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Marine Life & Conservation

PAUL WATSON & SEA SHEPHERD

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Introduction by Jeff Goodman

There are many ways in which we as individuals and conservationists can influence how our ecosystems and the dependent wildlife may be protected. Some of us simply talk about issues over a cup of coffee or pint of beer. Others may join a wildlife group or donate money to a popular cause. Any effort made in the name of conservation is worthwhile, but some people are driven to make that effort become their life’s work.

While many talk the talk, some are walking the walk and they are putting themselves physically on the line, protecting our natural world from those who would destroy it. Paul Watson is one such person.

I first met Paul in 1987 near Plymouth in the UK. He was about to start a campaign against the Pilot Whale slaughter that takes place in the Faroe Islands every year. The Faroe Islands have been a self-governing country within the Danish Realm since 1948 and have taken control of most of their domestic matters.

I was trying to convince the BBC that we should follow Paul and his crew to document this appalling and unsustainable killing of these migratory animals. They weren’t sure…. then as luck would have it a few local schools in Plymouth got behind the campaign and raised money to support it. This gave me the link to local BBC I needed and the film was commissioned. I feel I got to know Paul well on that trip and was humbled by the man’s determination to save our marine life. Not only that, he was a really genuine, cheerful and very intelligent person. I last worked with him a few years later on an anti drift net fishing campaign in the North Pacific and then we met again briefly in 1990. Paul has endured many hardships during his campaigning, trying to make this world a better place for all of us.

He is continually hounded by governments and international agencies who seem to have financial gain high on their agendas and very little regard for the environment. It is now 2013 and I am back in touch with Paul because of my conservation role with Scubaverse. I asked him for an article that would inspire people, who were unfamiliar with his work, to think about and even take an active role in conservation. The following is that article. You can learn more about Sea Shepherd at http://www.seashepherd.org.  I will be following the work of Sea Shepherd and Paul closely and will report regularly on their activities.

 Eco-Exile Adrift in a Sea of Trouble

15th July 2013

By Captain Paul Watson

I am writing as an exile upon the ocean. I cannot come to land anywhere because I have been placed on the Interpol Red List by Costa Rica and by Japan.

I have been at sea now for eleven months.

I did not kill or even injure anyone. I did not damage any property nor did I steal anything. What I did was much worse in the eyes of some governments – I saved lives!

Costa Rica at the request of Japan dug up an incident from 2002 where at the request of the government of Guatemala I stopped a Costa Rican long liner from catching and finning sharks in Guatemalan waters.  The warrant calling for my arrest on the charge of “creating a danger to ships or aircraft” came only days after the President of Costa Rica Laura Chinchilla met with the Prime Minister of Japan.

Costa Rica requested my name be placed on the Interpol Red List but this request was rejected by Interpol. It was for an incident a decade earlier which had been dismissed at the time on the basis that our film and witnesses demonstrated that the charge was simply the complaining of shark finners caught in the act of poaching in foreign waters.

Then in May 2012 while on my way to France on a Lufthansa flight from Denver, Colorado I was detained at Frankfurt airport by Germany on the Costa Rican request. I pointed out that Interpol had rejected the request. The Germans responded by saying that Germany made the decision to act independently of Interpol. This was two weeks before the state visit to Germany by Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla.

And so I was detained for 8 days in a maximum security prison and then released on a €250,000 bond and ordered to remain in Frankfurt until a decision on extradition was made.  I waited patiently, reporting to the police twice a day for two months until around the end of July I received a confidential phone call from a supporter inside the German Ministry of Justice who warned me that I was to be arrested the next day and extradited to Japan.

While I was waiting in Germany, Japan had requested extradition from Germany.

Knowing that if extradited to Japan I would most likely never leave that country, at least not alive, I elected to depart Germany.

The Japanese were accusing me of ordering Peter Bethune to trespass on a Japanese whaling ship by boarding it after the ship had cut his own vessel in two. Bethune was arrested and taken back to Japan where he struck a plea agreement with the Japanese, exchanging a suspended sentence for an accusation that I had ordered him to board the vessel.

In actual fact I am on camera on the Animal Planet show Whale Wars advising him not to board the Japanese vessel.

