Captain Paul Watson is the founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which protects whales, seals and dolphins around the world. Parvati Magazine connected with him to ask about his work.
Parvati Magazine: You have devoted your life to protecting and serving marine mammals. Was there a moment in your life that you knew this was what you had to do?
Captain Paul Watson: I started rescuing beavers from leg hold traps when I was eleven years old and I am pretty much doing the same thing sixty years later. My critics say I never grew up. My answer is why would anyone want to?
PMAG: You’ve stayed in situations where your own life was in danger, in order to protect whales, seals and dolphins. What gives you the courage to do this?
PW: I’ve never thought about it. I learned a great lesson when I was 22 and served as a medic with the American Indian Movement during the occupation of Wounded Knee in South Dakota. Russell Means told me that we do what we do without concern for winning or losing, without concern for the odds against or the risk. We do it because it is the right thing to do, we concern ourselves with addressing the present for the benefit of the future. The Lakota have a word for this. “Hoka hey.” Or “today is a good day to die!” In other words the way of the Warrior.
PMAG: It can be very painful to hear news of ongoing mistreatment of marine mammals all over the world. What do you do to stay hopeful and effective when you are literally on the front lines in some of these situations?
PW: It takes a bit of emotional detachment. In many ways it is like being a surgeon. You can’t let your emotions interfere with your strategies and tactics and your ability to act calmly in a confrontation situation.
PMAG: What is the success you are most proud of in your work with Sea Shepherd?
PW: That Sea Shepherd has evolved from an organization into a global movement.
PMAG: What can people do to help protect marine mammals around the world?
PW: We need to protect the Ocean and for that we need a moratorium on commercial fishing. In other words we should not eat fish. We should not throw plastic into the sea. We must not attend dolphin shows at dolphinariums, and we must always be cognizant of what our actions are doing to our environment. The Ocean is the life support system of spaceship Earth and marine species from phytoplankton to the great whales are the crew that maintain this life support system. We need to stop killing the crew.
Captain Paul Watson – “I have been honored to serve the whales, dolphins, seals – and all the other creatures on this Earth. Their beauty, intelligence, strength, and spirit have inspired me. These beings have spoken to me, touched me, and I have been rewarded by friendship with many members of different species. If the whales survive and flourish, if the seals continue to live and give birth, and if I can contribute to ensuring their future prosperity, I will be forever happy.” www.seashepherd.org