1 - You were born in Toronto, made aware very early of the injustice of men towards animals and you soon turned your attention to the sea. You’ve spent most of your life onboard ships, why are you so attracted to the open sea ?
Captain Paul Watson: I was born in Toronto but raised in a fishing village called St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, New Brunswick. I was around ships and marine life as a child. I joined the Norwegian Merchant Marine at 18 and later served in the Canadian Coast Guard. My real passion is for wildlife conservation and that coupled with my marine experience led me to devote my energies to marine wildlife.
2 - In 1975, then co-founder of Greenpeace, you witness the death of a sperm whale while onboard the Greenpeace IV during a confrontation with the Russian whaling fleet. Tell us about what you felt at the time and what drives you since to defend marine mammals ?
Captain Paul Watson: That whale could have taken my life yet spared me and what I observed led me to understand that the whale made a deliberate decision, that the whale understood we were there to defend and not to harm. I owe my life to that whales. But after the whale died and I was sitting there in our small boat, with the Soviet whaling fleet around us, I said to myself, “why were the Russians killing these whales? And I knew that the answer was for Sperm and Spermacetti oil and this oil is prized as a high heat resistance lubrication for machinery and it was the oil used to lubricate the moving parts of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM’s) and I thought, here we are killing this incredibly intelligent, socially complex, beautiful, sentient being for the purpose of making a weapon meant for the mass extermination of human beings. And that is when the realization came to me that we humans are ecologically insane, that we had lost our connection with the natural world and that is when I decided that I would no longer defend the oceans for humanity but for the whales, the dolphins, turtles, sharks, birds and fish. Since 1977 I have viewed the citizen species of the sea as my clients.
3 - In 1977 you took Brigitte Bardot on the ice off the Labrador coast to draw the international community’s attention on the seal slaughter. At the time, why did you choose Brigitte Bardot ?
Captain Paul Watson: I did not choose Brigitte Bardot. She made her decision to come to Canada to defend the harp seals. I merely helped to facilitate her getting to the ice to have her picture taken with baby harp seals because we knew that such pictures would put this issue of sealing on the covers of major magazines around the world. All stories have one or more of four elements that entice media coverage. Those elements are sex, scandal, violence and celebrity. The seal hunt already had plenty of violence and the politicians in Canada contributed the scandal with their subsidies and manipulations. Brigitte made the story complete with sex appeal and celebrity. Her contribution to that cause was pivotal in working to achieve the ban by the European Union on Canadian seal products and that ended the commercial seal slaughter.
4 - What is the message you are trying to deliver through Sea Shepherd since 1977 ?
Captain Paul Watson: Our message is a simple one. If the Ocean does, we all die! Humanity cannot survive with a dead ocean, it is the life support system for spaceship Earth and it is run by a crew of citizen species that maintain it’s integrity and we, well, we are only passengers on spaceship Earth, having a wonderful time entertaining ourselves. But we are killing off the crew and diminishing diversity and when too many crew die, the machinery begins to collapse and that is what is happening with our Ocean now.
5 - What are your next planned actions ?
Captain Paul Watson: We have many on-going campaigns from opposing illegal whaling, shark-finning and high seas fish poaching. We are working to find ways to remove plastic from the sea. We are working to end the killing of pilot whales in the Faroe Island and seals in Scotland. We are working to protect the Vaquita in the Sea of Cortez, we are working to restore salmon populations and to defend the marine reserve of the Galapagos National Park. Sea Shepherd is a global movement of passionate volunteers working to maintain the ecological integrity of oceanic eco-systems.
To learn more about Sea Sephered and its missions: http://www.seashepherd.fr