I left Germany and boarded a small sailboat in the Netherlands where I proceeded to cross both the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. I did not have any passports or papers so I could not go on land. However I did manage after four months to reach the waters off American Samoa in the South Pacific where I rejoined my ship the Steve Irwin in time for the voyage to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary to once again intervene against the illegal whaling operations by the Japanese whaling fleet.

It was a week after leaving Germany that the Costa Rican and the Japanese warrants were accepted by Interpol making it impossible for me to land onshore anywhere. This was done more on Germany’s request than Costa Rica or Japan although Germany has since dropped their warrant for me.

Pete Bethune has since signed an affidavit stating that he signed the accusations under duress but despite this, Interpol refuses to drop the Red Listing.

No one has ever been placed on the Interpol Red List for trespassing and especially when the person was not the actual person trespassing.

However I am not overly surprised. The real reason that I am on the list is because I have led eight campaigns to the Southern Ocean to oppose the illegal whaling activities of the Japanese whaling fleet and it has cost them tens of millions of dollars in lost profits.

In 2011, the Japanese whalers were allocated $30 Million U.S. from the Tsunami Relief Fund for the purpose of shutting down Sea Shepherd and myself. With that money they are suing Sea Shepherd in the U.S., hiring P.R. firms to demonize Sea Shepherd and myself, and increasing their security around their ships.

Despite this, Sea Shepherd interventions in January and February 2013 prevented the Japanese whalers from killing 90% of their intended victims.

And despite shutting down funding for the campaign from Sea Shepherd USA through the U.S. courts, Sea Shepherd Australia is continuing to lead the effort to stop the whale poachers off the coast of Antarctica. In December 2013, the Sea Shepherd fleet and more than a hundred volunteers will once more return for Operation Relentless.

Although many people think that all Sea Shepherd does is protect whales, the fact is that the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has become a global network of national groups addressing issues right across the world’s oceans from working with the rangers in Ecuador to protecting the Galapagos National Park Marine Reserve, to taking Gooseneck barnacle poachers to court in France.

Sea Shepherd is battling Bluefin tuna fishermen off the coast of Libya and in the British Courts and Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians spends half the year working to defend dolphins in Taiji, Japan.

What is unique about Sea Shepherd is that we are a network of passionate volunteers working globally to intervene and uphold international conservation law when governments refuse to do so. We are also unique in not spending donor’s money on promotion and fund-raising. Sea Shepherd money goes into ships and campaigns and as a result Sea Shepherd, founded in 1977, has become the world’s most aggressive marine conservation society.

We have one basic message and it is this; our ocean is dying and if the ocean dies, we die. We cannot live on this planet with a dead ocean. It is as simple as that.

sea-shepard-2These are dangerous times to be a conservation activist. Last month 26 year-old turtle conservationist Jairo Mora Sandoval was murdered on the beach where he was trying to defend turtle nests from turtle egg poachers. Jairo had been asking for police protection for weeks before his death and after his murder one Costa Rican government minister insensitively stated that he would not have died if he had not put himself in such a dangerous place.

Not much about this murder has been in the international media. Just another death of someone trying to defend life on the planet. Meanwhile when we succeed in non-violently preventing the killing of a whale in a whale sanctuary, the stories describe us as violent, radical, and even eco-terrorists.

Our oceans are in trouble and governments are doing very little. The only thing that stands between the destroyers of oceanic eco-systems and their victims are passionate individuals who are jailed, beaten and murdered for their efforts.

This is everyone’s fight no matter where people live for what we are fighting for is to maintain and defend the life support system for the planet.

Whatever the risks, they are risks worth taking, because if the oceans die, sooner or later we all die.

In addition to being one of the co-founders of Greenpeace in 1972 and Greenpeace International in 1979, Paul Watson is the founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society - an organization dedicated to research, investigation and enforcement of laws, treaties, resolutions and regulations established to protect marine wildlife worldwide.

Marine Life & Conservation

Join us in supporting Dive Project Cornwall Crowdfunder Project

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Do you have a moment to help protect our oceans?

We’re on a mission and have partnered with DIVE PROJECT CORNWALL to help protect our oceans for future generations to cherish and enjoy.

