Ocean Warrior:
My Battle to End the Illegal Slaughter on the High
Seas
Capt. Paul Watson
Founder, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

 

“Captain Paul Watson is by far the most knowledgeable, dedicated
and courageous environmentalist alive today, and
Ocean Warrior is his continuing odyssey.”
—Martin Sheen

by Captain Paul Watson

There are many people who say that what we do is futile, that there is no way to stop the rising tide of human-spawned destruction. There are many who condemn my crew and me for taking the law into our own hands and for taking on the barons of corporate profit. There are some who would like to see us jailed, or even dead, so blinded are they to the conceit and folly of their own anthropocentrism.

I don't care. I do what I do because it is the right thing to do. I have never worried about winning or losing.

I am a warrior and it is the way of the warrior to fight against superior odds even when victory is no more than a dream. I have no illusions. I know that the rate of extinction on this Earth increases daily. This knowledge makes me angry. As a warrior, I cherish my anger, because it is anger that gives me courage and strengthens my resolve. The specter of extinction, the prospect of diminishment, the certainty of a biological holocaust make me strong.

And yet there is hope. Perhaps, just perhaps, our efforts will buy a little time and a little space. My friend Edward Abbey once said, "Life is cruel, but compared to what?" He was right. Life is what we must cling to; there is no alternative.

Happily, my small hope that life will triumph is not merely theoretical or imaginary. When I looked into the eye of a whale, I could no longer be bothered with the trivialization of a self-absorbed humanity. I have seen the black, teary eyes of harp seals and the tortured red eyes of an oil-covered cormorant who stood dying in a pool of black filth. What I saw there has given me the strength to overcome my own anthropocentrism. I have refused to side with humanity in her war against the Earth.

I fully expect to be killed one day by one of my own species. A whaler, sealer, shark poacher or member of the crew on a driftnetter or drag trawler will kill me. Or it may be a government agent acting as the hired thug of a corporation. But the only thing that matters to me is that I use my life to save lives, protect species and conserve habitat. By doing so, I know I can make a difference, and perhaps inspire others who will also make a difference.

I am not competing in a popularity contest. On the contrary: it is my function as an ecological activist to say things that people don't want to hear and to do things that people don't want to see done. I am trying to be what I wish my ancestors had been. I wish there had been someone around to defend the great auk, the Labrador duck and the Biscayan right whale — all long gone. I am here to defend the species that might otherwise go the way they have gone, for the sake of my children and my children's children.

My work may amount to no more than a ripple on the ocean's surface. But there have been others who have made ripples before me. Rachel Carson and John Muir, Jules Verne and Farley Mowat, Dian Fossey and Richard Leakey have all disturbed the waters in their time. My own ripple will join theirs, and together they will become wavelets and waves, and eventually, perhaps, thundering surf crashing upon the rocks of human ignorance and selfishness.

My belief that the ripples will grow and multiply gives me confidence. That, and the simple satisfaction that comes from seizing driftnets, sinking whalers, ramming mechanized fish factories and destroying other weapons that have been used in the assault on nature. The thrill of saving lives, of knowing that a whale will sire, a seal pup thrive, and a species survive for another few years, gives me a reason to go on.

Above all, in spite of everything that has been said or done to me since July 16, 1979, the day I rammed the Sierra, I have been a happy man.

 

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