“Sail forth – steer for the deep waters only,
Reckless O soul, exploring, I with thee and thou with me,
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go,
And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.”
– Walt Whitman
Report by Captain Paul Watson
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is on the doorstep of the most challenging campaign ever undertaken in its thirty five year history of activism and intervention. It is also a time ripe for opportunity.
In a month we walk through that door, a freezer door actually. More specifically, we will take our three ships, the Steve Irwin, the Bob Barker and the Brigitte Bardot southward from Australia into the cold, remote, and hostile waters of the Southern Ocean just off the coast of Antarctica.
And it is there we will discover just what the Japanese whalers intend to do to stop us with the thirty million dollars allocated to them by the Japanese government.
Our small non-governmental organization will face off in the frigid Southern Ocean against a ruthless and aggressive whaling fleet subsidized and politically supported by one of the world’s greatest superpowers.
It is incredible when you think of it. Japan is treating the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society like a nation they are at war with. The Japanese Prime Minster has stated that Japan will not surrender to Sea Shepherd.
A dramatic statement considering all we wish to do is save the lives of whales from a horrific death from illegal explosive harpoons.
Nevertheless, they regard us as an embarrassment and have vowed to crush us. With thirty million dollars against our three million dollar budget, with three times as many whalers as we have volunteers, with more and larger, faster and much more powerful ships, what choice do we have BUT to return to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and resist them with all the resources available to us. Our one great advantage? Our crews are more passionate about saving lives than the whalers are about destroying life. We are willing to risk our lives in this great challenge against superior odds because love of life and love for this planet and her magnificent oceans motivates our courage where only greed, cruelty, and pride motivate the actions of the whalers.
Whatever they intend, whatever they do, it will not deter us. Our objective is to save as many whales as we can in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, no matter how dangerous. The risks are acceptable to each and every one of us, and my crew has the passion, resourcefulness and the courage to confront these vicious killers with the objective of shutting down their illegal operations.
As Captain John Paul Jones once stated with fierce determination, “Give me a fair ship that I might sail her into harm’s way.”
Before departing, however, I have decided that Sea Shepherd needs to address a re-organization to strengthen our abilities to support our ships and crews in the field, and to streamline the organization to keep it flexible and efficient.
Since establishing Sea Shepherd in 1977, I have struggled to keep this organization small, grassroots, and effective. It has not been easy on one hand to encourage growth as it provides increased resources to enable our campaigns to be more effective, knowing on the other hand growth manifests bureaucracy with increased administrative costs.
Many years ago, when I was in the Canadian Coast Guard, the captain of the CCGS Camsell commented how the Canadian Coast Guard had gone from a courageous and dedicated force on the water to an agency bullied and manipulated by politicians and bureaucrats. He recalled how in the 1950’s for every person working in the office there were forty people working on the ships. A quarter of a century later it had evolved to fifty people working in an office to every man on a ship or on station.
I remember the Captain of the CCGS Camsell wanting to replace a light just offshore of Texada Island, British Columbia in the Georgia Strait. We could see the light; see that it was not working and needed replacement. We had a large replacement bulb on board the ship. It would have taken twenty minutes to replace the bulb. The Department of Transport office in Victoria told him not to proceed as an order had to be written up and submitted to the office with a request for a replacement. Once the order was received, the office would dispatch a Coast Guard vessel from Victoria to replace the light.
The Captain was furious, but he could not proceed, and the light remained out of order, a threat to navigation for three days until another vessel out of Victoria some one hundred miles away was sent with the replacement bulb. What I saw there was ridiculous and costly inefficiency and a threat to public safety.
That lesson has stayed with me ever since and that is why the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has not grown into a large bureaucratic organization. We remain relatively small deliberately.
Over the years, I have seen other organizations fall prey to bureaucracy and I have vowed that Sea Shepherd will never follow suit. We need to keep things simple, small, and effective. We need to make decisions without hesitation and we need to be able to act in the field by putting our trust in our field leaders, our captains and our officers and crew.
Our Captains and field leaders make their own decisions in the field, without fear of reprimand so long as they operate within our basic rules of engagement and those rules are simple. Cause no physical injury to our opposition, do not compromise with the lives of our clients and never surrender from a campaign until the campaign has been won.
This policy cannot change in the face of growth and the truth is that because of the success of Whale Wars and international publicity over the success of our campaigns, we have grown rapidly in support.
We both need and appreciate that support, as it allows us to have more resources in the field but we must be vigilant to the need to maintain control of bureaucratic influence.
