Sea Shepherd: Friend or foe of shark conservation?

croppedAs promised, this week’s ethical debate deals with one of the most hotly debated issues in the marine conservation community- the tactics of “Sea Shepherd”.

Though “Sea Shepherd” is most famous (or infamous) for their work with the Japanese whaling fleet, which is featured in “Whale Wars”, they are also heavily involved with the shark finning industry.

Before we get started, I want to say something about the tone of this debate. I know from our own comments sections, even ones that don’t deal directly with Sea Shepherd, that there are strong opinions on both sides of this issue. See last week’s Deep Sea News, particularly the comments section, for an example of this.  Here at Southern Fried Science, we recently came up with a new comments policy, which we will be enforcing strictly with this post. DO NOT personally attack anyone, DO NOT try to change the subject to something totally irrelevant, and DO NOT post under multiple names to create the false appearance of a majority (“sock puppetry”). Since the Deep Sea News post covered whale stuff pretty solidly, we will only be talking about shark finning here. WE ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT WHALING IN THIS POST.

Ok, now on to the debate.

If anyone isn’t familiar with Sea Shepherd’s methods or the controversy surrounding them, you will likely be confused by the caution with which I introduced this ethical debate.  Hopefully that will soon be made clear.

While groups like Oceana and WildAid focus on public education, Sea Shepherd focuses on action. As an example, in the movie “Sharkwater”, which I really liked except for the parts that involved Sea Shepherd, Paul Watson and his crew find a ship actively engaged in longlining for sharks to fin. Using a high-powered water cannon, the Sea Shepherd folks attempt to flood the engines of the shark finning vessel. They also attempt to destroy fishing gear in the water. There are many reported incidents where Sea Shepherd vessels actually ram fishing vessels.

They also do things like this – a woman in London suspended herself by hooks in her skin to protest the sale of shark products at a department store.

Let me be perfectly clear on my background with shark conservation before I state my opinions on Sea Shepherd. I believe that sharks play a critical role in the ecosystem. I believe that due in no small part to the shark finning industry, populations of many sharks species have declines by as much as 90% in the last few decades. I believe that shark finning is a brutal, wasteful, and completely unsustainable practice and I would be quite happy if it stopped.

That said, Sea Shepherd and their tactics are bad for the conservation movement, bad for sharks, bad for science, and morally wrong in their own right.

Dr. M at Deep Sea News summarizes nicely why ramming ships is so completely unacceptable.

  1. The  ramming of another vessel is against every maritime code and just general sense of decency I can think of.
  2. For a captain to put both his own vessel and crew at risk and another as well, intentionally, is beyond forgiveness.
  3. To conduct such an act that serves absolutely no function other than showboating or putting on a good show for television crews is cheap.

I’ll add little to this, other than to point out that the ship being attacked by Sea Shepherd in Sharkwater was crewed by poor South American fisherman who haven’t been able to find other work. And yes, “attacked” is the right word when one vessel attempts to damage or destroy another vessel. Disregarding the bad PR of well-off Americans violently telling poor people that they can’t earn a living, YOU JUST CAN’T DO THAT. People’s lives were put in danger! The shark finners are made to look like victims- in fact, they ARE victims- which makes others sympathetic to them.

Yes, the individual sharks freed from the longlines by Sea Shepherd are probably better off. However, sharks as a whole are FAR WORSE OFF as a result of Sea Shepherd’s insane and criminal actions. I speak to the general public about sharks and shark conservation whenever I get the chance. It is HARD to get people to care about sharks. I have had some success through reasoned and respectful argument. All that Sea Shepherd does is to make regular people associate caring about sharks with being insane and violent- and they DO make the association. I have not yet had any success convincing anyone who has seen Sea Shepherd endanger the lives of poor people for the sake of sharks that sharks are worth saving, and I know many other sane shark activists who have had the same problem.

While Sea Shepherd is superbly skilled at making headlines, the news stories usually focus on the criminal actions taken by Sea Shephard and almost never focus on the actual scientific reasons why sharks are important- largely because many Sea Shepherd members are ignorant of science. Simply “generating awareness” is not helpful, particularly when it’s done in this way.

I appreciate the enthusiasm, but it would be nice if it were directed towards actually helping sharks instead of becoming famous and demonizing people who don’t have another way to earn money.

We will NEVER get sharks the legal protection they need without getting large groups of people to care about sharks. Sea Shepherd DOES NOT get regular people to care about sharks, they get regular people to associate caring about sharks with being insane and endangering the lives of poor people. Sharks and the shark conservation movement are FAR WORSE OFF as a result of Sea Shepherd.

Thoughts? Please keep it relevant, respectful, and sock-puppet free.


  1. I agree whole heartedly on the points against aggressive actions like ramming boats. They cross the line between protector and pirate, and it doesn’t do anyone any good.

    I hope this isn’t too off topic, but I wanted to talk about the other methods you mentioned. Specifically, what about that woman hung by hooks? You seem to be just as offended by that as the sea warfare.

    I actually think that was a brilliant protest. Does it grab your attention? Definitely. Does it make you cringe? Absolutely. Will it make you talk and think about what’s going on? Yes.

    Let’s put it this way. It didn’t harm anyone (the woman, I’d argue, isn’t “harmed” since she clearly agreed to do it and is likely someone who enjoys that sort of thing… however painful it is to look at). This means it doesn’t go against any of the other reasons you have for disapproving. It’s newsworthy. It got in headlines and it made a statement. And not, as we just established, by breaking any laws. While it wouldn’t be my personal way of showing protest, it’s unique, eye-catching resistance art. How is it any different than the “truth” ads against smoking? Or any other ad campaign that shows horrific images to get your attention, like ones that show beat up animals or starving children?

    Like I said, I agree that they should stop the ridiculous and dangerous activities that they do on the high seas. But, if anything, I’d like to see more stunts like the shark-woman. Ad campaigns use graphic images for a reason. If pictures of dead sharks aren’t cutting it (no pun intended), why not use something that gets under the public’s skin a bit more (pun intended)?

    • Stuff like that isn’t as bad because, as you say, it doesn’t endanger anyone else. However, shocking people to get their attention isn’t as effective as respectful, reasoned argument.

    • I would like to believe that were true. But reason only works once someone decides to care, or at least think, about something. You can rationally explain to someone why smoking is bad for them, but let’s be honest – showing them images of their lungs on and off smoking has an immediate and lasting impact. Those anti-marijuana ads with the deflated people stick in your mind whether you want them to or not. Do I think reason, science and education are important in changing our world for the better? Absolutely. But I wouldn’t condemn a little shock and awe every once in awhile to get people’s attention.

      I’d like to see protestors surrounding the japanese boats like Angels did to Phelps. I think simply following them closely, taking video and photos of what they do, and preferably scaring off any whales they come near would be enough – no violence needed. Make their job difficult. I watched the first season of whale wars, and the most memorable part, to me, was the image of a freshly-killed whale being hauled onto the japanese boat. It made me tear up with anger and sadness every time I saw it. Those images should be put where everyone sees what is being done.

      It’s hard, though, when it comes to sharks, because people don’t see a great white and think “yeah, I want to see that when I go to the beach.” I mean, we do, but most people are just as happy if they never see a shark in their natural habitat. How do you convince those people that they are important? Especially when years like this one, with high shark attack numbers, just scare people into thinking there are too many sharks out there to begin with.

    • I’m with Christie on this. There’s a place for calm reasoned debates, and a place for immediate and emotional impact. But once you add violence to the mix, the story stops being about the issues and becomes consumed by the actors. When people are only discussing the tactics, and not the issues, the tactics have failed.

      And big dramatic displays work. When Greenpeace volunteers sailed into a nuclear testing range and refused to leave, people noticed. When the nation whose testing program was being disrupted responded by blowing up the Greenpeace flagship, people really noticed. Sympathy is rarely wasted on the aggressor, and those who resort to violence to prove their point throw themselves upon their own swords.

      Sea Shepherd is a failed experiment, that some people have refused to abandon.

    • Hmm…I’m with David on this one. I think that hanging yourself by skin hooks, while inducing an emotional impact, does nothing more than associate caring about sharks with crazy people.

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it – just a bit insane. I personally doubt that anyone came away from seeing hook-strung lady thinking “you know, sharks are important to the environment. I’m gonna pay more attention to them and support that cause.” More than likely, what she caused was “Look at the crazy lady mommy.”

      MAYBE she made a few people hear about shark-finning that were previously ignorant. But I seriously doubt any of those people took any further steps to help the shark’s plight.

      I freely admit that I could be COMPLETELY wrong on this. Maybe she was much more effective than my cynical mind thinks. But I personally doubt it. I would certainly be open to the idea if some data supported it as a useful method.

      I also think hook-lady is a distinctly different tactic from the greenpeace protest, which sounded effective from Andrew’s description.

    • Well, agreed that hook-lady is different than the Greenpeace protest. But who can say how effective she was? Shock advertising has been studied (sparingly, from what I could find), and has been found to be more effective when it comes to memory and behavior, though there does seem to be some debate about it. Even still, that doesn’t mean all shock campaigns are equal. The point is that at least hook-lady did something to get attention to the cause in a non-violent way that got people talking. That, in my book, is a success, even if only a slight one – and infinitely better than violent and criminal protests.

    • perhaps you’re right…

      They seem very different to me. But I guess that’s only a guttural response with no real rational reason for it. Hunger: I think Ghandi. Hooks: I think David Blaine.

      I will concede that it probably raises awareness. I guess my point is that I’m not just not sure how much awareness in and of itself really matters without an emotional and intellectual reason to really care.

      I’ll leave it at that for hook-lady. It’s clear that I don’t really know…

  2. I think how successful “hook lady” was largely depends on your definition of success. I agree that she didn’t hurt anyone and therefore her actions don’t bother me as much as the other tactics we’ve been talking about.

    However, I agree with Irradiatus… I seriously doubt that many people came away from their encounter with hook lady with a sincere desire to learn more about sharks. More than likely, they either ignored it completely (there are lots of weird people in London), or were annoyed that their trip to the store was interrupted by a crazy person (making them less likely to be receptive to rational and respectful discussions about shark conservation in the future) .

  3. Hook Lady did nothing for me, and though it’s been awhile since it originally made the news, if I recall correctly, it did cause some discussion of the issue but the majority of people did come away with only the message that she was “nutters”. As for Sea Shepherd, for me – no dice. They are reckless and operate outside the law. They also make it harder to communicate conservation to people who identify them with conservation, especially of creatures that people don’t already empathize with or for. In my opinion only education and familiarization will effect lasting positive results.

    • I think everyone here has incredibly valid points, but the fact of the matter is that humans as a species have an innate protective response for animals (including young children) that we perceive as “cute”. We can’t help it, as I said it’s innate, built-in and second nature. This means that somehow we have to associate these animals with something other than violence especially because people perceive them as vicious man-eaters anyway. So The Sea Shepherd is not doing us any favours by showing this incredible lack of care for the laws that are put in place to prevent acts of violence. I think that as one person, we can make a difference and as a front they show incredible strength and courage but their lack of consideration for human lives is their downfall, in a way it’s almost as if they are putting the lives of sharks above those of humans which as far as I am concerned is just as bad as the other way around. We cannot, however do nothing and I too believe that the key is education, people don’t have to care about sharks like we cuddle our teddy bears but I think movies like Jaws did so much damage to the human perception of sharks it’s going to take quite a bit to re-educate and change the minds of people.

  4. Apologies for re-posting, but since the DSN conversation was shut down by the Sea Sheep, I think this point still needs to be said:

    Paul Watson is a pirate. He doesn’t care about conservation, he doesn’t care about [sharks]. He just wants to sail around in his brigantine drunk with rum and power causing havoc.

    Any captain that would willfully ram his vessel into another, endangering the lives of his crews, the other crew, and any rescuers who would have to respond to such a disaster, should be stripped of rank and hung from the yardarm. Any crew that would follow said captain are either suicidal or brainwashed.

    He’s hijacked a cause and used it to support his own absurd lifestyle. Imagine an environmentalist and you will see everything Paul Watson is not.

    • “Paul Watson is a pirate. He doesn’t care about conservation, he doesn’t care about [sharks]. He just wants to sail around in his brigantine drunk with rum and power causing havoc.”

