|Sea Shepherd Conservation Society|
|Founded||1977 in Oregon, USA|
|Headquarters||Friday Harbor, Washington, USA
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
|Motto||Investigating violations; Enforcing laws; Protecting marine wildlife worldwide|
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) is a non-profit, marine conservation organization based in Friday Harbor, Washington in the United States. The group, which is often linked to the radical environmentalism movement, uses direct action tactics to protect sealife. Sea Shepherd currently operates the vessels MV Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker, and most of the group's activities take place in international waters. The group has a strong focus on public relations to spread their message via the media.
The organization was founded in 1977 under the name Earth Force Society by Paul Watson, an early member of Greenpeace, after a dispute with that organization over what Watson saw as its lack of more aggressive intervention.  It has received support for its tactics against fishing, whaling, and seal hunting from quarters such as media personalities, and the Dalai Lama has expressed support for its volunteers, while critics have condemned the violent nature of the actions. Various governments and organizations (and even members of the society) have referred to the group as pirates.
Operations have included scuttling and disabling whaling vessels at harbor, intervening in Canadian seal hunts, ramming other vessels, trying to temporarily blind or disorient whalers with a laser device, throwing bottles of foul-smelling butyric acid onto vessels at sea, boarding of whaling vessels while at sea, and seizure and destruction of drift nets at sea. Sea Shepherd claims that their aggressive actions are necessary as the international community has shown itself unwilling or unable to stop species-endangering whaling and fishing practices. Some governments and organizations have referred to them as terrorists.
In 2008, Animal Planet began filming the weekly series Whale Wars based on the group's encounters with the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean, a development which brought the group much publicity.
The predecessor organization of Sea Shepherd, the "Earth Force Society", was formed in 1977, after its founder, Paul Watson was ousted from the board of Greenpeace for disagreements over his direct action activism which clashed with their pacifist ethos. Watson soon after left Greenpeace. Initially without funding and with only a small group of supporters, in 1978 Watson managed to convince Cleveland Amory, head of the British Fund for Animals to fund Watson's first vessel, the Sea Shepherd.
Setting a pattern that the group would keep up in later years, the group managed to scuttle a whaling vessel, though the first Sea Shepherd was impounded and lost. Watson describes that he used the money gained from selling the story rights to fund his next vessel.
After having spent the 1980s undertaking a variety of controversial and dangerous operations in support of various marine conservation aims, in the 1990 the group has been described as having undertaken a shift in their public attitude. Having previously argued primarily from an ethical viewpoint, from the 1990s, Watson's group now also started ascribing themselves law enforcement powers, using ill-defined or self-interpreted maritime and conservation law to describe themselves as an anti-poaching agency. In some cases in the 2000s, they cooperated with official government efforts against maritime poaching, such as in Costa Rican waters, though the agreements often did not last long before conflict ensued.
Sea Shepherd is a non-government environmental organization and in the United States has a 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. 80.8% of the organization's revenue are spent on its programs, while 8.9% of revenue is spent on administrative costs. Sea Shepherd is supported by private and corporate donations, lectures by Paul Watson, internet advertising, and grants. The group is operated by volunteers and a small paid staff. Watson says that he is committed to keeping his organization small and does not believe in spending money on fund-raising or recruitment. (though the group does fund-raise online and has received funds through a number of cooperation/donation agreements from other companies or organizations).
Sea Shepherd is governed by a board of directors. Currently there are six directors, including Watson. The organization has several boards of advisers, each addressing a particular area of expertise. These are the Scientific, Technical, and Conservation Advisory Board, which has 13 members including Earth First! founder Dave Foreman and Horst Klienschmidt, a former (2006) Deputy-Chair of the International Whaling Commission; the Financial and Management Advisory Board, with three members; the Legal and Law Enforcement Advisory Board, with two members including Ian Campbell, a former Australian Minister of the Environment and Heritage (2004-07) whom whaling groups had previously accused of having inappropriate and close ties with the organization; the Animal Welfare, Humane and Animal Rights Advisory Board, with seven members including animal rights philosopher Tom Regan; the Media and Arts Advisory Board, with 15 members including Sean Penn and Martin Sheen; and a Photography Advisory Board with two members.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has received attention from the press and been called "media savvy". The group has worked with journalists and has made statements through press releases to spread its message during various campaigns.
