The Courage and Compassion of Captain Paul Watson
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...