activism and how do you keep going in the face of such disastrous evidence?

What we have is a thing I call the economics of extinction.

The economy coming before Mitsubishi is investing in the extinction of the Bluefin tuna. They have built giant refrigerated warehouses, and the bluefin are being packed into these warehouses. The more fish in the warehouse, the less in the sea. The less in the sea the greater the value of the fish in the warehouse. Mitsubishi already has a five year stockpile. They would like a 10 to 15 year stockpile. If the Bluefin goes extinct the only source of Bluefin will be frozen in warehouses, and they will be able to set their own price. The bluefin is the most expensive fish in the world. One fish sells on average for $75,000. How do we help stop this?

I am vegan but I think it is vital for others to stop eating the oceans as well. The oceans are being looted by corporations. The corporations have no interest in fishing in the future. It is short term investment for short term gain. When the “resource” is used up, they simply move on to something else to exploit. Many Chefs are taking action by not serving Bluefin or Swordfish for example. Sea Shepherd believes that no one should be eating fish. We need to give these creatures a rest from our remorseless exploitation.

Obama has been a very big disappointment, the first President since Reagan to sell out the whales. Democrats seem to get away with this stuff. People would have been screaming if the Republicans had done what Obama did.


As a follow-up to an earlier question, a lot of “animal people” continually insist on classing SSCS as an animal rights organisation, despite the word “conservation” being quite clear in the name. I believe that the direct action of Sea Shepherd is attractive to many people and they therefore like to claim SS as part of their own ideology.

Would you like to clear this issue up for us, as I believe in classing SS as an animal rights organisation, unrealistic expectations are placed on SS.

We are a marine wildlife and habitat conservation organization. We believe that veganism is an answer to many ecological problems. The meat industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than the auto industry. That’s why I said that a vegan driving a hummer contributes less to greenhouse gas emissions than a meat eater riding a bicycle, but Sea Shepherd promotes veganism as an answer to mitigating our damage to the environment.

Thank you for clearing that up, Paul.

There has been some controversy raised by footage filmed for the whale wars series that some critics would say has been staged to gain sympathy and dramatic headlines for the SSCS. For example the bullet that you claim to be shot by does not resemble a bullet to many ballistic experts and no gunmen are seen onboard the Japanese whaling ship. There are also allegations that the Ady Gil was ordered to let sink rather than be pulled to rescue because it would generate more publicity than a damaged ship. What do you say to the critics who say “Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd with their controversial tactics are not above blatant lying in order to draw emotional publicity to their cause?”

They need to demonstrate some evidence to back up their unsubstantiated accusations. The bullet and the vest were presented by me to the Australian Federal Police for a forensic examination. The police refused to look at the evidence citing that it was not their jurisdiction. I did have the bullet examined by a U.S. Federal agent and he said it was a shotgun slug. It was near spent when it hit me. So the truth is, I can’t prove I was shot and no-one can prove that I was not. That’s the trouble with international waters. No jurisdiction.

The science on this is the opposite. The impact of a bullet is never greater than the recoil of the shooter. The doctor examined me and made a report of the bruising. I think it will be a conspiracy theory for years to come! Myth busters could look at it maybe? I would cooperate with them if they did.

Now, the scuttling. All the evidence is on our website. I did not order Pete Bethune to scuttle the Ady Gil after it was rammed. I could not have done so because it was his ship and he is on camera making the decision. It was the right decision to make; the Ady Gil could not be saved.

Why do the Japanese whaling fleet only hunt whales in Antarctica and never in their own waters or that of another country?

They do hunt illegally in the North Pacific also; they kill some 22,000 dolphins in their own waters every year. About 2,000 in Taiji and about 20,000 Dall’s porpoise in the Northern waters ofJapan.

How do you see spirituality connected with environmental activism – example – first Greenpeace activists were initiated to Native Indian tribe after their action. Do you feel the influences of spirituality consciousness in your activism?

I am not spiritually connected. I live my life in accordance to the three laws of ecology.

  1. The law of diversity. That the strength of an eco-system is dependent upon diversity of species within it.
  2. The law of interdependence that all species are interdependent with each other, and
  3. The law of finite resources that there is a limit to growth and a limit to carrying capacity no species can survive that lives outside these laws. My religion I suppose is ecology. I am a deep ecologist or a biocentrist.


