Sea Shepherd

From Academic Kids

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is a non-profit, non-governmental maritime organization founded by Paul Watson in 1977. The organization was founded after Watson's expulsion from Greenpeace, an organization which Watson originally helped found, over disagreements over tactics. Sea Shepherd is more militant than Greenpeace; indeed, Paul Watson has since referred to Greenpeace as "The Avon ladies of the environmental movement".

Sea Shepherd is currently based in Friday Harbor, Washington, in the United States, and has a fleet of two ships, the Farley Mowat and the Sirenian. Major operations include interdiction against whaling in Antarctic waters, patrols of the Galapagos Islands, and action against Canadian seal hunters. Sea Shepherd has an affiliated organization in Canada called ORCA Force.

Sea Shepherd engages in a number of provocative actions to protect marine wildlife such as seals, dolphins and whales. These have included more conventional protests, as well as, at times, such actions as armed boardings of foreign-flag vessels in international waters, scuttling and sinking of fishing boats engaged in illegal fishery operations, acts of sabotage against vessels in harbor, ramming the illegal whaling ship the Sierra in the Portuguese harbor, and the confiscation and destruction of illegal driftnets at sea. Sea Shepherd has also conducted an intense media campaign against Japanese high seas whaling and the Canadian sealing industry in particular.

Sea Shepherd bases its actions on international maritime law enforcement under the United Nations charter. Sea Shepherd is supported by private donations and operated by volunteers and paid staff, including two of its founder's wives. Critics, however, including its targets consider Sea Shepherd to be operating outside the law, harassing their lawful fishing and resource extraction operations, and use political epithets such as "pirate" and "ecoterrorist" to refer to the organization.

In the course of these operations Sea Shepherd associates have been threatened, taken prisoner, and tried for commission of crimes on the high seas including maritime piracy, usually with little success. Paul Watson, the founder of the group, was arrested in 1993 in Canada on charges stemming from actions against Cuban and Spanish fishing boats off the coast of Newfoundland. In 1997, Watson was convicted in absentia by Norway on charges of sinking a Norwegian whaling ship, but Dutch authorities refused to hand him over to Norwegian authorities. Costa Rica filed attempted murder charges against Watson for an incident after he caught a Costa Rican fishing boat poaching, but charges were dropped after prosecutors were shown a film of the incident that was shot by a team making a documentary of Sea Shepherd. Several nations including Japan have pressured the United States to declare Sea Shepherd a terrorist organization. Animal rights activist Rod Coronado, who has had numerous legal problems stemming from his activism, got his start in activism with Sea Shepherd, where he participated in one of Sea Shepherd's best-known and most controversial actions, the scuttling of two ships from Iceland's whaling fleet while in port in 1986.

Despite their frequent legal troubles in various nations, Sea Shepherd currently has working agreements with several countries including Ecuador, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Indonesia to help those countries fight poaching, and has worked against poaching in cooperation with the United States government in the past.

As of 2005, Sea Shepherd's current priorities are a permanent patrol in the Galapagos Islands to protect sea tortoises and other marine wildlife, and a campaign against the 2005 seal hunt in Canada, which includes a boycott of Canadian seafood products.

Sea Shepherd has many critics, but also many outspoken supporters including actors Pierce Brosnan, Martin Sheen, Sean Penn, and William Shatner, environmental activists Dave Foreman and Farley Mowat, and the late writer Edward Abbey. Corporate sponsors include Paul Mitchell Systems and Patagonia.


  • Ocean Warrior: My Battle to End the Illegal Slaughter on the High Seas, by Paul Watson, 1994
  • Seal Wars, by Paul Watson, 2002

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