Sea Shepherd does not send out a small army onto the streets with clipboards soliciting money from the public and pocketing a fat commission for doing so. Nor do we believe SSCS supporters would agree to have their donation dollars being spent on large-scale direct mail marketing.
People come to Sea Shepherd through word of mouth, through recommendations from other supporters, from visits to our ships and from watching Whale Wars or viewing documentary films about our activities.
We enjoy one of the highest ratings with Charity Navigator because more than 80% of SSCS funds go directly to ships and campaigns. Yes, we need an administration but we need to keep it as small as possible and when things don’t work, we change, we adapt and we evolve.
We do not want people working for us simply because it’s a job, and for that reason we try to hire people from our volunteer base. Working for Sea Shepherd is not a nine to five, forty hour week routine. We look for passion, for imagination and resourcefulness.
We also need to be accessible to our supporters and open to their ideas and criticisms.
Sea Shepherd must make it a priority to build on our onshore crew of volunteers. It is these volunteers that bring to us the support base that we need in order for the shipboard volunteers to be able to efficiently do what needs to be done on the high seas. In fact, there is really no difference between being a volunteer on land or on the ships. Both areas of volunteer activism are equally important and perfectly complement each other.
Although headquartered in Friday Harbor, Washington, USA, Sea Shepherd is truly an international organization with active chapters in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Africa. Turkey, Canada, USA and Brazil.
We are presently undertaking campaigns in the Galapagos (Ecuador) Taiji Japan (dolphins) The Faeroe Islands (pilot whales), the Southern Ocean (whales), Namibia (seals), the Mediterranean (bluefin tuna), Norway and Iceland, (whales). We are also making plans to defend sharks in the Southern Pacific and to address the problem of the growing Pacific plastic gyre.
As Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “Simplify, simplify, simplify.”
To this end, we have made several major changes within the society`s administrative structure. We will be increasing the number of members on our Board of Directors to allow us to continue to harness fresh ideas and new energy. I will take on the title of Executive Director for Sea Shepherd and I’ll be appointing an Administrative Director who will reside in Friday Harbor. There will be no Chief Executive Officer (CEO) role going forward.
Steve Roest, recently our Chief Executive Officer stepped down to take up the position of SSCS International Business Development Director based in London, England. Steve is a successful businessman and has strengthened Sea Shepherd’s resources considerably. There are significant challenges that we need Steve to address, specifically building support for our efforts in the Galapagos, Namibia, and in the Mediterranean. Steve also remains our primary negotiator and liaison with Animal Planet and the Discovery networks.
SSCS Directors Carla Robinson, Alex Earl and Chuck Swift will be leaving Sea Shepherd. Carla has been with Sea Shepherd for twenty years and under her guidance our computing system has been built to efficiently handle all the demands of our supporters and to satisfy the IRS and other government agencies. Her presence will be deeply missed by Board, staff and volunteers.
Alex Earl has done an excellent job over the last few years building up a merchandise department to raise money for our campaigns and to promote our name. He and his wife, former SSCS Executive Director Kim McCoy have been a strong influence on the society.
Chuck Swift first began with Sea Shepherd in the late 1980`s serving on campaigns until 1997 where he was both a ship’s officer and the ship’s manager on the Edward Abbey, Cleveland Amory, and the Ocean Warrior. He left the organization in 1987 to pursue a business degree and rejoined Sea Shepherd in 2008 to serve as Captain on the Bob Barker and as deputy CEO for the society. His tireless efforts on behalf of the oceans have inspired staff and volunteers alike.
All of us at Sea Shepherd wish Carla, Chuck, Alex and Kim the very best in their future endeavors knowing they will always continue to work in defense of the environment and of animals.
Sea Shepherd has been in the vanguard of the international movement to defend and protect biodiversity in the world’s oceans since the 1970`s. We are a unique organization, and the only international marine anti-poaching organization in existence. And we will remain so just so long as we keep ourselves as an organization that can respond to issues immediately without being bogged down with red-tape and internal disagreements.
I look forward to a very productive year in 2012 working with our staff, crew, volunteers and supporters worldwide, doing what we do best and no other group does at all – aggressive non-violent intervention to shut down marine poachers. Our campaigns are driven to defend, conserve and protect all marine species from the smallest of plankton to the largest whale.
Like the sea, Sea Shepherd can never be predictable. We are an organization of passionate people motivated by deep affection for our planet, our oceans and for life.
Like the ocean we surge with anger at times and we approach issues calmly at other times but always we keep our eyes focused on our objectives and our hands firmly on the helm to keep our course steady and true.