What do you think of the Australian government stating that they would take a stand againstJapanin the Rudd election, and now only taking thru the courts now, plus have you heard any news of the outcome?

I never expect much from governments. At leastAustraliais pro whale and not pro whaling but they have come under a great deal of economic pressure fromJapan.

Are they? I heard they were selling the whales out.

At least now we have a good chance with the Greens being the balance of power inAustralia.

Senator Bob Brown is passionate about whales and the forests, and if he could only become Prime Minister that would make a difference.

It may not be a dream. It could happen.


Could you please give your feelings on zoos and aquariums?

The aquarium trade is what is driving the Taiji dolphin slaughter. The model for the aquarium being an educational facility can be found inMonterey. Sea World is a circus and the animals die. The emergence of aquariums in Africa, Asia and South America and theMiddle Eastis fueling the demand for captures. That is why Ric O’Barry is presently inEgypt, trying to block the sale of dolphins to an aquarium there.


You used to live inBritish Columbia,Canada. Considering the phenomenal biodiversity we have on the west coast. I would like to know what kind of marine conservation work have you done here.

I am inVancouvertoday actually. And I live on the border inFridayHarbor. We have had campaigns in this region, a campaign to protect salmon from seiners and of course our intervention against plans by the Makah Indian tribe to slaughter whales. Primarily however, we concentrate on deep sea issues.

What is your take on the situation with all sharks, especially the great white, knowing how slowly they reproduce? How many years do we have left to stop this murderous abuse before they are beyond saving? Thank you!

Yes the shark trade is a very serious situation. We are working primarily in the Galapagos on this trying to enforce anti-poaching laws. If we can’t stop it there we won’t be able to stop it anywhere. This year we installed a 1 million Euro AIS system to track all vessels coming into Galapagos waters. We have a full working relationship with theGalapagosParkrangers and the Ecuadorian Federal police. To date we have confiscated some 200,000 shark fins.

On Whale Wars we see that you and the crew have lots of down time as you search for the Japanese. We’d love to know more about all the jobs/responsibilities of the crew and some background on each.

There will be 77 crew on 3 ships. In three departments – Deck – engine – galley. Everyone has their job and watches are organized so the ships run 24 hours a day. All I can say is we will have a great crew come December – a passionate crew. A couple of celebrities but mainly just hard core committed and dedicated people.


I am planning on writing a term paper about what happens in the southern oceans, how could i go around and get information from the No. 1 source, SSCS? And I would like to volunteer for SSCS

Please contact our office

Can you tell us about Sea Shepherd’s next campaign

Our next campaign is Operation No Compromise The objective is to cut the Japanese kill quotas as much as we possibly can. We learn more each year, we get more experience and we get better resources. This is why we become more effective each year.


How do you feel about Pete Bethune?


Pete Bethune gave false testimony to the Japanese to implicate me for conspiracy that is why he was asked to disassociate himself from Sea Shepherd.


Have you resolved your differences with Pete?


Yes I fired him.


I saw that he resigned


He resigned the day after I fired him.


Any hints as to type/size of the third ship you mentioned in your commentary?

We will reveal the third ship in a few weeks time.

Do you think after so many campaigns the Japanese will yet again become even more aggressive and possibly display more deadly tactics? If so, have you any new ideas to rule out any possible threats to the vessel or crew members.

They become more aggressive every year. The fact that they destroyed the Ady Gil and got away with it gives them the green light to escalate their violence.

We are taking measures to increase our security. Sea Shepherd is not breaking any laws in the Southern Ocean. We have not been charged with anything connected with our activities except when PB boarded the SM#2 and became subject to Japanese law. I think they would take Migaloo to spite the Australians.

What’s your speculation for the number of seals who will be killed inCanada’s 2011 slaughter since the European market has disintegrated? Might we discard the word TAKE when meaning kill?

We can’t give up until we get that number down to zero. When they kill they take but I get your point.

Take is an industry word.

But of course the real problem is that humans take and do not give back so I look on the word as meaning something even more negative than killing in some ways.

I don’t. We don’t say we TAKE children. Really the word serves industry; not whales.


Some species are givers, they give us life and others like our own are takers that take away life. No need to argue over words. Take however is a bad word in the area of deep ecology.


Thank you, Paul.


Good bye, it has been a pleasure.



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