Wonderful Commentary by our Founder Captain Paul Watson
--A Year and a Half of Amazing Experiences--
A year ago today I was in the South Pacific getting ready to meet up and board our ship the Steve Irwin off American Samoa, and until October 28th of this year I have been constantly at sea save for brief walks on remote deserted islands.
From the day I departed Germany on July 29th, 2012 until October 28th 2013, has been fifteen months.
This has been a very challenging time for Sea Shepherd and I, yet at the same time it has been an amazingly exciting experience.
Despite being exiled at sea I had the very great pleasure of seeing the Japanese whaling fleet deprived of 90% of the whales they intended to kill. This led to contempt charges by a U.S. Court because Australia led Dutch registered ship to the Australian Whale Sanctuary to save seals from Japanese poachers all in response to Japan using tsunami relief funds to hire some American legal barracudas to sue Sea Shepherd and I, in a nation where litigation has long been a tool for stifling interventions against illegal activities by corporations.
This of course forced Sea Shepherd USA and myself to withdraw from the Southern Ocean campaign while Sea Shepherd Australia carried on most effectively.
Ironically the contempt charges against Sea Shepherd USA in the 9th Circuit Court have made Sea Shepherd a stronger global entity.
Operation Relentless continues to go forward, completely independent of Sea Shepherd USA under the leadership of Sea Shepherd Australia.
In compliance with the injunction I will not be participating in Operation Relentless, just as I did not participate in any leadership capacity with Operation Zero Tolerance.
Three ships owned by Sea Shepherd Netherlands and skippered by Swedish, Indian and Australian captains with international crews are in action mode and ready to depart from Australian waters with the goal of intervening yet again in opposition to the illegal whaling activities of the Japanese Institute for (bogus) Cetacean Research.
There is a Sea Shepherd crew in Taiji, Japan, on the ground since September 1st making sure that the horrific slaughter of dolphins is under constant surveillance so that the world will not forget what is happening in that bloody cove. They will continue to be on the ground for the duration of the slaughter season.
Sea Shepherd is busy on projects in Africa, in Europe, in Asia, South, Central and North America and in the Southern Pacific.
And most importantly, Sea Shepherd has evolved from organization to movement and movements are difficult to shut down.
It also means that I am no longer obligated to be the overall leader. Organizations have leaders, movements sustain themselves. It was always my intention to establish a movement and to let that movement evolve as it will, keeping only a simple code of conduct.
That code is to intervene against illegal exploitation of marine wildlife without causing physical injury to those we oppose. Sea Shepherd is a non-violent movement against poaching.
In December 2012, when the 9th Circuit Court overturned the ruling by Judge Richard Jones that favored Sea Shepherd and denied the injunction to the whalers, Sea Shepherd USA and I immediately complied with the injunction. As a U.S. organization and myself as a U.S. citizen, it was imperative that we comply with the law even if we felt it was unfair.
We did comply and I stepped down as campaign leader and Sea Shepherd USA withdrew from the campaigns leaving Sea Shepherd Australia to carry on under the direction of Bob Brown and Jeff Hanson.
The injunction was issued after the Steve Irwin had departed for the Southern Ocean so I could not leave the ship. I stayed as an observer and what I did observe was incredible leadership from Australia and the Sea Shepherd captains.
Operation Relentless is returning to the Southern Ocean in a few weeks to once again obstruct illegal Japanese whaling operations. I will not be onboard but I have no doubt that the campaign will be successful without me, just as it was last season.
The Japanese whalers have made a serious mistake. They were so focused on removing me as the leader that they failed to see that the campaign had many leaders and removing me has had zero effect on the operation of the ships. Stopping Sea Shepherd USA from funding the campaign has also not caused any problems. Ending illegal whaling is a global issue and it has global support. That global support has been steadily increasing.
As for myself, I spent fifteen months at sea and I loved every moment of it. I crossed the Atlantic and the Pacific and half of the Indian Ocean, I spent three months in the Southern Ocean and shared the seas with icebergs, whales, seals, and sea-birds. I walked on the sand of remote deserted islands, watched turtles lay their eggs, watched thousands of birds hatch from their eggs. I collected plastic debris from numerous island beaches, picked my own coconuts and dove amongst giant clams, swimming side by side with sharks and whales. I did a study of hermit crabs, did a lot of writing and a lot of reading and everyday I had the pleasure of watching the sun rise and set on the horizon of the ocean.
I saw things I had never seen before, walked on islands where few have been before and I enjoyed a peacefulness and contentment that I have not experienced before. There really are benefits to exile.
I have made great progress on the books I have been writing and I will certainly have Whale Wars ready for publication in 2014.
One great benefit of my exile is it has been great for my health in general. The fresh air. The fact that I have not flown on an airplane for a year and a half. The vegan menu on our vessels. Long walks on sandy beaches, hikes through tropical jungles and regular diving and swimming at coral reefs and in the deep ocean.
I wrote this poem on May 11th 2012 about the benefits of tropical exile.