Watson's public relations savvy is shown in an episode of Whale Wars when he creates an international media "storm" after two crewmembers are detained on a Japanese whaling vessel. In his book, Earthforce!, Watson advises readers to make up facts and figures when they need to, and to deliver them to reporters confidently. He also states that the "truth is irrelevant" due the nature of mass media. In response to criticism that he manipulates the media, Watson has stated: "What we do is provide the media with the kind of stories they can't resist... and this is how we bring attention to what's happening to the whales, the seals, the sharks and the other marine conservation campaigns we're involved in."
Sea Shepherd has also used satellite uplinks, webcams, and internet blogging during its operations in the Southern Ocean, and has invited the media to ride along. In 2006, representatives from Seven network and National Geographic magazine, along with documentary filmmakers, accompanied the group. In a television series entitled Whale Wars, Discovery Communications, Inc. documented Sea Shepherd's 2008-2009 Antarctic campaign against Japanese whalers, following events on the Steve Irwin. The program premiered on November 7, 2008, on Discovery's Animal Planet network.
Sea Shepherd has been criticized and sometimes physically attacked by people in several of the countries they protest against. In November 1988, Makah seized an inflatable boat belonging to the group and threw rocks at the Sea Shepherd's Sirenian in response to protests over their whale hunt. In March 1995, a mob of Canadian seal hunters stormed the hotel were members were staying. They fled while the mob ransacked their room. In 2005, Sea Shepherd crew were confronted by a threatening group of sealers while on the ice. In 2008, fishermen in the French islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon cut the mooring lines of the Farley Mowat after hearing Watson make disparaging comments about the deaths of four seal hunters. In February 2010, pro-whaling demonstrators gathered outside the Australian Embassy in Tokyo to protest the group. A political activist said that Sea Shepherd's actions were "absolutely racial discrimination against Japanese people."
Sea Shepherd has received financial contributions from celebrities and business men such as entrepreneur Steve Wynn, television personality Bob Barker, and John Paul DeJoria, as well as other celebrities. Martin Sheen, Darryl Hannah, and Richard Dean Anderson have joined the group during protests. Actors including Edward Norton, Pierce Brosnan, Christian Bale, and Emily Deschanel have supported the group through contributions, while William Shatner has also been mentioned as supporting the group In 2007, actor Heath Ledger conceived and directed a music video of a yet-to-be-released Modest Mouse song, 'King Rat,' intended to raise awareness of the whale hunts taking place each year off the coast of his native Australia. Although Ledger died before the video could be completed, others finished it in his honor and debuted the video online in August 2009. Proceeds from iTunes sales of the video in its first month of release were donated to Sea Shepherd.
From the music industry, Mick Jagger, Anthony Kiedis, Leona Lewis, Rick Rubin, and the group The Red Paintings have financially supported Sea Shepherd. In 2009, professional surfer Kelly Slater joined a Quicksilver Australia/Sea Shepherd partnership featuring a fundraising clothing line, including board shorts designed by Slater.
A letter of support from the Dalai Lama expressing support for Sea Shepherd's volunteers was accompanied by a wrathful, scowling statue of the deity Hayagriva, expressing compassion and determination in overcoming obstacles.
The Lush cosmetics company joined with Sea Shepherd to raise awareness about the practice of shark finning in 2008. Lush produced 'Shark Fin Soap' (punning on 'shark fin soup'); all sale proceeds were directed to Sea Shepherd. To launch the soap and awareness campaign a performance artist suspended herself, using hooks in her flesh, in a Lush shopfront window in London.
Sea Shepherd has based many of its operations out of Australia with foreign crew members being able to travel in and out of the country on tourist visas. Tasmanian Greens and the Greens Senator Bob Brown, have endorsed and supported the Society in various ways, including advocacy within the Australian government and public endorsement of the group. When the Steve Irwin returned to Hobart in February 2009, Australian Federal Police seized film footage and the ship's logs, reportedly prompted by complaints from Japan. Brown demanded that the Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, order their immediate return, but a spokesman for the Home Affairs Minister said it was a federal police matter.
In October, The Australian Immigration Department ruled that Watson and his First Officer, Peter Hammarstedt, must satisfy new good-character requirements to obtain business visas, requiring them to provide police references from the governments of the United States, Canada and Norway. Watson criticized what he considered a submission to Japanese pressure by the Rudd government. The Australian government responded by rejecting the idea that it was in some way delaying Watson, and on October 20, 2009 issued visas to Watson and Hammarstedt.
