Since then Canadian Paul Watson has captained his own ship the, Sea Shepherd, recently renamed the Steve Irwin, as part of the society he founded in 1977, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (S.S.C.S). An international non-profit marine wildlife conservation organization, the SSCS now owns a fleet of three ships and has sailed over 200 missions to fulfil its charter: “to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world’s oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species.”
Below is an edited interview with Captain Paul Watson conducted by Giovanni Ebono of The Generator for Bay FM, Byron Bay, Australia.
GE: What is it particularly about whales that got you excited?
PW: I have been involved with protecting a lot of different species throughout my life. I spent six months hunting elephant poachers in East Africa in 78- but I decided had to set up an organisation, not to protest, but to uphold international conservation law and I had to narrow that down and specialise as there was just too much to do.
GE: What sort of criteria did you use to establish such an organisation?
PW: I had been a co founder of Greenpeace and an expedition leader for Greenpeace. I got to a point where the protesting was getting frustrating for me because we were protesting, but nothing changes, it just sort of comes from a submissive position, [ie] ‘please please don’t do that’. And I said well these guys are breaking the law so there is no reason for us to be so submissive about it, lets just simply enforce the law against them, and that is why I set up Sea Shepherd (SSCS), to enforce the law.
And we are empowered to intervene by virtue of the UN World Charter for Nature that allows for non government organisations and individuals to uphold international conventions on law so that is why over the last 25 years I have been able to shut down illegal sealing, whaling and fishing operations, ramming, sinking vessels, confiscating millions of dollars of equipment, because all of these things have been utilised illegally. So, I have never been convicted of a crime for any of those interventions because we are not protesting something we disagree with, we are shutting down illegal activities that should be shutdown.
GE: All of these international conventions exist because of the cooperation of governments. How are you able to exercise that authority?
PW: Well the UN Charter for Nature allows for individual interventions and we just take it upon ourselves to do it so all we do is, we just do it. There is no reason why Australia and NZ can’t go down there and kick the Japanese out of the Antarctic whale sanctuaries, especially since it is Australia’s Antarctic territory. They have every legal right to do so.
But the problem with governments is that they seem to be co-opted by trade agreements and considerations and that seems to be the bottom line so justice and legality take second place to deals that are being made.
GE: Are there any governments anywhere who have come out and supported the kind of actions that you are taking?
PW: We are working closely with the government of Ecuador to address illegal fishing and we have a boat full time in the Galapagos and our patrol boat is crewed by Sea Shepherd volunteers, naval personnel and Galapagonian park rangers.
We are working with the government of Columbia to protect Malpelo Island off the coast of South America. So we try and work with governments when we are able to do so but very few governments are motivated to do anything to protect marine wild life.
Even when you point out to so called sophisticated countries like Canada that [allow] bottom drag trawling, destroying habitats, and Canada is a good example where the northern cod population’s crashed and up to the day it crashed the Canadian government was insisting that it was a healthy population, well managed.
So really, what we have are these ministries and departments of fisheries who are compromised by the fishing industries. They are calling the shots, not the scientists.
GE: The history of humanity has been fairly destructive, what hope do you have for us being able to reverse that?
PW: Well I believe in living my life with the three basic laws of ecology. The first is living with the strength of an ecosystem – it depends upon diversity. The second is the law of interdependence that all those species are dependent on each other. The third is the law of finite resources, there is a limit to growth, the carrying capacity.
Right now our numbers are growing so fast we are literally stealing the carrying capacity for a species. They have to disappear for our numbers to increase, and we are taking up all the resources that they would otherwise use.
We are going to reach a point where we are going to go too far and the law of interdependence will kick in. Then we will find that we simply can’t survive on this planet alone and that we depend on all these other species to do so. If we can’t learn as a species to live with in harmony with all the other species then we will be doomed to extinction.
For the full transcript of this interview visit http://www.ebono.com.au .