Tropical Garden of Delights
I picked a grapefruit from a tree,
A beautiful fruit, and it was free,
There is nothing bought to rival the taste,
And no paper or plastic bags to waste.
A coconut dropped from another tree
Right there on the beach and also free
It came in a perfectly shaped organic cup
Ripe, ready and delicious to sup.
On a tree limb there grew an orange,
There is no word that rhymes with orange,
I plucked that orange from that branch,
On this island I have carte blanche
I took a little walk way from the beach,
And found another fruit in easy reach,
When your taste buds experience Nirvana,
You’ve just eaten a real tropic born banana.
For breakfast a fruit delicious and raw,
For nothing beats a fresh paw-paw,
And to make it especially nice,
Add lime juice to every slice.
The Pineapple is the queen of fruit
Juiced, sliced or diced it’s a beaut,
Breadfruit instead of fries
For your health it’s very wise
Guava and fruit of passion
Life is good on a tropic ration
Walking in this garden of delight
Where fresh fruit is always in sight.
Kurt Vonnegut once observed that writers fare better under adversity. Challenges stimulate creativity.
Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?
- Kurt Vonnegut
I knew years ago when I decided to stand up against illegal Japanese whaling that I was kicking a very powerful and proud giant in the knee. There is no doubt that we got the giant’s attention. What is amazing is that we have been so damn successful in intervening against the giant’s murderous activities in the Southern Ocean.
Sea Shepherd has out-witted and out maneuvered the Japanese whaling fleet for eight straight seasons and in the process we have saved the lives of thousands of whales.
Although I have been forced to step off the ships, the ships carry on with captains, officers and crew focused on the saving of lives in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
The U.S. 9th Circuit Court has ordered me to not participate in the Southern Ocean campaign and my response is to comply with the law and to not participate in the Southern Ocean campaign. However former Australian Senator Bob Brown and Sea Shepherd Australia director Jeff Hansen are not under any obligation to a U.S. Court. In fact they feel they have a responsibility to carry on with a campaign against an activity that has been declared illegal by the Australian Federal Court.
Thus we have an interesting situation where the U.S. Court has sided with the whalers and the Australian court has ruled against the whalers. The Japanese whalers in contempt of the Australian Federal Court have gone before the U.S. Court to demand that they stop interference against an activity condemned by the Australian Court.
And in addition to that we have the International Court of Justice deliberating on the legality of Japanese “research” whaling.
I am also stoked to see captains Peter Hammarstedt from Sweden and Sid Chakavarty from India rise to the opportunity of leadership. The courage and steadfastness they both displayed on Operation Zero Tolerance bodes well for the success of Operation Relentless.
They have their ships and they will take those ship’s into harm’s way to defend the whales and they will do so without hesitation and in confidence that they can succeed.
What fills my heart with satisfaction and warmth is the knowing, that after years of interventions against the ruthlessness of the whalers, that thousands of these magnificent sea mammals have been saved, that thousands of babies carried by female whales that were spared the harpoon, were saved.
If we accomplish nothing else in this life, the salvation of these whales alone has given me a lifetime of satisfaction and I am content with what we have achieved and I am confident that we will achieve much more.
People have asked me on many occasions about religion. What is your religion? What do you believe it?
The answer to that is simple. I believe in life. I am not interested in the question of creation nor am I interested in personal spiritual fulfillment or salvation. I am not interested in any theology that places humans above all other life-forms.
I am interested in life, in saving lives and defending the diversity of life. I am interested in maintaining the web of life and my sights are set on a world beyond my own mortality – the world of the future and it is in that world that I wish to see the survival of the whales, the turtles, the seals, the dolphins, the fish and all the myriad of species that make up the foundation of the interconnected community of life on our wondrous planet.
There are dark forces within humanity that work to destroy life but fortunately they are countered by humans motivated by compassion. Our purpose is to stop the harpoons, the guns, the traps, the pollution, the destruction and all those who deny life because they lack the empathy to understand the importance of diversity and the appreciation that all living things have emotions, thoughts, dreams and the will to live.
This is why, that in the entire history of Sea Shepherd, we have never caused a single injury to those we oppose. This is why we encourage veganism on our ships. This is why we seek to work in harmony with life instead of negating life.
I think that the most exciting thing that has happened over the last year was finally being able to see my beautiful grand-daughter Gemma. I last saw her the week she was born in April 2012. Now she is walking and a little person and fascinating to spend some time with. And it was also wonderful to see my lovely daughter once again. I think that there is nothing in my life that I can be more proud of than knowing that my only child, my daughter is such a strong, independent, creative and successful woman and such a wonderful mother to her daughter.
After a year and a half on the waves, I am quite content to spend some time on land and I intend to make the best of it by completing the books I need to write, and working on the motion picture based on my life.
When I look back over the many months since I landed in Germany in April 2012, I have no regrets. Things unfolded as they did as a response to my many years of interventions against illegal exploitation of life and diversity in and on our oceans. And all in all it was simply the beginning of another adventure, an adventure that has ended on the water but now continues on land. And as for the sea, I have no doubt that I will be feeling the deck moving beneath my feet again in the near future.