      While I don’t agree with all of Paul Watson’s actions, especially in light of endangering human lives, I strongly disagree with the sentiment above. I have met Paul in person and have spoken to him about these issues. He is a very passionate individual and believes that conservation has to be on the top of our list of challenges, rather than just on the sidelines. To say that he doesn’t care about conservation is entirely wrong. To say that he does this only because he is power-hungry and wants to see himself in the media is rubbish. Before “Whale Wars” only a handful of people who had been exposed to Greenpeace and Paul’s subsequent split to form Sea Shepherds had heard of his organization. Unless you were already into ocean conservation you probably didn’t know who Paul Watson was.

      Drunk on rum and power? Hardly. No rum caskets on the Steve Irwin. He has a powerful personality, that much is true. He never minces words – that might rub some people the wrong way. I believe that the screening of “Whale Wars” is partially responsible for the unflattering picture that is being painted of Paul. And he is the CAPTAIN of his ship, which gives him a certain amount of power over his crew (face it, running a ship is never a democracy – most landlubbers don’t know that). While endangering human lives is certainly not a good thing, none of the people on board have been forced to join his crew. They are all VOLUNTEERS, and none of them are totally unaware of Paul’s history. If you don’t agree with his methods, I suggest you don’t even think of joining his crew…

      Paul puts into action what he believes in and he has the guts to do it. So many of us just want to believe that we are “conservationists”, but do we really act on it? Admit it, there are only a handful of people who are really INVOLVED and ultimately EFFECTIVE, the rest of us are just “armchair conservationists”. Over the course of my involvement in a number of environmental orgs I have met people like Paul, who felt that they had to go a step further than signing petitions, writing blogs, having parties with like-minded people or making presentations at environmental fairs. These people went out into world and started not only a dialogue, but WORKED with e.g. the fisheries, the tourism industry, energy companies, etc. to not only draw attention to the current situation but to find solutions to slow down the deterioration of our environment. Paul Watson may use methods that are not entirely acceptable, but he is drawing attention to the plight of whales, sharks, and other ocean dwellers. I know people who are completely anti-Sea Shepherd, but thanks to being exposed to what has been happening they became interested in finding out more about the oceans – or even ocean conservation. They might have been “turned off” Sea Shepherd, but they are now looking for more information and possibly alternate organizations they can get involved in. So in a way, Sea Shepherd is more about exposing the underlying problem and creating awareness. I will stress it again, I do not agree with all the methods of Sea Shepherds, but I do believe in the need to do more than just DISCUSS these issues to death. Paul and his crew might not be angels of conservation, but they are fanning the fires of awareness. Just the fact that there is a spirited discussion going on about this is already a positive result.

      The fact remains – raising awareness is never a bad thing. Too many people do not have any idea what is happening to our most important resource. Why not turn all that energy spent blogging about Paul and Sea Shepherds into some real action? Go out and start talking to people, find a local (okay – maybe kinder, gentler) conservation organization to support (believe me there are plenty), get your kids involved, follow simple conservation rules like saving water and energy, reducing the use of contaminants, recycling, keeping plastic bags and balloons out of our bodies of water, take part in beach clean-ups, etc. – I could go on for pages, but you all know what I am talking about or you wouldn’t be on this blog.

      Just get out of that armchair and become an ACTIVE conservationist.

    • Ah, I’m glad someone took the bait. Sea Shepherd loves to sensationalize their efforts and vastly exaggerate their claims while, in some case, simply making stuff up, and then phrasing it in an intentionally inflammatory way. My comment above is simply borrowing from their playbook.

      If that pissed you off, perhaps you can understand why Sea Shepherd pisses us off.

  5. i wanted to say this on Kevin’s Blog but very relevant here too 🙂

    For many of the same reasons that the ALF/PETA’s direct actions turned me into a vegetarian, the Sea Sheperd crew has me aware of the plight of sharks (and whales but we are not talking about them :D). I really would not have thought about it much then researched further into the issues if not for them “making headlines”. It puts those of us, who are not so deeply tied into environmental issues from our life work, into the position where we must think about it.

    Why are these people so passionate about it? What benefits does this have for society (on both sides)? What else is being done to defend or non-human animal friends that have no voice of their own? What am I doing to help?

    Important questions that we, myself included, that are distanced from biology do not get to address enough in daily life. The actions of the Sea Sheperd bring the discussions to the living room and newspapers where mainstream society can judge. Maybe 10% of these people (ok I am an optimist) may see this as an issue and something else get done.

    I know I am considering what I can do now.

  6. Slightly tangential, but I have to say this:

    I’m sorry, but for every 1 person turned on by PETA (since you brought it up, but the same could be said for SS), an untold number are turned off.

    We see this all the time in academia. And the fact that the ridicule of PETA is heavily correlated with education level (the more educated – the more ridiculous PETA looks), I think tells you something…

    I say this as an avid animal lover, conservationist, naturalist, and scientist.

    I mean, c’mon – renaming fish “sea kittens”? Bloody ridiculous.

    The point is, PETA and similar organizations are run by pure irrational emotion – taking up causes that have REAL RATIONAL reasons to take up. And by throwing so much inanity into the argument, the whole cause gets derailed. I know SO many people in the rural south who would otherwise be all for basic animal rights and pragmatic conservation, but instead they laugh at the entire animal rights and conservation movements because of their association with “crazy hippies.”

    Fish are dumb, wet, scaly organic robots. But they are unfathomably beautiful, and critically important to life and ecosystems the world over. They are fascinating creatures. But they’re not conscious people “without voices.” They are not “friends” – they don’t have the cognitive capacity for that (I don’t mean you can’t use the word friend figuratively – but there is a difference between the way PETA calls animals our “friends” and the way most animal lovers do).

    I’m happy that PETA turned you on to vegetarianism and/or animal rights (I could never be vegetarian though I understand the many good reasons to be one). But there are lines drawn within the very philosophy of animal rights (granted their are different philosophies of it). The lines are blurry, but it’s pretty clear when one has gone way past them. The ASPCA is a great example of staying within the rational and logical. PETA and sea kittens? Not so much.

    I realize that taking this into animal rights seems a bit off topic, but it’s not – the analogy is clear and it goes to the heart of all the lunatic fringe aspects of the conservation movement.

    I hope what I am trying to say at least makes sense.

  7. I have come to the conclusion that SSCS is a media machine posing as a direct action group. It’s good for attracting donors but let’s face it, they parachute into high profile events, ramp up the noise, and then pass the hat around.

    You see the same thing on side streets in New Orleans, or with the street performers in New York blowing flames out of their mouth. What Sea Shepherd is about is making noise so people will give them money so they can continue to make more noise.

    Is it effective? No. But in this hyper media age it is “wanted and desired” by the media machine and that is the crux of this discussion. Media output vs real and lasting action.

    As for Sharkwater, as a film it opened the eyes to many budding filmmakers that yes, you can do a doco on sharks and people will watch it. This is a good thing. Unfortunately many of the quotes in the film were pure SSCS eco hysteria and that is why it failed on a commercial level, none of the major distributors touched it.

    Are they doing good things for sharks? Ask the whales or the seals that question. If I was a shark in today’s ocean I would be swimming a bit faster knowing SSCS was going to spend the next 31 years raising awareness and Wagging the Conservation Dog on my behalf.

    Kudos to the Hook Lady, while the world poured another $100,000,000 into the accounts of LUSH Cosmetics another 100,000,000 people sat down to sharks fin soup for the Chinese New Year this year…and the beat-goes-on.

    We can do better. We have to do better.

  8. I’ve been waiting for this post, so hopefully I can meaningfully contribute to the discussion.

    I’m going to lay it out there plain and simple– Sea Shepherd is what originally drew me to marine conservation.

    Not their arguments, for sure. Their “scientific data” is completely without merit. They’ve never cited a study for their statistics. I’d be more likely to believe that shark populations are down 90% from what they were 30 years ago if someone would cite a reputable study. I’ve heard figures from 35% to 90%, so I don’t know who to believe. Sea Shepherd is wonderfully bad at proving their statistics. The fact that they base their actions on these statistics is unscientific and yes, harms marine conservation.

    That being said, I completely disagree with you about their methods. Maybe it’s different for people who’ve grown up around ships– I didn’t. Closest I came to that was my grandparents lake boats. But anyways, there are many examples of “direct action” activist groups and individual. For example– Jose Bove was a local farmer who was being put out of business by corporate farming, globalization and genetic modification of crops in the 70s and 80s. So when the local McDonalds started using beef that was all of the above, he rented a bulldozer and leveled the building when no one was in it at night. It accomplished what he wanted; it raised awareness and created a rallying point for local businesses. His movement has been fairly successful.

    Another example is Fr. Karl Cabat. Fr. Cabat was an anti-nuke activist that would go in groups of up to eight people and infiltrate nuclear silos. From there, they’d scatter files and pour animal blood on them, and then sabotage the mechanics of the missiles. He’s been jailed numerous times for sabotage and trespassing on federal lands, but every time he gets out of prison, he’s back destroying stuff.

    Anyways, my point is– this isn’t a new thing, and has been fairly successful. In terms of morals…well, as long as no one gets killed, I can’t see what’s wrong with it. Sure, it’s against maritime law, but no one’s died. So I do support their methods.

    As for Paul Watson…oh dear. I like what he has to say about human nature– we’re just upright, naked apes with an identity crisis. And future generations aren’t going to appreciate us if we don’t protect the ocean. HOWEVER. That’s where it stops. He rants like a fundamentalist Christian. He doesn’t listen to reason. He’s a conspiracy theorist. The list never ends. I personally think that Paul Watson can, most of the time, be worse for marine conservation than his organization can.

    Sea Shepherd always says that they’re filling a void, because there’s no international marine policing body. I agree that there needs to be one. Just not one by an NGO. Especially not one led by someone as unstable as Paul Watson. His intentions appear to be in the right place, but he’s just too unstable.

    It really comes down to Sea Shepherd’s motives. After their stunt with the “hostage situation,” I really think it’s just for attention.

    So, it really does feel odd to say this, but I think that Sea Shepherd is bad for the conservation movement, especially for the sharks.

    Wanna be a successful “Direct Action” organization? Work on cleaning up the Pacific trash heap (I forget what they’re calling it now) or cleaning up severed long lines or beaches, and educating the public with facts. Not stunts that reek of cinematics.

    That means you, too, Hook Lady.

    • A few points:

      Last I checked McDonald’s was doing fine, while small local farms continue to fail, especially in my county. And, faced with the threat of his business being destroyed, he went out and destroyed someone else’s business? That seems right?

      As for the trashing the nukes, dear god, what if he’d triggered a missile while sabotaging it? I’m also fairly positive Fr. Cabat was not a signatory on the NAPT, nor did we really need to be made aware of the threat nukes pose anytime in the last 50 years. Truman made that threat abundantly clear.

      As for the Shepherds, your right, this isn’t a new thing, and in 31 years they’ve accomplished exactly 0 of their goals. Sharks are still being finned in the Galapagos, seals are being clubbed in Canada, and the whalers will be back just in time for the next season of whale wars. All they’ve really accomplished is drawing money away from organizations like Greenpeace and WWF who have made real, measurable differences in the world.

      And ship collisions on the high seas, especially the Southern Ocean, have the potential to kill everyone on board.

      This is the high cost of a collision at sea. This is what keeps me up at night every time the engines go quiet

    • I probably should have mentioned that I don’t subscribe to the idea of right and wrong because it’s just so impossible to tell which is which in the long run.

      Like you said, McDonald’s is doing fine. He didn’t destroy McDonalds. He destroyed the building. Buildings aren’t people. They’re human fabrications, and to equate destroying one with taking a life is like saying that economics is a natural science– it’s just human masturbation in the extreme. Things we create are not us, are not alive and do not occur naturally.

      I should have been more clear– Fr. Cabat destroyed the navigational systems in the nose cones, mostly ones in production. Since rendering the nav systems is useless for an ICBM, the missiles themselves become useless until the government decides to waste the hundreds of thousands of dollars to have them replaced.

      I do have to disagree with you that Greenpeace makes real, measurable differences in the world. They’re just as bad as Sea Shepherd with their publicity stunts, and don’t even make them half as prominent. The biggest Greenpeace stunt in my memory is their climbing the fence to the Heathrow tarmacs and climbing on top of planes to protest the expansion of the airport. They have just as much scientific backing to their protests as Sea Shepherd does, and since they’re directed at all conservation, they’re more spread out. The WWF, though, I agree with. Although I’d like them or the wrestling organization to change the acronym– it can get confusing when you forget about one or the other, haha.

      Yes, ship collisions are dangerous. The Sea Shepherd crew signs up for that, whether or not they see it as a reality. That’s their own fault. They claim to have sunk 13 ships without casualty before, so maybe they have a trick up their sleeve? I don’t know, but yeah, it is crazy.

