The Courage and Com­pas­sion of Cap­tain Paul Wat­son

Trillions - - Content - By Tim Lon­car­ich

Our planet's oceans are an es­sen­tial part of life on Earth. More than half of the oxy­gen we breath comes from the oceans and it is likely that life first orig­i­nated in the pri­mor­dial seas.

The oceans are home to a vast ar­ray of dif­fer­ent life forms liv­ing un­der all kinds of watery con­di­tions. Many of these life-forms have yet to be dis­cov­ered and cat­a­logued by hu­mans and few are well un­der­stood.

When I saw the ocean for the first time I was twelve years old and it was love at first sight. When I was thir­teen I learned to SCUBA dive and at age four­teen I spent the sum­mer div­ing al­most ev­ery day in the Florida Keys and sim­ply ob­served the myr­iad crea­tures.

Be­cause I care about the ocean and the crea­tures that live in it, it pains me deeply when they are need- lessly de­stroyed. But, one thing that helps dis­place some of the pain are the peo­ple fight­ing to pro­tect marine life and one of the most coura­geous and ef­fec­tive of those is Cap­tain Paul Wat­son, founder and leader of Sea Shep­herd.

I re­cently had the plea­sure of fi­nally meet­ing Capt. Wat­son and was in­spired by his ded­i­ca­tion to pro­tect­ing marine life and the suc­cess of Sea Shep­herd.

When I asked him about the se­cret of his suc­cess he re­lated what he learned when he was an em­bed­ded medic with the Oglala Lakota and the Amer­i­can In­dian Move­ment back in 1972 dur­ing the oc­cu­pa­tion of town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, on the Pine Ridge In­dian Reser­va­tion.

The oc­cu­piers were try­ing to oust a hor­ri­bly cor­rupt tribal leader and bring at­ten­tion to U.S. gov­ern­ment's fail­ure to abide by treaties with Na­tive Amer­i­can peo­ple and were de­mand­ing the re­open­ing of treaty ne­go­ti­a­tions.

The oc­cu­pa­tion brought a seige by the FBI, U.S. Mar­shalls and the Army who fired in­de­scrim­i­nately at the oc­cu­piers and ar­rested any­one who tried to en­ter or leave the area.

The oc­cu­pa­tion lasted 71 days and re­sulted in the deaths of two of the oc­cu­piers and dozens of in­juries.

When Paul Wat­son asked the peo­ple why they per­sisted for so long they replied "It is a good day to die". For most, that means that some bat­tles are more im­por­tant than one's own life and that by fac­ing and over­com­ing fear of death one can be more ef­fec­tive.

Paul was ini­ti­a­ti­ated into the Oglala Sioux tribe, given the name of Grey Wolf Clear Wa­ter and par­tic­i­pated in a sweat cer­e­mony in which he had a vi­sion of a great buf­falo who told him to pro­tect the whales and other mam­mals of the sea.

In­spired by the courage of the protestors and his vi­sion, Paul Wat­son knew what he needed to do with this life and af­ter a short stint with the Cana­dian Coast Guard he fo­cused on pro­tect­ing marine mam­mals and in 1972 he helped found Green­peace.

Paul Wat­son was the youngest founder of Green­peace and par­tic­i­pated in nu­mer­ous cam­paigns to chal­lenge il­le­gal whal­ing and pro­tect baby harp seals.

By 1977 Paul Wat­son was the Di­rec­tor of Green­peace and was lead­ing ef­fec­tive cam­paigns but it be­came in­creas­ingly ap­par­ent that the other board mem­bers of Green­peace were more in­ter­ested in fund-rais­ing than ac­tu­ally sav­ing marine life and voted Wat­son off the board for be­ing too much of an ac­tivist. Shortly af­ter Paul Wat­son left Green­peace en­tirely and founded Sea Shep­herd.