DIVE PROJECT CORNWALL is a unique EDUCATION and EXPERIENCE initiative, reaching over 3,000 schools with their Ocean Education Programme, inspiring the next generation to protect our oceans for everyone to cherish and enjoy.

At the heart of the project is a competition for 400 lucky teenagers to win the EXPERIENCE of a lifetime. They will take the learning from the classroom straight to the shores of Porthkerris on a 6-day, life changing trip where they will learn to scuba dive and be taught the importance of marine conservation. They will become ‘Ocean Influencers’ for the future.

DIVE PROJECT CORNWALL needs our help.

Can you join us with a gift to DIVE PROJECT CORNWALL?

Whether it’s £5 or £50, a gift from you to the DIVE PROJECT CORNWALL Crowdfunder Project will help their vision of protecting our oceans through the innovative experience designed for school children.

Will you join us and pledge to support 400 lucky teenagers learn from and EXPERIENCE the ocean like never before and give them an EDUCATION they can use to inspire others, not forgetting the memories that will last a lifetime?

For more information, you can read the DIVE PROJECT CORNWALL story HERE.

Help us create the next generation of Ocean Influencers with a donation to DIVE PROJECT CORNWALL and ensure our oceans (and planet) are protected for the future.

WWW.CROWDFUNDER.CO.UK/P/DIVE-PROJECT-CORNWALL

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Marine Life & Conservation

Spring jellyfish blooms bring turtles to UK shores

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Marine Conservation Society’s wildlife sightings project asks beachgoers to share their discoveries and contribute to research

The Marine Conservation Society’s long-running wildlife sightings project focuses on two key species which arrive on UK shores: jellyfish and, as a result, turtles. Both species are vital in supporting ocean biodiversity and are indicators of climate change while being at risk from its impacts.

The charity is asking beach and seagoers to share when they spot either of these marine animals to support ongoing research.

During spring and summer, jellyfish arrive in the UK’s warming waters to feed on plankton blooms or, in fact, anything small enough to get caught. To that extent, jellyfish feed not only on plankton, but also the array of eggs and larvae of fish, crustaceans, starfish and molluscs which rely on plankton as a stage of reproduction.

With healthy fish stocks and rich biodiversity, jellyfish quickly become part of an effective food chain. Everything from tuna to turtles will feed on jellyfish of various sizes, so the population is well controlled. Supported by a rich and diverse ocean ecosystem, jellyfish link the microscopic world of plankton to larger marine animals and the ocean around them.

Jellyfish are especially appealing for marine turtles. Six of the world’s seven marine turtle species have been spotted in UK seas as a result of jellyfish blooms in spring and summer.

The largest sea turtle, and the most common in UK seas, is the leatherback which has a ‘vulnerable’ conservation status. Reporting sightings of these incredible creatures will support the Marine Conservation Society and others in understanding their movements, potential threats and how to better protect them.

Amy Pilsbury, Citizen Science Project Lead at the Marine Conservation Society, said:“For more than 17 years, beachgoers across the UK have been contributing to scientific research by sharing their wildlife sightings with us. It’s a key part of our work and plays a vital role in better understanding and protecting our ocean.”

In 2014, with partners from the University of Exeter, the Marine Conservation Society published the first paper from the survey data, confirming key information about UK jellyfish and including the first distribution maps of the surveyed species.

Since the 2014 paper, the wildlife sightings project has recorded notable events such as massive and extensive annual blooms of barrel jellyfish and several summers of Portuguese Man o’ War mass strandings.

The charity continues to run its wildlife sightings project to see what happens to the distribution and frequency of mass jellyfish blooms over time. The data will help to explore any links jellyfish blooms have with big-picture factors such as climate change.

Jellyfish can be spotted year-round in UK seas, but larger blooms are more likely to appear in spring, lasting through until autumn. Jellyfish sighting records from 2021 suggest that compass jellyfish are the most common around UK shores, making up 36% of reported sightings.

Jellyfish species Percentage of sightings reported
Compass jellyfish 36%
Moon jellyfish 17%
Lion’s mane jellyfish 15%
Barrel jellyfish 14%
Blue jellyfish 9%
Portuguese Man o’ War 6%
Mauve stinger 2%
By the wind sailor 1%

For more information on how to identify jellyfish and turtles, and to report a sighting, please visit the Marine Conservation Society’s website.

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