      The action they do that I support most is their use of butyric acid. It’s mostly harmless, but it’s smelly. If someone gets it in their eyes, they’d be worse off if it had been beer. And I did fact check that– numerous government sites confirm the same thing.

  9. While poking around the web-o-blags last night, I found this gem in a Sea Shepherd press release. They’re discussing their opposition to Planktos (which is a bondoggle in itself, but that’s beside the point):

    “Sea Shepherd did not make any judgment on the scientific merits, if any, of the scheme. We acted because the dumping was a violation of Ecuadorian, American and International law.”

    So Sea Shepard acts solely on the merits of law without regard to science (and by extension conservation) merits? Planktos may have tried to seed the ocean with iron, but the Shepherds have succeeded in seeding it with irony.

  10. As I have posted on other lists many times. Sharks lose BECAUSE of the people involved in shark conservation.

    Most are interested in generating publicity and not protection. They do not understand the difference between a real accomplishment and generating media coverage.

    • Hi Rudy, Thanks for your comment. I think most people working in shark conservation are more concerned with protection. It just happens that the ones going after publicity are the ones that get all the media coverage.

  11. I may be all alone here, and I admit, you all are probably more educated than I on the specifics of what does and does not further the movement towards shark conservation, however I personally would like to see MORE direct action taken against shark butchery.

    I think that the “hook lady” and tactics such as public shock factor do raise awareness, as does the show about the Sea Shepherd. I think that in order to push for change, the publicity of the plight of sharks worldwide needs to be drastically increased.

    I personally (and understand other opinions, of course) do not think that human life is more important than the ongoing wellfare of other species. Someone mentioned that “human life was put in peril” by the tactics of the Sea Shepherd.
    I say, “It’s about effing time.” To endanger the lives of a group of humans is worse than the slaughter of millions of sharks, over time? Really? What hubris.
    Humans take for granted that the world and its animals are their to plunder and abuse, without raising public awareness of the consequences of our actions, even NEGATIVE publicity, the complacent will continue and the slaughter of our valuable apex predator will continue.

    Raised awareness leads to public outcry, which leads to people demanding change from their government, leading to altered policies and pressure on the countries engaged in the shark (and whale, and dolphin) slaughter.

    The captain of the Sea Shepherd was quoted as saying “Since I have been on the Sea Shepherd, I have not seen a single whale killed.” What a powerful statement. This indicates that whatever the tactics, the Sea Shepherd is doing what other organizations fail to do, they are actually MAKING a difference, rather than standing by watching as slaughter occurs.

    Enough of the silent protest which can be seen as little more than complacency. The greater the press, the more visible the issue becomes.

    • I agree– it is about time that people put their lives on the line for conservation.

      However, Sea Shepherd does little more than try to make the news. They don’t persuade public opinion, they become visible. Their tactics are most likely to turn people off to the movement. Most people don’t think that people in NGOs should be willing to die for a cause, which, of course, is such a narrow world view that I don’t understand how it survives at all.

      However, most people see conservation as a secondary movement to the importance of things like human rights and economics. Conservation organizations need to overcome this obstacle first before a radical organization like Sea Shepherd can have any positive influence on the general public at all. Until then, they do nothing but turn people off to conservation, particularly marine conservation.

      This makes them contrary to everything that every other conservation group is trying to do. It divides the movement and weakens it, and Sea Shepherd needs to realize this. Their publicity is nothing but negative for conservation as a whole.

    • “I personally (and understand other opinions, of course) do not think that human life is more important than the ongoing wellfare of other species. Someone mentioned that “human life was put in peril” by the tactics of the Sea Shepherd.
      I say, “It’s about effing time.” To endanger the lives of a group of humans is worse than the slaughter of millions of sharks, over time? Really? What hubris.”

      I completely agree! Besides, if all the great sharks are gone and we see a collapse of one of our most vital resources for life, aren’t we done anyway? The possibility is there in any case and I don’t think it’s something that is worth “waiting and seeing” what happens.

    • What a great question.

      Organizations like the Ocean Conservancy and Coral Reef Alliance have done great work, but my personal favorite is WIDECAST, the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Network. They work across the Caribbean Sea protecting turtle nesting beaches, and working with the local communities to create an environment where sea turtles are more valuable alive than dead. Some of their big successes have been in Matura Beach, Trinidad, where the local villages have protected some of the largest leatherback nesting sites in the world. Keep in mind these were communities who less than three decades ago, were consuming sea turtle and selling turtle parts. Through education and outreach, they effected change, rather than just wagging the conservation dog (to steal Shark Divers line). It’s their focus on local communities, instead of just rich white yankees, that really seals the deal for me.

      Another great success story has been Ducks Unlimited. While they are an organization founded on duck hunting, they have preserved more wetlands (by purchasing them) in the USA than any other single organization. It’s an often overlooked phenomenon, but hunters do protect wilderness more than any other group.

      Of course, you don’t need to look much further than my fellow co-blogger, WhySharksMatter, who’s been working tirelessly this last year to get THIS to happen.

  12. On the Sea Shepherd I wish I knew the answer.

    On the one hand, I am against violence in support of one’s viewpoint. On the other hand, what do you do when another is committing violence? Call the police? There is no police on the high seas. There are conventions of behaviors, but there is no equivalent to the police force.

    As a sailor I abhor the danger that the Sea Shepherd creates by its actions. There is a tradition of saving lives at sea, not of putting ships and men in harm’s way.

    If the funds used for all the Sea Sheperd were spent instead on an advertising campaign in one Japanese city — as a demonstration project — we might be able to show how to *really* make a difference.

    Thanks for reading….

  13. Interesting discussion. Lots of opinions. Quite a few ignorant opinions. None of which are relevant. Here’s a few facts. Since 1977 when I established Sea Shepherd we have not caused a single injury to anyone. We have never been convicted of a felony crime. We have a contractual relationship with the Ecuadorian National Police and the Galapagos Park rangers to stop poaching. Since 2000 we have intercepted and captured 60 poaching vessels turning them over to the courts for prosecution. Last year we raided and seized 75,000 shark fins and 100,000 sea cucumbers in Ecuador and exposed the shark fin mafia. We supplied the generators, rifles and hardware for the Costa Rican rangers on Cocos Island. We provided equipment to the rangers on Malpelo Island off Colombia. We have confiscated some 2000 miles of illegal longlines. We have helped produce a major award winning documentary on sharks called Sharkwater. We have our own television series called Whale Wars. We have helped to establish Shark Angels. We have released hundreds of sharks from longline hooks. We were the first organization to directly confront poachers. We are in partnership with LUSH and last year had educational window displays in 550 LUSH stores around the world about shark fins.

    We have no apologies for what we do and we need not defend what we do because our clients are sharks, not people. I think the sharks whose lives we directly saved would approve of our actions. I expect BS from people, after all people cause the problems and please, spare me the poor frigging fishermen. I was raised in a poor fishing family on the East coast of Canada and thus I am not burdened by the guilt of some white middle class people who believe poverty is an excuse for destroying life in the oceans.

    We act in acordance with the U.N. World Charter for Nature that allows for us to intervene to uphold international conservation law. Since I have received awards from the President of Ecuador, the President of the United States, Prince Albert of Monaco, the President of Senegal, from the United Nations and from his Holiness the Dalai Lama, why would I be deterred by the opinions of a few people on the internet?

    However as futile as it may be, it’s always worth while to reach out to educate the ignorant and the arrogant and I certainly did see much of both vices in the comments above.

    But the simply truth is that I really don’t give a damn. I have been doing what I have been doing effectively for forty years and I intend to do it for another forty years.

    Should I put off saving sharks from longlines this summer because a few opinionated hominids don’t like what I do or how I do it? I don’t think so.

    Captain Paul Watson

    • Impersonation is a crime, dear sir. I really don’t think you’re who you claim to be– you were a little fact-heavy for that. A little eager to prove yourself.

      And if you really cared about marine conservation, you’d realize that public opinion can do more for the movement in the long run than a poorly funded group like Sea Shepherd can, running around and turning people off to it.

      Like I said before– capture public opinion (NOT just the public eye) and then you might have something going. Until then, you’re nothing but detrimental to global marine conservation.

    • IP address matches with the Sea Shepherd International Headquarters in Friday Harbor. I’m willing to call good faith and confirm the above poster is at very least a representative from Sea Shepherd.

      I’ll have a real response when I get off work, but let me just say thank you for entering the debate, it’s been fairly one sided out here and every voice deserves a chance to be heard.

    • If that’s the case, I apologize. I thought it unlikely that a representative of the organization would enter into the debate and I, not being a fan of impersonation, having had issues like that in the past, flew off the handle a bit.

    • Well, my heartrate soared at the thought of having Captain Watson read my words, I’ll say that.
      Incidentally, I watched *most* of the film “Sharkwater” last night, and think it’s an excellent example of reaching a mass audience with the right message. (I had to turn it off, however, when sea turtle slaughter was depicted, I was crying too hard and I am not unaware of the issues in the film otherwise.)
      My response, while useless, illustrates the power that images and the medium of film can have, if reaching the ignorant masses. Sadly, it is the people who ARE ignorant who are those that need to be reached, inflamed, and inspired to help the creatures of the oceans.

      I spent a lot of time yesterday thinking about this page and the posts on it, being bothered by several different points.

      1.) Everyone is working/yearning for a common goal here, right? To abolish illegal (and legal!) shark slaughter (and other oceanic poaching), and to raise awareness of conservation of our oceans, right? With that in mind, how can people criticize the Sea Shepard for going out and taking action, while those criticizing them sit in cushy offices waxing philosophic about the Bigger Picture on the internet?

      How easy it is to go about our lives, increasing our own knowledge, and thinking from time to time about how we WISH things would change. Some take it a step further, attempting to publish articles or books to raise awareness.

      My perhaps jaded view is this: Who is the target audience for these books? Will the book be sold by and large to the common American, a midwesterner whose knowledge of sharks is what they’ve seen in movies like Deep Blue Sea and Jaws?
      THESE are the people who need to be educated, whose children need to be educated that sharks are not monsters, but a vital part of the sustainable oceanic food chain.
      People who will read and buy new books about sharks (I theorize) are those who already have an interest in sharks. By and large, these are NOT the ignorant voters across America, complacent in their lifestyles and blissfully unaware of the peril facing 2/3 of the world’s surface.

      What does reach those people is television. What’s documented by the Sea Shepard’s show REACHES those reality-tv-viewing masses. That’s what needs to be done to raise public awareness.

      And like Captain Watson said, please continue your paths through accepted avenues towards conservation. For the love of the planet, urge forward the laws and treaties. While doing so, while taking that time, however, how can you condemn the man who is out there, personally putting his life and livelihood on the line taking direct action to save lives?
      His actions and selflessness (and make no mistake, it is selfless, he’s not sitting pretty making profits from book sales) and that of his VOLUNTEER CREW inspire people.
      I regret DAILY that my financial obligations prevent me from applying to an unpaid position on his crew, because I know I would be a skilled and passionate asset in his cause.

      I guess in short, I’d make the outcry for more action, less theory, and to walk the talk so many can spout forth without leaving the comfort of their day to day lives. ANY action is better than no action, and Captain Watson’s actions are more effective than most. I applaud him and his efforts.

    • Wow, it seems like we’ve got a great discussion going on there! Thanks to everyone, particularly the Sea Shepherd representative who may or may not actually be Paul Watson- as Andrew said, we really do appreciate dissenting voices. If you only speak to those who agree with you, you might as well be alone.

      Others have covered much of what I wanted to say, but as the author of this post, I can’t help but comment if there’s any chance that Paul Watson is actually reading this.

      I wonder if “Captain Paul Watson” actually read my original post, or if this is a genetic comment he leaves on all websites critical of Sea Shepherd… because many of the arguments in his reply were addressed in my original post.

      Yes, you have freed a few hundred sharks from longlines. With all due respect, whoop de freakin’ do- by some estimates, over 100 million sharks a year are killed by the shark fin soup fishery. You won’t save sharks freeing a few hundred of them a decade from longline gear. You will save sharks by winning the hearts and minds of the world, which is harder for legitimate conservation organizations to do because of your shenanigans. You are not helping the overall movement, you are seriously harming it.

      Nowhere in UN Environmental Law does it say that it’s ok to endanger the lives of poor fisherman in order to save animals. You are interpreting some laws to benefit your own agenda, and completely ignoring all the laws you are breaking by ramming and destroying other people’s boats and equipment.

