Almost ten years ago, Time Magazine proclaimed Paul Watson as one of the major environmental heroes of the 20th century. During the 1970s Watson was part of numerous Greenpeace campaigns against whaling, but he always felt that these placid confrontations had little result against saving whales. Some of these graceful animals even died from attacks with Greenpeace Zodiacs swarming around whaling vessels.
According to Watson’s biography, everything came to light in 1975, as he was forced to watch a sperm whale die a few feet from his boat after it had been harpooned by Russian hunters. This was just not acceptable.
Watson didn’t mesh well with Greenpeace and felt that more extreme measures were necessary for actual results, but his strong opinions didn’t win him any favors: He ended up expelled from the board of directors when he was 27, with only a single vote opposing the decision – his own.
Watson used this opportunity to found the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society which, unlike Greenpeace, uses more aggressive tactics to stop whaling. This doesn’t come without a price, though, and Watson has found himself in jail a few times on charges ranging from attempted murder to intentionally sinking a ship. Sea Shepherd does admit to having sunk at least ten ‘pirate’ whaling ships since 1979 and it is no surprise that a few nations look at this group as a kind of terrorist organization.
|The newest ship, named after famed
Australian conservationist Steve Irwin.
(Photo: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society)
If nothing else, the current exploits of the Sea Shepherd is excellent television and it is now part of a more controversial reality TV show airing on Animal Planet. This show, adequately titled ‘Whale Wars’, aired a few months ago and already has millions of devoted fans.
Laws have been set into place to ban whaling, but it remains an issue in countries where whale meat has been a staple for centuries. Japan is one of the major players in the Whale Wars game. Every part of the whale is valued in one form or another by the Japanese, and it is hard for an entire nation to accept a law that interferes with ancient traditions. Japan has tried to find loopholes to allow whaling, such as painting ‘Research Vessel’ on the side of obvious whaling ships, but even these boats seem to turn around when confronted with Watson’s ‘terrorist’ ship.
It will be interesting to see how much of an influence organizations like Sea Shepherd have on the environment where politics have failed. Many people feel that they give environmentalists a bad rap, however it is hard not to respect a man who has given up everything to save a species he cares for deeply.