The ships of the fleet have flown the flags of different nations and the opinion of several governments that the vessels are engaged in inappropriate activities has several times led to registration issues for Sea Shepherd vessels. Canada, Belize and Togo have revoked the registrations of various vessels and the Netherlands and have in the past considered revoking the registration of ships registered under their flag as well.
Sea Shepherd engages in conventional protests and direct actions to protect marine wildlife. Sea Shepherd operations have included interdiction against commercial fishing, shark poaching and finning, seal hunting, and whaling.
Sea Shepherd also investigates other sealife-related crimes, and offers rewards for information leading to the apprehension of people engaging in such activity. It has also offered a $25,000 bounty on any information leading to the capture of the murderer of Jane Tipson, a noted animal activist killed in 2003.
According to its mission statement, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society "uses innovative direct-action tactics to investigate, document, and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities on the high seas". Those actions have included scuttling and disabling commercial whaling vessels at harbor, ramming other vessels, throwing glass bottles of butyric acid on the decks of vessels at sea, boarding of whaling vessels while at sea, and seizure and destruction of drift nets at sea. As of 2009, Paul Watson has said that the organization has sunk ten whaling ships while also destroying millions of dollars worth of equipment. He considers the actions to be against "criminal operations" and has called the group an "anti-poaching organization".
Critics claim that Sea Shepherd's actions constitute violations of international law. Sea Shepherd has responded by stating that its actions constitute enforcement of international maritime law under the United Nations World Charter for Nature. A 2008 academic paper by researchers at Monash University concluded that the group "may be best categorized as a vigilante group, because they say they are seeking to enforce a legal status quo because of states' and the international community's inabilities or unwillingness to do so."
Their practice of attacking and sinking other ships has led to reports of injuries to other sailors as well as the Sea Shepherd crew, including concussions and complications from chemical attacks.
In testimony on "The Threat of Eco-Terrorism" given to the US Congress in 2002, Sea Shepherd is the first group mentioned for having "attacked commercial fishing operations". An earlier Canadian intelligence report on "Single Issue Terrorism" stated that "Watson and his supporters have been involved in a number of militant actions against whale hunting, driftnet fishing, seal hunting and other related issues" and mentions "activities against logging operations in Canada". The group has been accused of eco-terrorism by the Japanese government. Due to the 2008 operations against Canadian seal hunters, Danny Williams, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, called Watson a terrorist and said that Sea Shepherd was not welcome in the province. Before founding Sea Shepherd, Watson was an early member of Greenpeace. He left in 1977 after being expelled from the board of directors due to his confrontational methods. Greenpeace has criticized Sea Shepherd for the group's tactics, particularly regarding its interaction with whaling ships while at sea. The rival environmental group maintains Sea Shepherd is a violent organization whose tactics may endanger the lives of fishermen and whalers. Greenpeace has called Watson a violent extremist and will no longer comment on his activities. Greenpeace is also critical of the group on its website and state: "By making it easy to paint anti-whaling forces as dangerous, piratical terrorists, Sea Shepherd could undermine the forces within Japan which could actually bring whaling to an end". Both groups protest the Japanese whale hunts in the Southern Ocean but Greenpeace has a policy to not assist Sea Shepherd in finding the whalers.
Sea Shepherd refer to the ships it has operated as Neptune's Navy. As of early 2010, the society operates two ships, the MV Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker as well as smaller vessels such as RHIBs.
The Steve Irwin was obtained in 2007 and originally called the Robert Hunter. It was renamed in honor of Australian Steve Irwin ("The Crocodile Hunter"). Terri Irwin, his widow, gave her support to Sea Shepherd, saying, "Whales have always been in Steve's heart and in 2006 he was investigating the possibility of joining the Sea Shepherd on part of its journey to defend these beautiful animals." The other ship, the 1200 ton Bob Barker, was named after famous television game-show host and animal activist Bob Barker, who made the purchase in Ghana of the retired Norwegian whaling vessel possible with a donation of USD$5 million. In February 2010, the Bob Barker collided with the Japanese whaling vessel Yushin Maru No. 3, tearing a gash in the hull of the Bob Barker.
The group also formerly operated the Farley Mowat (impounded by the Canadian government, with Sea Shepherd having stated that they have no intention of paying the legal fines and berthage fees to recover their now obsolete vessel) and the Ady Gil, formerly known as the Earthrace (sunk after a collision with a Japanese whaling vessel in early 2010) as well as a number of earlier vessels.