      Winning awards for some of what you do does not justify all of what you do. Your educational-materials-in-store-windows campaign is admirable. Ramming ships full of poor fisherman is deplorable.

      I loved most of “Sharkwater”, but the notion that it reached a “mass audience” is false- it simply wasn’t aired in most U.S. markets, primarily BECAUSE Sea Shepherd was involved. I tried to take friends to go see it, but it wasn’t playing within 1,000 miles of me. The parts about the shark finning market were excellent, among the best I’ve seen. The parts with environmental “activists” from Sea Shepherd trying to sink a boat full of poor people do not win the hearts and minds of the world.

      As I commented last week, having a popular TV show about your antics does not mean you are morally right- this is as ridiculous as Ann Coulter’s claim that 24’s high ratings mean Americans support torture. Being entertained by watching crazy people doesn’t mean we support what they are doing.

      The notion that “at least they are doing something” is also terrible- there are MANY cases where doing something BAD is worse than doing nothing. And, while my education efforts aren’t as picked up by the media as ramming a fishing vessel full of poor people, I have changed some people’s minds through honest and respectful discussion.

      I am not naive enough to think that someone as egotistical and arrogant as Paul Watson cares about what I think, and I do appreciate you being honest and saying that you don’t. However, as a scientist and conservationist trying to educate the public, I can honestly tell you that YOU ARE NOT HELPING. YOU ARE MAKING THINGS WORSE. BY ACTING IN THIS INSANE AND CRIMINAL FASHION, YOU DO NOT GET PEOPLE ON YOUR SIDE. YOU ARE MAKING THE SHARK FINNERS LOOK LIKE VICTIMS. YOU ARE MAKING IT HARDER FOR LEGITIMATE CONSERVATION ORGANIZATIONS TO GET THROUGH TO PEOPLE. IF YOU ACTUALLY CARE ABOUT SHARKS AND NOT JUST PUBLICITY, WHICH I SERIOUSLY DOUBT, STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING. PLEASE.

    • Thank you Captain Watson for coming onto this blog and expressing these facts and opinions.

      We hear far too much of the “poverty made me do it” line, from shark finners in Ecuador to deforesting Palm Oil plantation workers/owners in Indonesia. Poverty makes people sell coke and heroin too, so should we allow that? Screw them, I say. They know what they’re doing is wrong and they have a choice. They simply don’t care enough.

      I’m sick of the non-results of the “send them email or e-petition” crowd. It achieves nothing. Look at Saemangeum in South Korea. The whole world took massive action online and nothing was done on the ground. Nobody got in their faces. The result is the loss of a major wetland on the Yellow Sea, for no reason – as the claimed land is useless, and 20% (90,000) of the World’s Great Knots have been killed off (so far) and one other shorebird species pending extinction helped along by the land claim. Many other species took a hit from that too.

      I’m convinced that we have to fight on the ground and in the faces of people who would destroy this planet. There’s precious little left of it and it wont be saved by chatting in a forum or writing a blog. These thing help muster troops (I’m a nature blogger and educator), but in the end, when all else has failed (and it has in the case of shark finning) we need people who will physically stand between the wreckers and the environment or organisms under threat. So there is a place for education, dissemination of information, and protest. But when that fails, direct action must take place.

      You cannot stop poaching on the seas or illegally logging forests, etc., by making laws and chatting over tea and cookies, any more than you can stop the sale of heroin or ice by chatting to the mafia. The world is full of politicians grinning and shaking hands as they sign the Ramsar Convention, Bonn Convention on Biodiversity, etc., etc. All of which have no teeth when these same politicians act in contravention of the agreements. In a world where governments are corrupt or politically lazy on the environment it’s even more difficult to do anything about individual outlaws. You’ve got to act against them directly. Governments wont do it so Sea Shepherd is filling the void.

      I support Sea Shepherd 100% because they put this understanding into action.

  14. Nice to see that the Sea Shepherds are listening…frankly, we are spending a lot of time here and on other blogs debating the issue…let them keep doing what they do. You as an individual have the choice to support them or another organization – just do your research and look beyond blog debates – make an educated choice.

    I personally am not informed well enough to comment on their alleged lies or media manipulation – I will say this – there are just as many media hogs in the shark industry (ironically some are associated with SSCS, but may others are not)…

  15. I agree with the matters at hand about sharks. More people in the world need to open their eyes and see them for the majestic animals they are not some peice of meat for the taking. SAVE THE SHARKS

  16. Here’s the thing about Mr.Paul Watson and his org – beware of fabricated eco facts. He runs with some impressive stats, but what are the real facts?

    As we uncovered this week his org makes up eco story lines ad hoc, whenever they like, or stretch the truth when it suits them:

    Sea Shepherd Fabricates Whale Media News for MSN NZ?

    Sea Shepherd to MSN – Liars!

    One point about this alleged “award” from his Holiness the Dalai Lama that Watson keeps slinging about like an eco talisman. It’s bogus. In the late 70’s Watson was in the same room with his Holiness and managed to get an image of him together with the Dalai Lama. In that image his Holiness is not even looking at Watson. This image is followed up with a letter circa 1978 from his holiness stating how he does “not agree with whaling”, and who does?

    Watson has taken those two long ago events from the 70’s and transposed them into “an award” from his Holiness. This is classic SSCS. Outright lies, fabrications and stretched truths.

    Watson claims he does not care what anyone thinks, while seeming to post rebuttals here, yada yada yada. My brain hurts.

    Watson is a 1970’s, museum quality, eco “warrior”. As I have long said and it still makes for a great visual today:

    “If Paul Watson was not doing this Save-The-Whales-Gig he would be one of those creepy guys at some local bar wearing the 70’s shirt collars and swinging his corpulent hips to ABBA’s “Take a Chance on Me”.

    As an eco movement we can do better. We have to do better. The first step is calling out “Wagging of the Conservation Dog” when we see it.

  17. All I really have to add tot his is outside of violence I like what the Sea Shepherds are doing. If there were a lot more “doers” instead of armchair ecologists out there, I think more conservation would get done. Radical actions (crazy or not) get noticed. Thing of all the progress that has been made via radical action like the civil rights movement in America or Ghandi’s hunger strike or even letting women vote. In their time those people were looked at as crazies disrupting the status quo but when the status quo is harmful to the greater good of existence I must be brought into the light in whatever means possible provided they are not violent.

  18. I think that many of the posts from those purporting to be hard nosed scientists and activists sticking to the truth of matters are as egregious, misleading and emotive as they accuse SS of being. I mean the guff about Cpn Watson lolling about drinking rum and having fun is so far out of line. As far as i know SS runs dry ships when working so there is none of that piratical behaviour that is being touted out there.

    Its all fine and well sitting behind a keyboard and chirping about how things should be done and how violence is not the way and how YOU think everything should be done, but question is, what are you doing?

    Violence is being visited on our planet by various activities, many of which involve the oceans. Fish stocks are threatend globally by greedy violence and wasteful fishing practices. Whales have long been the call d’jour but so have active and good campaigns been run around turtle excluding devices and other programmes (which has not stopped turtles from heading futher up the red data list in a big way), in working on albatross and long liners etc. But most interstingly the governments of the world are not out there doing what they should be doing and stopping piratical, violent action being taken against global ecosytems.

    Point being, this is why many people support SS. I think they put thier money where thier mouth is and that if nobody else is willing to stand up and be counted, then let them just get on with it. I think the emotive wadda-wadda coming from supposed scientists and armchair critics is way off the mark. The time is past when we should all be taking action and not just chirping. So let those who want to do things do them as they see fit and others can do things thier way.

    All routes eventually get to heaven.

    • If you actually read any of this blog, particularly the “about” section, you will see that the two primary authors of this blog are indeed real scientists. Many of our regular commenters are also real scientists. The Southern Fried Scientist’s field isn’t shark conservation, so he doesn’t do as much as I do for sharks, but I educate people whenever I can. In addition to groups like Lion’s Clubs, people at libraries, high school science classes and people at the South Carolina aquarium, I can tell you that my barber, my auto mechanic, and everyone I’ve ever sat next to on an airplane are now confirmed shark conservationists. Talking to people respectfully helps. Trying to kill boats full of poor people is not.

    • Amen to that. I’ve been reading these comments and discussion with much interest, and kept waiting for a place in which to confirm that we are not armchair ecologists. We are in fact scientists and researchers.

      And THAT is what will make the difference in the long run. The science has to be there, be good, be communicated well, and be useful for agencies and NGO’s. And then we will be able to change hearts and minds about topics like shark finning. (And to be truthful, nothing boils my blood as much as that topic.) The IUCN made a promotional film for a new book they released, and it is a beautiful and heart-rendering film showing what we actually do to the organisms in our oceans. That’s how we’ll be able to effectively communicate with the public. (I’ll post it on my blog this weekend for those of you who are interested.)

  19. Many of the comments here seem to center on the idea that those here and at DSN criticizing Sea Shepard are somehow “armchair ecologists” just sitting around posting on the internet. Regardless of whether the internet is an effective medium to communicate conservation messages to the public (it is) or we do this regularly because we are passionate about the oceans (we are), we are all practicing scientists. Most of us also have strong conservation component to our research and have been active in the field for awhile. Please refrain from insulting our credentials, backgrounds, motivations, and commitment.

    What we are saying as active members of the conservation community is that these actions by Sea Shepard are detrimental to the conservation movement, hypocritical (enforcing laws by breaking them), ineffectual, and short sided.

  20. First things first, the argument (more of a complaint really) that “Hey at least they’re doing something, you guys are just sitting around commenting on blogs!” is a strawman. It’s completely irrelevant to the topic at hand, which is whether Sea Shepherd’s tactics are effective. Some think they are, some think they aren’t, but to say that disagreeing with Sea Shepherds tactics is tantamount to doing nothing is an absurd irrationalization.

    Actions do have consequences and, in the case of Sea Shepherd, in many ways the consequences have been bad for conservation.

    This weekend I had the opportunity to talk with a colleague of mine who is both a Japanese national and a brilliant marine scientist (though not working in marine mammals). He, like many Japanese citizens, don’t like whaling. However, thanks largely to the effects of Sea Shepherd’s show Whale Wars, which villainizes the Japanese people and government, whaling has become an issue of nationailsm, not conservation. The end result is that Japanese citizens are more supportive of governmental whaling now than before Whale Wars aired. This means, thanks to Sea Shepherd, it will now be more difficult to bring a permanent end to Japanese Whaling.

    Has Sea Shepherd prevented a few (or many, I’ll even say many) whales from being murdered this years: yes
    Will the Japanese whaling continue next year: yes
    Will it be harder in for us to bring about a permanent end to Japanese whaling thanks to Sea Shepherd: yes
    Is Sea Shepherd an effective conservation organization: no

    Not “all routes eventually get to heaven.”

    In fact, very few do. That’s why conservationist need to be constantly re-evaluating our methods, assessing the effectiveness of our tactics, and eliminating plans that just don’t work. If a strategy isn’t working, change it. I want whaling to end, I want shark finning to end. I want pristine protected wetlands and a network of MPA’s that circle the globe. Sea Shepherd will not produce any of those.

    The problem is, Sea Shepherd refuses to adapt. They’re stuck in a 70’s mentality that has been incredibly ineffective over the last 30 years.

    Here’s the rub. Sea Shepherd goes out of its way to trash other conservation organizations. Now, if you ultimate goal truly is conservation, you’d want every ally you can. If your goal is glory-whoring, you want to eliminate competition.

    I will invest my time (and money) in conservation organizations that work. I will also do my damnedest to convince other people their time and money is better spent on someone other than Sea Shepherd.

    I’d like to thank Shark Diver for some excellent coverage of Sea Shepherds tactics. Everyone should give these posts a read.

    And thank you Captain Watson (or the Sea Shepherd PR rep who speaks for him). I really, really do appreciate dissenting voices commenting here. I hope you will hang around.

  21. This is a pretty good discussion going on here. Everyone on this blog sounds very rational and articulate. I’m an animal welfare advocate, and a conservationist studying biology (with an emphasis in ecology) at CSU Fresno; and I disagree with what Paul Watson was saying about people here being ignorant and arrogant.

    I have mixed feelings about sea shepherd. On the positive side, I think they draw attention to worthy causes, and in some cases, make governments get involved when they normally wouldn’t. On the other hand, they do not try to reach out to moderates and they make remarks just as Paul Watson did which alienate people.

