Captain Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd: Whale Defender, Good Pirate, and Humanitarian
The largest private navy on the planet belongs to a non-profit, dedicated to protecting marine life around the world. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, helmed by Captain Paul Watson, intervenes to stop whaling and safeguard endangered species. It also plays a humanitarian role, deploying ships to respond to disasters. We spoke with Captain Watson about the courage and compassion to protect others.
Parvati Magazine: In the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, Sea Shepherd went to the aid of the people and animals living in the Bahamas as part of your “Operation: Good Pirates of the Caribbean”. How did the Bahamians respond? How do you see this as connected with your work to protect ocean life?
Captain Paul Watson: We began Good Pirates of the Caribbean after Hurricane Maria when we brought aid to Dominica and Antigua. People were very appreciative that we [got] involved. We were ready when Dorian hit. The only difficult part was going through the Bahamian red tape, which took about 48 hours with all of these relief supplies. We’re anticipating there’ll be a lot more hurricanes and stronger hurricanes coming into the Caribbean, so this is an ongoing project.
Parvati Magazine: Sea Shepherd has expressed the intention to establish a partnership with the Bahamas for marine conservation. What is your timeline for this and what do you hope to achieve?
Captain Paul Watson: We’ve established partnerships with numerous countries in Africa. For the last three years we’ve been working with Liberia, Sao Tome, Cabo Verde, Tanzania, Gabon, Benin and Namibia and we’re working to get more partnerships to stop poaching in their waters. So far, we’ve arrested 34 poaching vessels. More importantly it’s become a deterrent and is keeping poachers away from that area. We’ve also got partnerships with Peru, Ecuador and Costa Rica to stop poaching in their waters, and with the government of Mexico to protect the endangered vaquita porpoise in the Sea of Cortez.
These partnerships work really well because we can provide the resources and the governments can provide the authority. What we’re finding is that these partnerships are becoming very successful in stopping unregulated, unreported, illegal fishing operations.
Parvati Magazine: Now that the threat to whales in the south has been diminished, do you see MAPS, the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary, as a way to protect whales in the north?
Captain Paul Watson: It’s a good move to make, an Arctic Peace Sanctuary. It puts the brakes on a lot of economic initiatives, where people say, “Well, we’re going to go and exploit this and that.”
Parvati Magazine: You have a young son. What are your hopes and dreams for the health of our oceans in his generation and beyond?
Captain Paul Watson: I’m always optimistic. Back in 1973 I was a medic for the American Indian movement. We were surrounded, completely outnumbered. There was no hope of winning. I went to [the Native American activist] Russell Means and I said, “What are we doing here? We can’t win.” And he told me something that stayed with me for the rest of my life and that was, “Look, we’re not concerned about the odds against us, and we’re not concerned about winning or losing. We’re here because it’s the right place to be, the right time to do it and the right thing to do.”
That’s what I’ve kept with me ever since. We do what we do because it’s the right thing to do. And I never worry about the outcome on that. The present will take care of the future.
I am concerned about the kind of future my son will have. But I’m going to be teaching him the skills to survive in that kind of world.
Parvati Magazine: “At the Edge of the World” and “Whale Wars” reached a world audience with Sea Shepherd’s message of the importance of marine conservation. What can we expect from “Watson”, the recently-released documentary about your life?
Captain Paul Watson: I think that this film serves to motivate people to understand that each and every one of us can make a difference. All you have to do is harness courage, imagination, and passion, and go forward.
Captain Paul Watson, Founder, President, and Executive Director of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, has been hailed by Time Magazine as one of the environmental heroes of the 20th century. A marine wildlife conservation and environmental activist, he was a founding member and director of Greenpeace before leaving that organization in 1977 to found Sea Shepherd.
We also spoke with Captain Paul Watson in 2017. Read the interview here.