Canadian Paul Watson is a larger than life character who is the top name in eco-warriors fighting for marine conservation. Now in his 60s, he continues to command the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society using direct action to block whaling and other activities deemed damaging to marine life.
The “Rambo” of the environmental movement was recently faced with the danger of losing one of his ships, the flagship Steve Irwin. On July 15, the ship was detained in the Scottish Shetland Islands pending Sea Shepherd’s ability to fund a bond of about $1.4 million. The detainment was ordered by British courts due to a civil lawsuit brought against the activists by Maltese fishing company Fish & Fish Limited. In early August, however, Sea Shepherd was able to post a bond, due in large part to the generosity of supporters.
The Steve Irwin was able to depart to the Faeroes for Operation Ferocious Isles, joining the vessel Brigitte Bardot and her crew, with the aim to defend pilot whales.
The court case was brought by Fish & Fish Limited after a campaign to expose the company’s alleged role in the demise of the imperiled bluefin due to tuna poaching in the Mediterranean. “We firmly believe we caught their boats red-handed, unlawfully taking bluefin tuna from Libyan waters,” said Watson. “We have evidence, and we look forward to our day in court against these plunderers of the ocean.”
Advocate of direct action
Watson, a founder of Greenpeace, has been in the marine conservation arena for more than three decades. He founded Sea Shepherd in 1977 after what appeared to be a falling out with Greenpeace’s policy of non-violent action. He felt waving banners and going on protests was not going to bring the change needed in protecting marine life. He has long stressed that his organization sticks within the laws and that its actions seek to enforce the laws.
“We are in a war to save our oceans from ourselves,” said Watson. “And if we lose, we all lose because if the oceans die, we all die – it’s as simple as that.”
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