    Like I said before, everyone here sounds pretty rational, which is hard to find in online discussions.

    Out of pure curiosity, what do people here think of other, more mainstream animal protection organizations like the Humane Society of the United States and the passage of farm animal protection statutes, like proposition 2 in California?

  22. I don’t think I made it through a single episode of Whale Wars-the heavy handed, holier than thou tactics were just too much for me. To create lasting change, and not just a media sensation, people from all sides of the issue must come together and become involved. Otherwise, it’s just another crusade or holy war that will go on forever or at least until the crusaders get bored, tired, or die. Then, back to the status quo.

    Rather than ram a boatload of people trying to feed their families, why not use those same resources to employ the men in an alternate, sustainable, eco friendly endeavor? Teaching someone a new craft is not nearly as riveting as ramming a boat, but it makes more sense.

    I do get it-we need to save our oceans the ocean’s predators. But, I’d rather find a way to save them for generations to come instead of just one or two for a good photo op. The Sea Shepherd appears to be yet another sad example of a few (0r a lot) of egos over riding a legitimate cause. This is evident in the tone taken towards academia and science in general-how DARE you argue with someone who clearly is on a mission from God? Paul Watson and Elwood Blues-what a pair.

    Sadly, Paul Watson and crew are masquerading as legitimate upholders of the laws of both man and morality. Sadder still, is they are the only ones who don’t realize they ARE the joke. No, I’m not sad for them. I’m sad for the animals they claim they are protecting. The animals, the environment, the fishermen caught in the crossfire-the only one who seems to be having any form of success is Watson. What a waste.

  23. I am one of the “arm chair” activists, I live in an idyllic little costal town that is also a marine reserve and adore anything to do with the ocean, and top of my list is sharks.

    I do not know enough about Sea-Sheppard to be critical about them, but would like to say that I agree action for the sharks is better than action for the humans, like he says it is the sharks that are his clients, not people.

    But on the other hand there are precious few of us out there that actually know what is happening on the high seas (even here we have had to “buzz” long liners to try and get them away from our reefs, and that was with diving rubber ducks!) and I agree that we need to show the sharks as victims, and not the people.

    The change needs to start with the big corporate companies that actually own the ships, and send them out to mass murder either the sharks or the whales or anything else.

    The “big dogs” in government and the corporate fat cats have to educated about our oceans; maybe tie them up in front of a big screen and force then to watch Whale Wars till they cry and beg for mercy! 😉 (Joking)

    Whether we agree with the practices of organizations out there or not, we should still be grateful that there are people out there that are trying, and doing their best, to not only put an end to the brutality but also to educate the masses about what is going on and the long term consequences of their actions.

    Like I said, I’m only an “arm chair” activist, not that I don’t want to get more involved, so this is just a personal insight. Thank you for a wonderful blog, Keep doing what you are doing, it also helps in the long run!

  24. justa quick note.

    I completely subscribe the view of david and the other against such stunt.

    I firmly believe that people acting in such way simply take the enviromental causes as shelter for their social disfunctioning behavior.

    No matter why you hang yourself by a hook, if you do it it means you have problem, it means you have issues that make you unable to debate someting in a civil way so maybe instead of finding something that allow you to act in a disfuncional way you should seek help. Same thing if you ram another ship or endengar other people lives.

    frankly when it comes to SS or the such i simply turn off the tv is not wort it.

    I’m a shark and environment conservationist but i find outrageus to endanger a human life to protect a shark is extremely stupid!
    Congratulation David your blog is amazing!!!


    • “Capt. Keep”
      -It’s posts like this one, perhaps not entirely uniformed, but willfully closing the eyes to various examples of the situation at hand that drive me absolutely (pardon the phrase) batsh*t crazy.

      You are letting your personal bias and social bigotry undermine the way people are drawing attention to the matter at hand. You think visual performance art means someone is by definition unable to communicate with words?
      Do you have any idea how offensive your post is? Suspension art is used in various cultures, and some religions as a form of meditation. While the example used here was ALSO visual art intended to shock and bring awareness, to belittle the person putting forth that effort is judgemental and counterproductive to the entire cause.

      Again, I know that I will never see eye to eye with people who value human safety over the existence of endangered innocent animals. I won’t go further on that subject as it incenses me to a level uncivil, but I will say this: if you’re going to be throwing stones about, like the word “stupid”, you might wish to bolster your glass house of typos and misspellings with something stronger than bigotry and ignorance.

  25. ram the fuk out of them as they won’t listen to reason and no government is taking any reasonable action! Angry from Skirmet!

  26. There is so much opinion here, so many accusations, and so few facts. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) has only rammed-to-sink boats that were illegal whalers, flying the flag of no country so they would not have to obey the laws of any country. These pirate whalers were accountable to nobody, and nobody would stop them, except Paul Watson. In some cases, the countries whose waters they were whaling asked the SSCS to come and get rid of them. No person was harmed in any of the sinkings, but a lot of whales were saved.

    The initially post is filled with emotional phrases, and very little history or substantiated facts about the SSCS to support an intelligent debate. The shark fishing incident you are referring to (with very little information given, I might add) was a boat that was fishing ILLEGALLY. Do we just let people who break the law get away with it? How will you ever stop illegal shark fishing if you disaprove of stopping illegal shark fishing? And if you won’t, who will?

    Sharks are, right now, being hunted into oblivion in a most vile and merciless way, and this discussion is not helping that simple fact in the least. Support who you want to support, and attack who you want to attack, we will all do what we have to do. If you can’t see the good that the SSCS is doing, then I will never convince you of it. But I have been actively supporting ocean conservation issues since 1970, and from what I have seen, the SSCS has done more than the vast majority of ocean conservation organizations in all that time to draw attention to the issues and inspire people to get involved, and, most importantly, to actually stop illegal activity.

    If I went out into the open oceans and captured boats of humans and tortured and killed them (to eat, or for profit, tocut off their arms and legs and throw them back into the ocean, or for whatever the reason – a true, nasty pirate), the “law” (probably the US Navy) would come at me with everything they had. But people can go out into the open ocean and “fish” a species into extinction, torture ceatures, kill them for no reason, and no one does a thing. This has been done countless times. The difference is that we humans think that we are more important than all the other creatures on the earth, and that any one of us has the “right” to do anything we want to the creatures of the open ocean (due partly to a human legalistic loophole). This attitude is both morally and scientifically baseless – I repeat, THIS ATTITUDE IS MORALLY AND SCIENTIFICALLY BASELESS, and we are doing nothing here, so far, to even discuss this basic issue.

    The United Nations has recently issued a report that ALL commercially exploited ocean fisheries will, at current take levels, be commercially extinct by 2050. If you don’t think that that is going to cause a lot of human suffering, then you really need to wake up. The time for wringing your hands, arguing without a factual base, and complaining about what you don’t support is over. It is time to plan and take meaningful action.

    I have been following Paul Watson’s career since he co-founded GreenPeace. I have read through the entire SSCS web site. I have read all the Wikipedia entries on Paul Watson. I have watched the excellent Discovery Channel documentary “Whale Wars,” warts and all, and they did leave in all the warts. It is excellent – it is actually reality television at its best, and I hate reality television – as a matter of fact, I don’t even own a television! The above letter sounds like the Paul Watson I have heard, and it is very much in character for him to be actively responding to the global debate. Andrew and/or David could check the e-mail address and get a better idea. We don’t need baseless accusations there, either.

    And if Paul Watson actually did respond to this discussion, then it certainly got more serious attention than many of these glib comments deserve.

    • Thank you for putting into organized form the words that are garbled by emotion in my head. Your post was awesome.

    • Craig, I’m so glad you joined in on this debate. You’ve consistently been outspoken, passionate, and clear on these issues. I think a lot of the issues you’ve raised have been discussed, but are getting buried in the shear volume of comments this post has generated.

      Because of that, I’d like to propose something radical. Would you be willing to write a guest post rebuttal on Southern Fried Science addressing primarily points raised here in the comments (not so much the initial post) about critiques regarding Sea Shepherd? You, of course, know where me and my co-blogger stand, but it would be a shame for the dissenting opinion to be lost in the comments.

      And for the record, We’ve confirmed that the Watson comment came from the Sea Shepherd Headquarters in Friday Harbor. I doubt it was the man himself, but it isn’t unusual for large organizations to have PR people who speak for the director.

  27. I am very, very interested in this debate – overall, not just here – so thank you for making the time and space. I will be spending more time, as it becomes available, to read and consider all the positions presented.
    I feel compelled (in all selfishness, perhaps) to make a a couple quick observations now however:

    “The shark finners are made to look like victims- in fact, they ARE victims- which makes others sympathetic to them.”

    Not for many of us. The finners are the criminals here, flouting standing laws protecting the area(s) in which they were found. There are many of us that do not care what happens to them or their boat. Calling the poachers “victims” reeks of anthropocentrism – a detestable trait of humans.

    “Yes, the individual sharks freed from the longlines by Sea Shepherd are probably better off. However, sharks as a whole are FAR WORSE OFF as a result of Sea Shepherd’s insane and criminal actions.”

    Again – SS is the one helping enforce existing laws, and the poachers are the criminals.

    “That said, Sea Shepherd and their tactics are bad for the conservation movement, bad for sharks, bad for science, and morally wrong in their own right.”

    First off, understand that moral systems are entirely relative. One look at the difference in cultural mores around the world throughout history will give you evidence of this. Please don’t presume your adopted morals upon others.
    Second, SS is only bad for conservation if you’re mired in anthropocentrism – something I cannot stand, and many others like me are trying to overcome in our efforts to protect the world from human destruction. (Imperfectly, of course, since we’re humans too, unfortunately.)

    While there is valid debate over SS’s methods, and I’m trying to analyze this for myself to decide where I’ll ultimately stand, there are few organizations (if any) who are actually willing to take to the water and confront the murderers on the open sea; illegal poaching is a vicious business, and these people do not care how many morally-righteous post-hippies wring their hands and hold street vigils over their activities – the activities continue, unabated. SOMEONE must go out there and SINK THESE BOATS. PERIOD.

    The argument over this somehow being people’s “livelihood” is actually a much longer, more drawn out discussion for which I don’t have time or space now, but again it centers on anthropocentrism – in that lack of viable resources for the human populations comes down to one simple point: too many humans there.
    I know people will cal me out and decry “how dare you try to minimize the peoples’ needs”, to which I can only reply: how dare humans simply presume they can breed like rats and take, take, take, purely out of short-term human needs without a sense of sustainability or balance.

    But again – I will continue to follow all of this, and thanks for putting it out there!

  28. This discussion really got me thinking. First of all, I am no scientist, my interest and knowledge of this topic comes from private studies and experiences.
    To make it clear: I think both sides have their point.
    On one hand, it´s very important going to the root of this problem through education and awareness. And it´s true, people usually are more accesible through reasonable arguments backed up with proper facts than shouting extreme paroles at them. As a matter of fact, I think we really need conservationists like the hosts of this site to go out to schools maybe even to implement marine ecology awareness classes in each and every school worldwide on a regularly basis, so that the next generation coming up will care more and will be willing to handle things different.
    But the problem right now is: do we really have the time? People think in many different ways, and getting everyone on the same route will be impossible.
    And the Gro of the people out there, sorry to say that, still don´t know a thing about sharks, ecological danger and conservation issues. Even if they know, they don´t really care, they think “the scientists will somehow handle it, what can I do”. Before I got into diving, I thought the same way and I knew nothing about the existence of this problem. The same goes for my friends, my parents, just everyone I know. This topic is still limited mostly to the people who are related to it through their work.
    You know what turned me around? Working as a Divemaster and watching the movie sharkwater.
    I´ve had someone interested in preserving nature talking reasonable to me before, and my only thought was: ” yeah yeah poor world why is this eco-hippie boring me with this crap, soon I guess his nose will turn green and every bear will hug him thankfully when passing by”. I just had no connection to it!
    But when I watched sharkwaters, I started crying, and working underwater I realized how much of the beauty I came to love was destroyed in an alarmingly short time.
    And here´s the problem as I see it: It´s good to have laws and going out there to inform people, but the world is full of violence and hunger for profit and if nobody enforces the laws, it´s going down and it´s going fast.
    In egypt for example our reefs where a marine park protected by hepca, but in reality nobody cared about the laws. There was a lot of fishing and destroying going on and I had to watch it from our diveboat, once I even got thrown a net on my head during a wreck dive!” When I concerned that matter on a hepca meeting, I got to hear big flaming speeches but nothing happened.
    Let´s look at nature conservation on land which has been going on a little bit longer than in the water.
    In order to safe lions, giraffs and elephants, they have national parks and they have rangers who hunt down poachers with jeeps and rifles! Nobody complains about that, and I´m sure most of the poachers are poor african villagers, paid a nothing by big profit greedy organistions!
    So good argumentation is honorable and does a big part surely, but we need to take some action as well right now, because if not there won´t be anything to argue about in a couple of years! And as a fact, there´s really nobody out there on the oceans to protect them, even if there are laws! So what Sea Sheppard does is important, and maybe we should start a discussion on how to improve the questioned methods and the way they present themselves in the media, than about stopping them. If someone wants to perform a criminal act, he usually doesn´t listen to reason, only to money or a gun pointed at his head by an police officer. Which is sad, but unfortunately reality.
    Sorry about my english, but I´m from spain. And great website!

