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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Sea Shepherd Sinks Ships So Cetaceans Still Survive?

Air Date: Week of

Host Steve Curwood talks with Paul Watson, captain of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Watson's group takes credit for sinking two Norwegian whaling ships in defense of an international ban on whaling. While whalers refer to the Sea Shepherds as terrorists, Watson claims he is legitimately enforcing the law, and will continue to do so.


CURWOOD: As Simon Dring reported, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society takes credit for sinking two Norwegian whaling ships, and the group claims to have sunk as many as seven whaling vessels since 1979. Paul Watson is captain of the Sea Shepherds, and he joins us now on the line from Vancouver, British Columbia. Mr. Watson, how can you justify these acts of violence?

WATSON: Well, I don't look on them as acts of violence. We take every precaution to ensure that we don't cause any injuries. We've never caused any injuries. We don't believe that we're actually committing any crimes, because none of the nations involved have laid any criminal charges against us, although we've tried to get them to do so. We're dealing with criminal, pirate, whaling operations here. How can they justify what they're doing, which is ignoring international regulations and continuing to kill whales? And having a very serious impact on the survival of many whale species.

CURWOOD: Now you say no one has filed charges against you, but we talked to the Norwegian consulate. They say there are charges pending against you in Norway.

WATSON: Well that's very interesting. They tell the media that. But we've been in daily contact with the FBI on this matter, and we have had no verification of charges. In fact, I got a letter from the Norwegian authorities a week ago saying, in response to my question as to whether there were charges, and did they want me to come to Norway? And the letter was very vague, and it said, we will decide whether there will be charges at a future date, at which time, if you come to Norway, we can let you know. All I want is a straight answer from them: are there charges, what time do you want me to appear in Norway, and we will appear.

CURWOOD: If you were to turn yourself in to the Norwegian authorities, what would be an appropriate punishment for what you've done?

WATSON: I'm not there to address any punishments for myself. I'm there to use their courts as a forum to expose their illegal whaling activities. And to me, it's a political forum. And our defense will be that Norway is acting outside of international laws and regulations. They know that; that's one of the reasons that they're very reluctant to get me into Norway into one of their courts.

CURWOOD: Now no one's been hurt so far, but aren't you worried that some day, that somebody will be caught in one of your explosions?

WATSON: We don't use explosives. We sink the ships by going into the engine room and opening up their cooling systems and flooding the engine room. The monkey wrench is our tool, not any bombs. We have been very meticulous in our plans so as to ensure that nobody is injured. The killing's being done by these criminal whaling operations. Last year they killed 300 minke whales. That is a crime.

CURWOOD: You're upset with whalers who go out and kill whales.

WATSON: No, I'm upset with criminal whaling activities. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society does not protest whaling. We uphold the moratorium, which is in effect protecting whales. That's simply all we're doing, is enforcing the law, because there is an absence of a law enforcement agency with the jurisdiction in order to uphold these international regulations. And until such an organization comes into existence, we are doing that job.

CURWOOD: So if the International Whaling Commission decided to approve some whaling, you'd go along?

WATSON: We have to; that is the way we're set up.

CURWOOD: Well, let's carry this another step. Governments certainly do engage in illegal activities, don't they?

WATSON: Unfortunately, they do.

CURWOOD: Now, what if we were to look at the government of - oh, for argument's sake - Serbia, today, which is engaged in illegal activities against the people of Bosnia. Do you think you should go in and enforce international law there?

WATSON: Well, I think the difference between us and, say, the United States governments, is we actually do something while these governments just talk about doing things about it. There's been a lot of rhetoric about Bosnia and Serbia and very little action. The same with whaling. There's been a lot of rhetoric about protecting whales and very little real action to save them. I think that we are one of the few organizations that is through talking and has started acting. In fact, we started acting a long time ago.

CURWOOD: Are you done with Norway? Do you think you've made your point? Or are there more boats that you are planning to try to sink there?

WATSON: Oh, we're absolutely not finished with Norway. As long as Norway continues to kill whales in violation of the moratorium on commercial whaling, then every single one of those whaling vessels is a target. Our real objective here is to increase their insurance costs, increase their security costs. That's where we're really going to hurt them economically. And as long as we keep them guessing as to where we're going to strike next, then all of the vessels are going to have to pay those costs. And therefore, all of their profits are going to be diminished.

CURWOOD: Well, I want to thank you for taking this time with us. Paul Watson is captain of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

WATSON: Thank you.



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