Knight of the high seas

Sea Shepherd’s captain to speak on saving whales and the world

Sea Shepherd Capt. Paul Watson says he is used to being called a terrorist. He’s not fazed by that label, considering that it comes mostly from the Japanese whalers he’s intent on stopping.

Sea Shepherd Capt. Paul Watson says he is used to being called a terrorist. He’s not fazed by that label, considering that it comes mostly from the Japanese whalers he’s intent on stopping.


Look-see at lecturers:
Paul Watson’s keynote lecture is one of 10 at the This Way to Sustainability Conference, Nov. 5-8. Other speakers include Timothy J. LaSalle, of the Rodale Institute; and Derrick Jensen, author of Endgame and The Culture of Make-Believe. For a full schedule of events, visit

Having Capt. Paul Watson as a keynote speaker at Chico State’s upcoming sustainability conference is like inviting Robin Hood to speak at a conference on combating global poverty.

Watson is the founder of international marine- and wildlife-protection nonprofit Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and captain of the MV Steve Irwin, which is famously seen week after week on the Animal Planet show Whale Wars chasing and ramming the so-called “research” boats of Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary off the coast of Antarctica. He is an undeniable hero to those on the side of protecting whales and other threatened marine species.

Watson’s enemies, however—they include the crews of the Japanese whaling ships that Watson and his Sea Shepherd crew regularly pursue and obstruct in various ways to keep them from whaling—portray him as an outlaw, calling him an “eco-terrorist.”

The larger-than-life Watson—who recently spoke at an FBI conference in Quantico, Va., on the subject of upholding international law in international waters—will appear at the fifth annual This Way to Sustainability Conference to deliver a Saturday (Nov. 7) keynote lecture titled “Defending Marine Eco-Systems from Illegal Exploitation.” The day before, Friday (Nov. 6), he will take part in an afternoon keynote panel discussion on overpopulation as an obstacle to sustainability.

Speaking by phone recently from his office at Sea Shepherd headquarters in Friday Harbor, Wash., Watson addressed the accusations that his work on the high seas enforcing international sanctions on whaling amounts to terrorism.

“If people don’t like you any more, you’re a ‘terrorist,’ ” he insisted. He said he gets stopped by Homeland Security for “secondary questioning” upon re-entering the United States from his anti-whaling runs because of the Japanese complaints. “But, you know, the Dalai Lama’s officially a terrorist as designated by China, so I’m in good company.”

Watson, over the course of a half-hour interview, spoke passionately about a number of issues to do with sustainability, including the issue of nuclear power plants (“more greenhouse emissions than a coal-fired power plant,” said Watson, referring to the process of mining, processing and transporting the uranium needed to generate nuclear power that “never gets put into the equation”) and overpopulation.

“The No. 1 question that has to be addressed that everyone is afraid to address,” offered Watson, “is that of out-of-control population growth.”

Watson recalled an appearance he made on Fox Television during which he said that the human population needs to be reduced to 1 billion in order for the planet to have a chance of being sustainable over the long haul.

“There were people that accused me of wanting to murder 5 billion people!” said Watson, clearly used to being portrayed as a bad guy by those who find his outspokenness and assertive manner jarring. “If we don’t do something about overpopulation, if we don’t pay attention to the three basic laws of diversity, interdependence of species and finite resources, we’ll go extinct.”

As for the marine ecosystem, Watson said that it is currently “in a state of collapse.”

“In 20 years, all the coral reef ecosystems will be gone [if things continue as they have been going],” said Watson. “And if they die, we die. … Absolutely the most important thing on the planet is the protection of biodiversity.”

“People are alienated from the natural laws of ecology. They’re too busy entertaining themselves,” Watson said. “You don’t even have the kind of social activism any more that we used to have, because everyone is locked in cyberspace.

“We [as a species] need to get ecological intelligence,” said Watson, adding, “I’d rather be ecologically correct than politically correct.”