  29. I think the Sea Shepherd is a hero. He risks his own life almost every day, and everyone on his vessel agrees to do so if they are to sail with him. Of course the tactics are questionable, but we are living in desperate times. The only reason so many people are even interested in the sharks, is because of movies like “Sharkwater”, which demonstrate the desperation of people in trying to stop the horrendous plundering of our oceans. How is the Sea Shepherd any different than warriors of all the ages? Is any violent action towards another human or creature ever REALLY justifiable? We NEED ocean warriors! We need them to protect what is vital to our planet and our own existence—-our water. We get 70% of our oxygen from the ocean! The survival of sharks is integral to our own survival, and to pick on The Sea Shepherd is just ridiculous at this point. We need people to patrol the oceans, and quite frankly, if humans weren’t so damn negligent and violent and ignorant to begin with, I would say a peaceful but firm fleet would be the way to go. The atrocities we have committed on this earth, against its creatures are just reprehensible. And some of you are worried about a little ramming?? These countries are ravaging and raping our oceans, savaging its creatures in unspeakable ways, and some of us are worried about one man—who started fighting peacefully don’t forget—hosing down another boat? He has been SHOT at for God’s sake! Shot. This man is not on TV for glory, he’s on there bring as much attention as possible to what he has been doing all his life. Don’t forget there are very few if any patrols in the ocean that are actually effective. Let’s face it, Captain Watson is charismatic and interesting and controversial, and that is why we pay attention. Say what you like, but it is time someone fights back. It’s not like there is no reason to fight—sharks populations are down 90%, and some species are damn near extinction. My question to you that have such objection to the Sea Shepherd is: What are you doing to change things? Are you sailing the oceans, risking your lives? Or are you just blogging and commenting on the internet? Awareness is good, but personally, I would rather GO out there and sail with Oceana, or the Sea Shepherd, and see what it’s really about, instead of criticizing from the comfort of my own home in front of “Whale Wars” on the telly. I want to know for myself. It’s is absolutely horrendous that we humans have caused this much damage and suffering on the earth. We have overpopulated the planet to such a degree that its breakdown is happening at landslide proportions. We slice the fins off of sharks, we tear the skin off of animals for fashion, we slaughter billions of animals so we can gorge ourselves on meat 3 times a day—it is just unreal. Unreal. I for one, feel better that there are warriors out there, far braver than I, that, however misguided sometimes, who are fighting….just fighting to save the planet. I have always been for peace, but I am more for peaceful ACTION. The Sea Shepherd is not murdering people or animals, he is trying to change things as peacefully as possible, really. If you tell someone to stop murdering, and they don’t, on land you would be grabbed and arrested. How do you do that at sea? We need fleets on our oceans, and as most countries seem intent on plundering and not protecting, I vote for fleets of heroes like Captain Watson. I think the key is, all things are connected, and humans are no better than any other life form. It is all valuable, and to look too closely at maritime rules made by fallible humans is not the answer at this point. At this point, we have got to save the planet, period.

    • “He has been SHOT at for God’s sake! Shot!”

      Actually he has not. That event (staged shooting) has been pretty much laughed at by everyone in the NGO community and beyond. Even Discovery Networks who are heavily invested in Whale Wars have steered away from this absolutely classic and costly, Paul Watson media fabrication.

      If you are going to slavishly worship at the false Golden Eco Idol of SSCS and it’s anointed Fish Speaker Paul Watson at least know who you are genuflecting to.

      The rest of the world has.

    • You have no factual basis on which to say “No he has not.” That is just your opinion. The alleged action happened in international waters, and no police department that has jurisdiction to investigate is willing to take the international heat from a finding one way or the other. The Australians have turned him down – why? Because if they found out he was telling the truth, the political fallout could force the Australian government to take a stand against Japan, and that gets complicated real fast. If they say he was lying, then all his supporters get mad, which he has a lot of in Australia. The evidence presented might not be conclusive, anyway.

      In this case, either you believe him or you don’t. This doesn’t make a very interesting point to argue, but you sure didn’t pass up the chance for a little name-calling!

  30. I remain really surprised by the angle of discussion taken by the self described scientists who continue to use rhetoric to back up thier ‘facts’, when they are devoid of truth.
    Nobody has been killed by Sea Shepherd. Sea shepherd does not target poor fishermen, it targets fishermen who operate outside the boundaries of national or international law. So lets try to stick to facts, not polemic.
    Let the activists use the polemic – if scientists want to be taken seriously then be objective, or at least try to.
    Of course in an ideal world it is best to try to discuss your way out of a problem, like we are doing here. But when the rapers and pillagers of the world crap all over the rights of everyone else by carrying on in ways that run counter not only to international law but more importantly, to ethical and sustainable behaviour, then its time to stop talking softly and to weild the big stick.
    Watson has not and does not undermine conservation at all. This point is so bogus. Its not like its all his way or nothing. While he puts pressure on his side, others, like the hopefully rational scientific establishment, pressure groups, non violient activists, etc push on the other side. Its not either or, its both.
    The arguments that are made painting Watson as out of line would be exactly the same kind of argument taht would led to the slaughter of all when the Vikings came ashore if thier targets were led as pacifists. Yes, you will say that killing raping and pillaging people is different, but folks, it is not. What the pillagers of the natural environment is doing is breaking links in teh chain that tie us all, every single living organism, together. The time has come to get them to stop, by whatever means nescessary. I subscribe to the ethos of pacifists but also to those of in your face activists. They all work.
    Academics have thier place but so do those of us who get in the face of authority, of law breakers and who question everything. Because my fellow hominid apes, some of our simian relations are stuffing up the planet and its time to put a halt to it.
    Viva action and viva Sea Shepherd and Cpn. Watson.
    And here i speak as someone who is not only an activist but who has spent most of my life at sea and have seen the pillaging taht goes on. We need more Watsons, not less.

  31. >RE your comment:
    “While Sea Shepherd is superbly skilled at making headlines, the news stories usually focus on >the criminal actions taken by Sea Shephard and almost never focus on the actual scientific reasons why sharks are >important- largely because many Sea Shepherd members are ignorant of science. Simply “generating awareness” is >not helpful, particularly when it’s done in this way”

    05 March 2009

    SADLY, there seem no avenues left which actually raise as much controversy and attention as the actions currently pursued by the Sea Shepherd team. Clearly evident is the continuing disregard for the rapidly depreciating fish and shark populations- Research and scientific facts have been shoved under the noses of those who matter in government and law makers, to what avail?

    WORKING daily with sharks and the environment around me, has given me the ability to outspokenly ‘educate’ the locals and otherwise misinformed people who regard sharks as the ‘enemy down under’, or food. Scientific facts may open SOME ears when it comes to convincing the guy in the street, but this alone is too slow to save the shark population on this planet. Let’s not forget that we destructive humans are not tolerant of an apex predator, so physically saving them is on who’s agenda besides the diving industry and various conservation organizations?

    PEOPLE like Sea Shepherd and their strong arm tactics inspire action, in whatever form it migrates to the average Joe in- On seeing [on tv] that someone is actually tackling these issues with force [as SS is brave enough to do] they are re-awakening our urge to fight for what we believe in, without wasting each day consumed by committee meetings. Tell me you would prefer NO tv coverage to that of Sea Shepherd’s.

    THE balance between the activist and the passive protester is only measured by a difference of opinion about HOW they get the message across, so let’s not forget while we are all arguing about HOW… more sharks die every day and that we are ALL on the same side. Sea Shepherd may be too much for some, but HEY, this planet we are massacring has no way of making a comeback without people like them fighting for what the human race destroys. Good for Sea Shepherd.

    ON an active ending – We are lobbying the port authority here [Bahamas] for a Shark Free Marina, no landed sharks or shark fishing, with the help of friends at the Bimini Shark Lab. Along with the shark dives we do, our divers and tourists are getting the message.

    eddyunderwater – Bahamas March 2009

  32. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to respond to this post and the following comments. While I feel strongly that we don’t have a lot of time to turn things around and save some of these species, and while I do feel that doing anything is better than doing nothing, I find it hard to condone all of the Sea Shepherd’s actions.

    Here’s the crux of the matter for me. Are some of the people (if not all) who the Shepherd targets disobeying the law? Yes. Sure. But how does that justify doing the same?

    This is not to say that I disagree with shark conservation – I am a strong conservationist. And I don’t disagree with all that the Shepherds do – most of what I saw on Whale Wars, for example, didn’t cross the line, though some did. My point is that if we stoop to the level of dodging the laws we are no better than those we seek to stop. In the end, all are criminals.

    Ultimately, I don’t think being a vigilante will work. Do you think islamic radical terrorism is ever going to convince the rest of the world to convert?

    It’s like the civil rights movement in the US. Gains were made by sacrifice and fighting without violence – by sitting in diners and refusing to move on busses, not by going around and burning them down.

    What I would like to know, and perhaps someone can explain, is why we can’t do almost as much (if not more) without crossing the line. If you surrounded every Japanese whaler with 3-4 boats and didn’t touch them, not once, but physically surrounded them, constantly, wouldn’t we reach the same ends? They can’t shoot harpoons with boats around, and if they did, and hit us instead of a whale, they’d have hell to pay. And won’t it be more effective to work with the poor fishermen to find better sources of sustenance than shark finning instead of freeing a few of their catch and confiscating the rest of their labors, which just makes them need to go fish for more to survive? Getting our hands dirty, helping them find other resources to work – it’s like teaching a man to fish instead of just giving him some.

    If you really want to claim that those sharks are worth saving, then act like it, and not by being a vigilante. What about convincing people to donate funds to pay those fishermen not to fish, like farm subsidies or carbon credits? Setting up schools and farms in those areas to give the people options for other careers?

    If you expect to truly keep a resource sustainable you have to convince the people who rely on that resource. They are the ones who will ultimately protect or destroy what they have. You can’t conserve Elephants in Africa that locals see as dangerous pests, and you can’t conserve sharks in Asia that people see as their only means of survival. Great successes have come in Africa by hiring and training the locals to be rangers on preserves or anti-poaching teams who protect instead of harvest. The same could be done in Asia, but not if you’re out there attacking the very people we need on our side.

    In America, we look at events like the Boston Tea Party as rallying successes against an unjust dictator. But the bottom line is that it was an act of terrorism – just one we happen to agree with. And here, the line isn’t even that clear. Do we have the right to act out against Koreans for eating dogs? Should we find their farms and release the dogs into the wild or bring them back to the US? Do Hindus have the right to act out against the US for eating beef? Should they raid our cattle fields, busting down fences and burning barns? Even if no one gets hurt?

    We all agree that something needs to be done. We just disagree about how. Perhaps you’re right – but I find it hard to believe that violence ever begets anything other than violence. And eventually, Captain Watson, someone will die from what you’re doing. The whalers will get fed up, or your people will cause an accident. Maybe that’s something that doesn’t bother you, but it does bother me. I value animal life equally to our own, not more. And, though misguided and wrong in my eyes, they are people, too.

    Maybe I’m just an optimist, but I think that we can make a difference without making enemies. In the end, we can’t dismantle every boat they send out to fin or whale. We can’t patrol every inch of the ocean to protect these species. We need, instead, to find a way to change the people, or the animals don’t have a shot.

    • Christie,

      You hit just about every point that I wanted to. I’m going to pretend that I don’t know how to write this in goofy pre-teen AIM slang, and will instead just tell you in words that I’m applauding. Thank you.

