Former president and founder of Sea Shepherd, Paul Watson has stepped down from the leadership and captaincy of the SS Steve Irwin in January 2013. The confrontational conservationists have recently been under immense legal pressure with a restraining order issued from a United States court threatening to disrupt the activities of the organisation. Although Paul Watson is Canadian born, he holds US Citizenship and has agreed to operate within the boundaries set by a US Appeal Court restraining Sea Shepherd from attacking the Japanese whalers, or coming within 450 metres of their ships in the Antarctic.
A wildlife activist since he was a child, Paul Watson was born in Toronto, Canada in 1950 and spent much of his childhood in the seaside town of St. Andrews-by-the-Sea in New Brunswick, Canada. The eldest of seven children, Paul Watson was a member of the Kindness Club in his hometown, becoming involved in rescuing beavers that were trapped in cruel leg-hold traps. He was also known to disrupt deer and duck hunters, and to prevent the shooting of birds for sport.
Later, as a young adult Paul Watson joined the Canadian Coast Guard with his first ship being the C.C.G.S. Vancouver, a weathership. He later went on to join Norwegian, Swedish, and British ships, which provided him with extraordinary experience on all the world’s oceans, including the South China Sea, the wild seas of the North Atlantic and the war zones of the Persian Gulf.
Paul Watson was one of the co-founders of the original Greenpeace Foundation. In fact he was the eighth member and his membership number was – and remains today – to be 007. In 1974, Paul Watson and other founding Greenpeace members organized their first campaign to oppose whaling. The next year, Paul Watson and Robert Hunter were the first people to put their lives on the line to protect whales when they placed the inflatable Zodiac boat between a Russian harpoon vessel and a pod of sperm whales.
During this confrontation with Russian whalers, a harpooned and dying sperm whale loomed over Watson’s small boat. Watson claims to have recognized a flicker of understanding in the dying whale’s eye as he watched the magnificent whale heave its body away from his boat, as it then slipped beneath the waves and died. A few seconds of looking into this dying whale’s eye changed Paul Watson’s life forever.
In June 1977, Paul Watson left Greenpeace Foundation because of disagreements on tactics. That same year he founded Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The group’s mission is dedicated to research, investigation, and the enforcement of laws, treaties, resolutions and regulations established to protect marine wildlife worldwide.
Today, 35 years after he founded Sea Shepherd, there is an Interpol “red notice” alert for Paul Watson’s detection. At a news conference in Hobart on January 7, 2013, it was announced that Watson’s captaincy of the SS Steve Irwin would be assumed by Captain Siddharth Chakravarty and that Sea Shepherd U.S. board member Marnie Gaede would take over his duties for that organization. It was also announced that former Australian senator and Green Party leader Bob Brown would direct the 2013 Southern Ocean anti-whaling campaign, dubbed Operation Zero Tolerance. Paul Watson will remain on board as an observer of the campaign. For more information on the Sea Shepherd organisation checkout their website.