Af­ter 40 years of sav­ing marine life and not fo­cus­ing on fund-rais­ing, Sea Shep­herd has grown into a highly ef­fec­tive in­ter­na­tional move­ment with a grow­ing fleet of ships, thou­sands of vol­un­teers and close col­lab­o­ra­tions with lead­ing con­ser­va­tion sci­en­tists and gov­ern­ment agen­cies.

Capt. Wat­son has been fea­tured in a num­ber of doc­u­men­taries and on the hit TV se­ries Whale Wars, which ran for seven sea­sons on An­i­mal Planet.

Pow­er­ful poach­ers have taken their re­venge on Cap­tain Wat­son, with the cor­rupt na­tions of Costa Rica and Ja­pan fil­ing frad­u­lent in­ter­na­tional ar­rest war­rants (Red No­tices) with In­ter­pol, which has pre­vented Capt. Wat­son from trav­el­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally since 2013. Fol­low­ing are some of Sea Shep­herd's ma­jor cam­paigns for 2018:

Op­er­a­tion Mi­la­gro IV is a cam­paign to save the most en­dan­gered marine mam­mal in the world – the Vaquita por­poise (Pho­coena si­nus), which lives in Mex­ico's Gulf of Cal­i­for­nia (Sea of Cortez). With less than 30 Vaquita re­main­ing, Sea Shep­herd has two ves­sels help­ing pa­trol the Vaquita Refuge with the Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment to keep poach­ers out of the area who use gill­nets to catch the en­dan­gered To­toaba, a crit­i­cally en­dan­gered bass prized for its swim blad­der which is sold on black mar­kets to rich and su­per­sti­cious Chi­nese for tens of thou­sands of dol­lars.

Op­er­a­tion Jo­dari 2018 is a part­ner­ship with the gov­ern­ment of Tan­za­nia to tackle il­le­gal, un­reg­u­lated and un­re­ported (IUU) fish­ing in the Western In­dian Ocean re­gion, with law en­force­ment agents from the Deep Sea Fish­ing Au­thor­ity, Tan­za­nian Navy and the Multi-agency Task Team (MATT) pa­trolling on board Sea Shep­herd's ves­sel Ocean War­rior.

Sola Stella is a part­ner­ship with the Liberian Min­istry of Na­tional De­fense to fight il­le­gal, un­re­ported and un­reg­u­lated (IUU) fish­ing in the West African coastal wa­ters of Liberia. The coun­try's own forces have been sup­ple­mented with Sea Shep­herd's M/Y Sam Si­mon and crew as a civil­ian off­shore pa­trol ves­sel.

Op­er­a­tion Virus Hunter is a re­search cam­paign in Bri­tish Columbia, Canada us­ing the R/V Martin Sheen to con­duct sci­en­tific re­search on the prob­lem of dis­eases from salmon farms in­fect­ing wild salmon. The re­search is be­ing done in part­ner­ship with renowned ex­pert bi­ol­o­gist Alexandra Mor­ton. With more ev­i­dence of the dev­as­tat­ing im­pacts of salmon farm­ing on wild salmon pop­u­la­tions it is hoped that pub­lic pres­sure might force the cor­rupt and in­com­pe­tent Cana­dian gov­ern­ment to ban de­struc­tive open-wa­ter salmon farms be­fore wild salmon are ex­tinct.

Op­er­a­tion Nyamba is a land-based cam­paign to pro­tect green sea tur­tles com­ing on shore to lay their eggs in May­otte, a French is­land in the In­dian Ocean be­tween Mada­gas­car and Mozam­bique that is home to a 68,381km² pro­tected marine re­serve. Poach­ers kill the en­dan­gered tur­tles to sell the meat on black mar­kets if the beaches are not pa­trolled.

Op­er­a­tion Gala­pa­gos is an on­gong pro­gram with the Ecuado­ran gov­ern­ment to pro­vide as­sis­tance and tech­ni­cal sup­port to help pro­tect the wildlife in the Gala­pa­gos Is­lands.

To be con­tin­ued in the April is­sue of Tril­lions...

Photo © Sea Shep­herd

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