      I just wanted to add one thing- Sea Shepherd and some of the others who have commented are arguing that sharks are more important than people- that it is ok to endanger the lives of people because they’re hurting sharks. Sharks are not more important than people. That is borderline sociopathic. I believe that we should be making the argument that HUMANS ARE BETTER OFF WITH SHARKS THAN WE ARE WITHOUT SHARKS, and you cannot possibly make that argument while attacking endangering the lives of poor people.

      Sorry, but “they’re breaking the law” is not an excuse for trying to kill poor people, particularly when the law in question is a fishing quota. People who believe otherwise are the reason why regular people don’t take real conservationists seriously.

    • Outdated psychological terms are not only misapplied here, but really serve to show where a logical discussion turns to name calling (mistaken name calling at that) as opposed to reasoned facts and arguments based in reality. Please do your homework before applying psychological terms to groups of people with dissenting opinions.
      Here’s a start:

  33. I don’t object to you having dissenting opinions. I object to your notion that it’s ok to kill or injure human beings in the name of helping animals. Other than the immorality of this claim, which should be obvious, having this view is counterproductive to helping animals.

    Ignoring the borderline-psychotic immorality of your claim that it’s ok to kill people to help sharks, having this view harms sharks in the long run. From a practical standpoint, you simply won’t be able to kill ALL of the people who are shark finning. The only way to stop it is to get large groups of regular people- the kind who think it’s not ok to kill people to protect animals- to care about sharks.

    We will never succeed in getting large groups of regular people to care about sharks as long as there are people like you and Paul Watson out there claiming that it’s ok to kill people to protect animals.

    Because of that, no, I am not happy that Sea Shepherd is “at least doing something”, they are not my ally, our goals are not the same, and they are not helping me achieve my goals of helping sharks. They are making things immeasurably worse.

    I am glad to have dissenting opinions- a debate is pretty boring without them.

    However, the opinion that it is ok to kill people in the name of helping animals is completely unacceptable, and it is ultimately harmful to the cause of conservation because it makes people not listen.

    • I am not advising nor advocating killing humans, and neither has the Sea Shepherd. You are continuing to ignore the facts that they have never killed a human being. I agree that it would be counterproductive to the cause, that is clear and obvious.

      I also agree that it is vital to produce evidence and information that draws as large an audience as possible to understand and care that (even for as selfish a reason as the ongoing survival of HUMANS on this planet) conservation of the apex predators of the ocean is needed.

      Psychologically speaking, on a survival-level of awareness, humans act in their own self-interest. To express an opinion that puts anything above the survival/betterment of our own species is frowned upon on a very visceral and basic level, even if it may technically be termed “altruistic”.

      All that aside, throwing your AGAIN completely inaccurate and potentially offensive psychological terms at people you don’t agree with detracts not only from your argument, but from how you are perceived as a scholar and a person. I understand my words are not always what people want to hear, but name calling and abuse of psychological babble does little to strengthen your point of view. It’s offensive.

    • While David may not be being entirely eloquent in what he’s trying to say, his main point is that what the Sea Shepherds do is dangerous, and although they haven’t yet, eventually someone will get hurt. Just watch the last season of whale wars – the Japanese almost threw a Shepherd off the boat, and Capt. Watson got shot at. While the shepherds might be willing to give their lives for sharks, I think all of us would rather find solutions that don’t run the risk of someone getting killed. And if, by chance, someone on the other side dies due to what the Shepherds do – they’re slick bombs hit someone in the head, or a rammed boat causes fatalities or something – the result will be far worse for conservation. It will serve to rally those against the Shepherds into even more flagrant actions and insistence that their way is right. As it has already been said, the Shepherds already are a cause for solidarity in Japan to support their country’s decisions. That’s the last thing the sharks need.

    • Eyes 2 the ocean, you can’t seem to make up your mind.

      “I know that I will never see eye to eye with people who value human safety over the existence of endangered innocent animals.”

      “I am not advising nor advocating killing humans”

  34. I have been working with Paul Watson and Oceana and shark savers. I design pins and jewelry and which I donate to help raise money. I believe there is a larger picture at stake. Whether it’s whales, sharks, turtles, or seals somethings need to be brought into the spotlight and soon. Time is running out for many species. Look at the critically endangered leatherback turtle. Many believe it will exist in another decade. Most people in general have never heard of a leatherback. Paul’s tactics are crude but they do get the media’s attention. In return gets peoples attention to help pass laws. Oceana works with government policies and laws which is also important. Which will work faster? I personally think we need both. I think if these boats were killing people no one would think twice about ramming the ship to stop it. I guess it comes down to is ones perspective on how valuable an animals life is. If the japanese would follow the IWC. The show would not exist. I think Paul would be happy if they cancelled the show which is the purpose to begin with. I am glad no one had been seriously hurt and hope some of these attrocities in nature will end as well. In the meantime I support every organization who is watching out for our oceans and planet.

    • “I think if these boats were killing people no one would think twice about ramming the ship to stop it. ”

      Right… because killing people and killing animals ARE NOT THE SAME THING AT ALL.

      “I personally think we need both.”

      Except that one- Sea Shepherd- makes it harder for legitimate organizations like Oceana, WildAid, and people like me to convince regular people that sharks need to be protected.

  35. I’d like to bring up two points. I tend to be long winded, but I’ll try and keep it concise.

    I’ve been watching the debate since I commented a while ago and, while I feel strongly about some of the issues being discussed, I haven’t felt like I’ve had much to contribute to the discussion, particularly after I tried to call out the Sea Shepherd representative for being a fake.

    The first issue I’d like to address is the word “terrorism.” It’s a word that’s been so overused in America since George W. Bush took office that only recently, during the last election, was there a word more overused– “maverick.” But all joking aside, the Bush administration used the word ad nauseum, until every little thing was terrorism. So what is terrorism? Well, the UN doesn’t have a definition of the word yet, so on an international scale, we’re on our own, (

    To be frank, terrorism literally means “the ideology of terror.” So no, the Boston Tea Party wasn’t a terrorist act– it was an act of vandalism. No one was injured. Terror was not instilled.

    The definition of terrorism under United States law is thus– “the term “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents,” (

    Under that definition, Sea Shepherd is not a terrorist organization (barely). They do not premeditate their ramming as far as I know, and those they have attacked have fought back. Therefore, calling Sea Shepherd a terrorist organization is, by definition, false, even if you strongly disagree with their actions.

    The other issue I’d like to address is the rampant ad hominem attacks that have been distracting from the debate, which David explicitly forbade in his introduction.

    I shouldn’t even feel like I have to say this– ad hominem attacks are not the same thing as debating. They distract from your point. They show that you feel (and therefore are) defeated. They make people reading (like myself) annoyed with your petty behavior. Sorry if I stepped on any toes.

    And David, by the way, I have a career-related question for you that wouldn’t fit at all into this. I figured you’d know, but I’ll ask at a later date.

    • Well, to be fair, the Shepherds do premeditate many of their strikes like prop fouling… and only sometimes have the actual ships fought back. Often they just try to run away. So the Shepherds, by that definition, might be terrorist… slightly. Technically.

      You’re right, though – the Tea Party was vandalism, not terrorism. Though there were definitely some ‘terrorist’-like actions committed by the revolutionaries to free themselves from British rule. My point, however, was that the Tea Party and other acts of vandalism or terrorism (if committed) are breaking the law – which again goes to my point about us being no better than them if we resort to such acts.

  36. I hate to go there but our industry has been tiptoeing around this question for a year now. So here we go:

    Let’s talk about The Shark Savers.

    They are the de facto alter ego of SSCS and have set themselves up as, well…The Shark Savers. That was one full year ago. Aside from an online website film pitch for another reality television show called The Shark Angels – the film and television side of The Shark Savers, the question begs, has anything really been done?

    They are asking for donations from the public and are a non profit. SSCS is deeply involved with them as is Rob Stewart from the film Sharkwater. Did I mention that they have been accepting money from the public for a full year?

    Here’s a quote from the reality television show website – The Shark Angels they have been shopping this concept around the major networks for over a year now, it is a Whale Wars clone:

    Simply put, we aim to save sharks.

    We are leading a guerrilla movement to protect sharks in the last vestiges where sharks remain. Tired of politics and wasted, duplicated efforts, the Shark Angels have come together to prove that regardless of style, we can all work with one another – and that there are many ways to make a difference.

    Three very different conservation organizations have partnered together in an unprecedented way, realizing Intervention, outreach, education, technology, science, grassroots activism, enforcement and even legislation are all necessary to wage the war, stopping poachers, apathetic bystanders, corrupt politicians, ruthless Mafioso, and ultimately those creating a demand for shark fins.


    Who are these guys, really? In one year with a huge mandate and a big splash in the media pond, what have they accomplished? What have they even started?

    I submit these orgs are basic clones of SSCS. They trade up on huge forward media pushes, with little actual boots on the ground effort. I could be wrong, they could be on a massive actual shark saving program that no one knows about, even now. Complete with “Intervention, outreach, education, technology, science, grassroots activism, enforcement and even legislation”.

    I do know they had nothing to do with the recent Maldives decision to ban all shark fishing in territorial waters, nor did they have anything to do with recent EU shark fishing legislation, or even the recent US House shark legislation. The big shark eco wins that NGO groups like Oceana have been working on for a while now.

    I would like to be proved wrong on the assumption that this group is really just another media arm of SSCS. So wrong that I would have to apologize to this list, over and over. That would be a good thing for sharks – actual conservation metrics not just frantic and useless media or “awareness” which is code for give us money and we’ll put up a website or hold up a sign.

    If both of the Shark Savers and Shark Angels websites are any indication, with sporadic blog posts and updates, my feeling is, this is one more semi failed, good intentioned, SSCS Wag and Conservation Dog shark efforts.

    Anyone care to comment in a reasonable tone about this?

  37. I’ve been following this debate since I came across it, and I’m impressed with the general eloquence and passion I’m seeing on this topic.

    First off, I love sharks. I’ve been a shark nut since I was a child. They’re the reason I pursued an education in Marine Biology, and they’re why I’m helping to co-found a shark conservation group here in Canada. I’m fully aware of the difficulties in raising awareness towards sharks, and the frustrations involved in seeing little progress made protecting a rapidly disappearing group of animals.

    Ok, on to the good stuff.

    I’ll admit, from what I’ve seen concerning the SSCS, the temptation is certainly there. They are very good at appealing to the die-hard conservationist in a person, to the idea that you could actually be there, hands on, directly affecting change. And yes, I’ll conceed that the group has actually done something by directly interfering with these operations. To what degree I’ll leave to debate.

    However, I believe that any objective obtained through militant means will always have adversaries, not matter how much public support is gained. For every person who jumps on the SSCS bandwagon, you’ll find someone who just thinks they’re “crazy treehuggers”. I think that if any real change is going to occur, it needs to happen by rational means, supported by accurate, verifiable scientific data. And it’s not like the data isn’t there, we just need to find a way to get it heard. Ignorance will not be an excuse here. We are decimating an entire

    • Sorry, wrong button. I’ll continue.

      I was saying that this (the slaughter or world-wide shark populations) is not a secret. Its ongoing, and it isn’t slowing down. We need to end it, not soon, now. Its appalling how far its come so far, and if allowed to continue, future generations will look back on us with nothing but contempt.

      So what’s the answer? We all know people are generally biased in what they consider “worthy” of protection. If it has cute babies, will jump through hoops or sing a song, it’s worth protecting. If it’s an instinct driven predator that’s been perfected for millions of years to “swim, eat, and make little baby sharks”, then please, kill ’em all.

      Sorry, ranting a bit. My point is, while the actions of the SSCS will most definetly grab the most attention, the majority of the work still falls on the shoulders of those of us willing to sanely, rationally, and passionately defend these animals to everyone, even those who won’t listen. This is the only way we’ll achieve the big changes that need to happen.

      So in conclusion, is the SSCS right or wrong? I don’t care. I don’t have time to care. All I can do is focus on reaching the people around me, on spreading the message, and on gathering the information needed to stop this atrocity once and for all.

  38. I too work in shark conservation, and am also a qualified game ranger so i have a good conservation background. I must say that I truly believe that SEA SHEPHERD are WITHOUT A DOUBT the most effective conservation group on the planet.
    They are one of the only organisations who dont have time for beurocracy, and who actually save marine life.
    They are the opposite to 99% of other organisations dealing with marine conservation who are mostly just ‘big talk and no action’

    Sea Shepherds actions are 100% legal, and their tactics are frankly brilliant, the bottom line is they actually save the lives of many animals!
    And they have NEVER injured any human in their defense of the defensless.
    Anyone who is allienated by these tactics should stop pretending to care about our oceans and rather become a politician!
    Talking does not save lives!


