Sunday, November 18, 2007

Paul Watson & the Sea Shepherds

Was studying for my geography module and googled for some whaling information when I came across the Sea Shepherd's website. Dingli had previously told me about this conservation group and their extremist methods but I had not paid much attention then. Anyway, the whole history about this organization and their founder, Paul Watson is so riveting that I thought I should just write a post on it. Thought of making more posts featuring other interesting events as this will cover my lapse in posting when I'm out mugging or other stuff and have no time to go out for nature trips.

Paul Watson was one of the founders of Greenpeace, but was later expelled / resigned (controversial) due to an incident when he angrily confronted some sealers and threw their clubs and skinned fur into the sea (yes, the sealers clubbed the seals to death for their skin), with Greenpeace maintainence of it being a pacifist organization. He later formed the Sea Shepherd, named after his first ship and subsequently, the Neptune's Navy was formed, self-claiming them as his law enforcing units. 7 ships in all, 4 has been sunk or sold to prevent whalers from converting it to their own use (will elaborate later) or repairs being too ex. How much does he finance for all his missions which operate at an annual budget of 2 million dollars?

Paul Watson. Source

P. Watson has an avid of fans with many celebrities including Mick Jagger, Pierce Brosnan, Sean Penn, Aidan Quinn, William Shatner, Edward Norton, Orlando Bloom, and Uma Thurman. Besides appealing to celebrities for donations, a few corporate sponsors also helped to finance for their supplies and trips since Sea Shepherd is a non-profitable NGO. He also raised money through public lectures and online donations from the organisation's website.

The hunter became the hunted. The Sierra
This incident brings to the start of P.Watson famous forceful tactics of ramming ships, ignoring international laws and taking matter to his own hands, which bought counteries especially Japan to denounced him as an ecoterrorist. The article itself is a good read and well summarised already, so I will just copy it from the original article from its website.

Sea Shepherd's first ship (Source)

"Between 1968 and 1979 a whale hunter-killer ship roamed the Atlantic Ocean. She changed name and ownership several times in a continuing attempt to evade the conservation and fishing regulations of dozens of nations. By 1979, the ship was operating under the name Sierra. Her crew included four employees of the Taiyo Fishing Company of Japan, of which an investigation of shipping manifests by the Observer newspaper showed was the primary purchaser of the outlaw whaler's catch. (The Japan Whaling Commission claimed ignorance of the ship's activities. To this day, Japan is the principal market for whale meat.) Her captain was Arvid Nordengen, a Norwegian.

The Sierra's operations were shockingly "efficient." Only the prime tail meat was taken, and the remaining 80% of the whale was thrown away. It was estimated that she had killed over 25,000 individual whales. Andrew Maurice Behr, director of the Sierra Fishing Company in South Africa, was quoted in the Argus, a Cape Town newspaper, as saying that whales were "endangered anyway. The world will soon be rid of them, so why not make a profit from them before they disappear?"

Having been sensitized to the slaughter of whales by a close encounter four years before, Paul Watson had vowed to himself that he would hunt down the Sierra and end her career. With a grant from the Fund for Animals Captain Watson purchased a 19-year old North Sea cod trawler and renamed her the Sea Shepherd. Additional funds for preparation and fuel came from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Using information from a variety of sources, over time Captain Watson narrowed down the Sierra's location to somewhere in the eastern Atlantic between Spain and Morocco and headed there in the Sea Shepherd. Twelve days out of Boston, on July 15, 1979, the Sierra was spotted. She turned and ran at full speed toward Portugal. Unfortunately, the seas were too rough for a controlled ramming, so the Sea Shepherd ran along side as both ships headed toward the Portuguese port of Leixoes.

The next day, slipping out of port before the authorities noticed, the Sea Shepherd surprised the Sierra drifting just outside. By radio, Captain Watson warned Captain Nordengen of what he was going to do and accelerated to full speed. The reinforced bow of the 779-ton Sea Shepherd connected with the bow of the 650-ton Sierra and kept on going. Captain Watson circled around and hit the Sierra again on the port side, tearing open a 7- by 10-foot (2- by 3-meter) hole. The Sea Shepherd then slammed sideways into the smaller Sierra, staving in a long section of the Sierra's port-side hull. Listing badly, the Sierra ran for protection toward some Portuguese naval ships. The Sea Shepherd headed for Spanish waters, but a navy ship overtook the Sea Shepherd and convinced Captain Watson to return to Leixoes.

In early November, 1979, without a hearing or trial, a Portuguese judge awarded the Sea Shepherd as damages to the owners of the Sierra. (Some inquiries suggested that the judge had been bribed by a representative for Andrew Behr). Afraid that the Sea Shepherd would be converted to whaling operations, Captain Watson and his crew scuttled the Sea Shepherd on the evening of December 31, 1979, by opening the sea valve in the engine room, and even though it pained them very much, sent her to the bottom.

The Sierra had been towed to Lisbon for repairs, though the Portuguese authorities lied to the American consul and told him that the ship had left the country. Taking advantage of the Sierra's immobility, a team of underwater demolition experts made preparations to finish the career of the whaler. On February 6, 1980, after undergoing US$ one million in repairs, the Sierra was sunk at dockside by a single limpet mine that blew a small hole in the hull. The ship took on water and slowly sank until it struck the bottom. Nobody was injured. The sordid career of the Sierra was finally brought to an end.

Later that year more limpet mines sank half of the Spanish whaling fleet. A reward offered by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society for the sinking of whaling ships caused owners to mistrust their underpaid crews and shut down their own whaling operations. Sea Shepherd and her allies had achieved in one year what 10 years of rhetoric and national posturing had failed to do."


In an article which wrote about his biography (below), the author amusingly termed his adventures like the chronicles of Tintin. Which wasn't surprising with its colorful history. "In 1981, he secretly entered Siberia to document a Soviet food-processing facility that was converting illegally harvested whale meat into feed for animals at a fur farm and avoided both the soviet secret police and outmaneuvering the Soviet Navy around a pod of gray whales. In 1982, from a chartered airplane, Watson dropped paint-filled light bulbs on a Soviet trawler in the northern Pacific. He has used spoiled pie filling, fired from water cannons, as a weapon at sea. In 1983, he brought the Canadian seal hunt to a near-standstill by blockading the port of St. John’s, Newfoundland, and announcing that he would ram any sealing vessel that left the wharf; when the authorities threatened to board his ship, he replied that he would sink it at the mouth of the harbor, thereby creating an impassable reef."

Having been stripped of their flag, their ships have become sorta outlawed and no state will defend for it if it is attacked in the sea. They now flew a Jolly Roger flag, which symbolised a pirate ship.

Operation Migaloo
The most upcoming mission of sea shepherd is to stop the Japanese from hunting 50 endangered humpback whales in the Antartic. Migaloo is the name for the world's only white humpback and quite a celebrity in Austrialia, hence attracting concerns that it might be killed in the upcoming expedition by the Japanese. The Japanese has long used research as a reason for hunting which I thought, and I'm sure all others, besides the Japanese is just nonsense.

Other articles of this news:
Japan might kill world's only white whale.
We'd deploy military to stop Japan whaling.

If you have time, u may wana read the 13 page short article of Paul Watson's Biography.
Neptune’s Navy, Paul Watson’s wild crusade to save the oceans.

**I don't necessary agree with their methods but sorta admire their persistence ^^.


Monkey said...

hmm totally unrelated, what geog module are you taking? :D

Siyang said...

Unrelated to? Mm, did I say Geography? opx.. should be marine bio

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