  39. Something that hasn’t been addressed is that the market for shark fins is (predominantly) China, and that any positive media generated by SSCS is likely to play to American/EU/Australian audiances. Even if tomorrow the countries who are likely to have seen/heard/understood what SSCS are campaigning for halt shark finning in their waters and by their fleets due to popular pressure, there are many developing countries who won’t, for various reasons. In fact, particularly thinking of the scene in Sharkwater where they “arrest” the shark finning boat, SSCS’s actions come off as another example of the rich west lording it over poorer countries, trying to tell the poor developing world what to do and does not help address the issues (perception does not equal reality I know, but it does affect effectiveness of SSCS as an organisation). Far more effective would be to address the cultural basis of shark finning (traditional Chinese medicine – declining now as more and more young Chinese turn to conventional medicine (by which I mean, medicine) and the status symbol that shark fin soup is. Otherwise we’re just shifting the problem around.

  40. Another point, SSCS claims to be stopping illegal shark finning vessels, often because the countries involved either don’t have the will to enforce laws, or don’t have the money. There was a great scene in Sharkwater when people in the city (I forget which) were marching against the illegal shark finning. Demanding that governments front up and effectively enforce fisheries regulations and laws is a battle throughout the world. In some places (the Galapagos?) where SSCS is invited in to do the enforcement, great. This is something they should shout about – real collaboration and effective conservation in the Galapagos. How much more they could do elsewhere? Unfortunately I think the high-handed and sometimes deceitful tactics reported from their other campaigns hinder this undoubtedly useful work from being seen as attractive to countries which struggle with funding or the will to enforce their fisheries laws in which they could do some good.

  41. Apologies for the re post but I didn’t realise I had posted it half way through the forum.
    I think everyone here has incredibly valid points, but the fact of the matter is that humans as a species have an innate protective response for animals (including young children) that we perceive as “cute”. We can’t help it, as I said it’s innate, built-in and second nature. This means that somehow we have to associate these animals with something other than violence especially because people perceive them as vicious man-eaters anyway. So The Sea Shepherd is not doing us any favours by showing this incredible lack of care for the laws that are put in place to prevent acts of violence. I think that as one person, we can make a difference and as a front they show incredible strength and courage but their lack of consideration for human lives is their downfall, in a way it’s almost as if they are putting the lives of sharks above those of humans which as far as I am concerned is just as bad as the other way around. We cannot, however do nothing and I too believe that the key is education, people don’t have to care about sharks like we cuddle our teddy bears but I think movies like Jaws did so much damage to the human perception of sharks it’s going to take quite a bit to re-educate and change the minds of people.

  42. As a general rule, I support Sea Shepherd and admire them for their passion and unflinching devotion to what they think is right. They are the only group I am aware of (please enlighten me to others if you know of them!) that is out there in the ocean actually saving lives. I support Oceana and other organizations like that who rely on public awareness and lawmaking but no matter how many great laws you pass, if people can get away with not following them, they mean nothing. Public awareness and sympathy is really the only long term solution and should continue to be in the frontlines, but it takes too long and we just don’t have the time to rely on it. Of course, I don’t think demonizing destitute fisherman is the way to go but I definitely understand the impulse. What else can we really do? Have as many rational, calm discussions as you want as the last of our sharks are slaughtered and our oceans collapse. They going to be gone in, what, ten years? We don’t have time to discuss and debate. I wish we did but does anyone even want to think about what will happen not only to the ocean but to us and to the planet if we continue to let our sharks die? I know there are alot of people working really hard on this issue, this is mostly my own frustration at this point. Maybe that makes me a little more lenient towards Paul Watson’s sometimes Michael Moore-ish attitudes. I often wish I could hop on a boat, go to the Galapagos and actually cut those sharks free of the longlines. It seems like the only thing that would feel like I was making a difference. Though I suppose that is a different topic altogether (perhaps that could be a discussion sometime? What can we all do to truly make a difference). All in all, I think we need groups like Sea Shepherd and Oceana. We need people to make the public aware to what is happening and make conservation laws, and we need people to enforce those laws. I don’t think we should be ramming boats, of course, but I do think we need people out on the ocean. And naturally, we need to work with these poor countries and give them alternatives to poaching. And we need to do it now.

  43. Yes it is important to change public opinions through awareness and education. Yes it is important to preserve the “good image” of the conservation movement. But without organizations like the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, who are physically cutting sharks (and other creatures) free and confiscating longlines, there may be no more of these creatures to save by the time public opinion comes to their rescue.

    I consider longlines and shark finning two of the most abhorrent acts of violence against the natural world and the notion of humanity. Destroying such property (including the boats that deploy them) I believe is necessary and just.

    When you see a man beating a dog to death in front of you, would you call and wait for the police, or stop him yourself? I know my answer and I support the SSCS 100 percent.

    The moral “purity” of the conservation movement will be useless and pointless if there is nothing left to conserve.

    Less talk, more action.

    • Hi, Jaki! Thanks for your thoughts- they are, in my opinion, the most reasoned and rhetoric free of any of the pro-SSCS people.

      You say that “without organizations like the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, who are physically cutting sharks (and other creatures) free and confiscating longlines, there may be no more of these creatures to save by the time public opinion comes to their rescue.”

      An interesting point. However, let’s consider what “Captain Paul Watson” wrote in this post- he bragged that they have freed “hundreds of sharks” from longlines.

      Let’s assume that he meant “hundreds of sharks per year” and not “hundreds of sharks in the 3 decades SSCS has been around”. Let’s assume that he meant the maximum possible number that “hundreds” could signify, 900. If Sea Shepherd is saving 900 sharks per year, and 100 million sharks per year are being killed for their fins, Sea Shepherd is saving .0009% of sharks caught for finning. This is hardly enough to help the population of sharks as a whole, and this .0009% number is based on two very generous interpretations of Captain Watson’s bragging.

      You also said “The moral “purity” of the conservation movement will be useless and pointless if there is nothing left to conserve.”

      So you can do whatever you want as long as you think it’s for a good cause? That sort of reasoning has gotten humanity into lots of trouble in the past. We have codes of conduct for a reason, if we abandon them the first time we face a challenge, then why should anybody take us seriously?

      “When you see a man beating a dog to death in front of you, would you call and wait for the police, or stop him yourself?” This is a poor analogy because fisherman aren’t killing sharks to be cruel, they are killing sharks for food. When you see a farmer killing a pig, do you intervene?

      The fact is, physically freeing “hundreds of sharks” from longlines and intimidating boats full of desperately poor fisherman isn’t going to stop finning. What will stop finning is the support of the public, which grows when they are exposed to reasoned and respectful arguments, and shrinks when they are exposed to criminal and dangerous stunts like those perpetuated by Sea Shepherd.

    • Again, our comments do not reflect the reality of the situation. The SSCS is not a criminal organization, and if you are going to make this charge, for the sake of a valid argument I would ask that you specifically site an example where the SSCS was acting unabiguously outside the law. The shark-finning example you bring up was an action taken against people who were knowingly violating the law in the Galapagos Islands. The SSCS was acting at the request of the Ecudorian Government. The Shark-finners were working for a company that was exporting shark fins to the orient for profit, and arguably being underpaid for their labor at that. Poor fishermen do not fin sharks – they eat them, or sell the meat locally. There is just too much good meat to throw it away. Only exporting companies “fin” sharks in the Galapagos Islands.

      Your logic is great, but I would maintain that your conclusions are invalid because they are not based on accurate data. This data is all available on the web.

  44. Post should have just been called Foe of SSCS. Just to be clear, the fishermen in Galapagos and Cocos know they are fishing in illegal park waters…do not compare them to farmers, it is a crime, which makes them criminals, not “poor fishermen”. I do agree the problem will not be solved by making a scene, working with governments and providing sustainable economic programs can make a difference. In the end, it is the demand that needs to be attacked head on…

  45. That’s a key point:

    “I would ask that you specifically site an example where the SSCS was acting unabiguously outside the law.”

    Right now the SSCS vessel Farley Mowat is going to auction for the lack of payment of 3.1 million dollars in fines and fees. The fines for being in violation of a CDN Gov law stating how close you can get to CDN sealers doing their work. Regardless of how horrific anyone thinks that “work” is. The law is unabiguous in this case and SSCS donors are out close to one million dollars for the vessel, fines and current legal bills for the crew.

    SSCS does a great job of “working the gray area” in other cases. In fact one might submit they are masters of that game. The media spin from SSCS regarding the Farley Mowat case runs the gamut from sealer collusion to insane gov members working outside the law. Yet the vessel is still being sold and no one is steeping forward to claim her, not SSCS, no one.

    IF the law was even close to the on the side of SSCS in this case I am sure some lawyer working pro bono might have stepped up. No one has.

    A great percent of what you read from SSCS and it’s many clone sites is incorrect. From legal opinions to actual events as they transpire these events are bogus or seriously massaged to give false impressions. The cases are too many to list here.

    We were once full supporters of SSCS until we began to see the working of this org. It is all too easy to cause controversy and radicalize people.

    Real conservation is goals and results based. I say 31 years of direct protest anti whaling efforts have failed. My concern is this same playbook, applied to shark conservation, will net the same results.

    Sharks do not have another 31 years to play the SSCS eco game. Not when 80 million a year being taken.

    • The Farley Mowat was illegally boarded and confiscated in INTERNATIONAL waters. The law that it was confiscated under makes it illegal for anyone to WATCH the killing of a seal. This is like making it illegal to watch an immoral act – the mere fact that you even SAW it makes you guilty. This is something you support? You could never get away with such a law in the USA.

      The SSCS claims that the ship has been siezed illegally. Canada knows that their siezure will not stand up in international court, so charges have never been brought against the ship or the SSCS. There is nothing to “file” against. The SSCS has demanded that the ship be released immediately with repairs and with financial compensation for the days it has been rendered unavailable to the SSCS. The problem here is that the ship is registered in the Netherlands, and unless the Netherlands wants to go to the expense of contesting this in international court, no one else has the standing (or money) to do this. Instead, the Netherlands has awarded the SSCS with more than the ship is worth from the Dutch postcode lottery. In the meanwhile, this ship is costing the Canadian government lots of money just to dock it, and if they sell it, the quater million dollars of liens against it go with the ship, so no one is likely to buy it.

      The Farley Mowat is too old and too slow any more to be useful to the SSCS. They have gotten money for a new ship, and they have made the old ship a thorn in the side of the Canadian government, which should have known better, anyway. If I were a Canadian citizen, I would be complaining to my government for such stupidity in the first place.

      But this is all on the SSCS web site, as you should know. Now I have two eyes and a good brain, and I can read and I can think. So far, you have given me no reason to just assume what you say is true concerning the SSCS – as a matter of fact, some of your own statements I feel are not factual.

      The real issue: Do you really agree with the Canadian seal hunt? If not, what are you doing about it? We can argue all day about how effective these tactics have been, but Europe has recently inacted a boycot of all Canadian seal products. Now that’s effective, and I believe that the SSCS’s actions had something to do with it.

    • Craig Nazor? Has anyone checked this IP Address?

      This is not the “real issue”. This thread should be about SSCS shark conservation efforts (which are lacking), not who supports what. This “real issue” of yours is a conversation redirect. You asked to specify a point and I gave it to you. Sadly now I wish I had not.

      100% of your response are SSCS “Talking Points” which, as we have pointed out more than once, are bogus most of the time:

      “But this is all on the SSCS web site, as you should know.

      You sir, are a misguided camp follower or the Editor in Chief, me thinks the latter. I cannot help you if cannot see what is in front of you. I would also suggest you call Canada or at least email the local Gov there and do some homework outside of the SSCS website.

      We have done that, and now more than ever, others are as well.

  46. An ad hominim redirect will do you no good. You can do a web search using my name as listed and find out all about me. I am hiding nothing. And I have no interest to attempt to characterize you from your posts. I will simply judge you from your arguments on this blog.

    I have checked Paul Watson on Wikipedia, and followed most of the links. I have also done a google search on Paul Watson, and followed many of those links, both pro and con. I did this all before I became a supporter of SSCS because I was aware of the controversy. What makes you think your research is superior to mine?

    I have done this research because it is impossible to make an intelligent decision about who I will support (meaning who is most effective) if I trust opinion masked as fact. When facts are in dispute, I state my evidence as to why I believe one way or the other. For instance, if the Farley Mowat wasn’t in international waters when it was siezed, why have no charges been filed by the Canadian government?