Board of Directors
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s Board of Directors makes strategic short and long-term decisions for the organization. They serve without compensation or other tangible incentives.
Dr. Reiss’s research focuses on dolphin communication, cognition, comparative animal cognition, cetacean welfare, and the evolution of intelligence. She has directed dolphin research programs at Marine World Africa USA, Osborn Laboratories of Marine Sciences of the Widlife Conservation Society, and the National Aquarium. She pioneered the use of an interactive underwater keyboard system with dolphins, thus affording them the choice and control to investigate their spontaneous vocal learning abilities. Dr. Reiss and her colleagues have demonstrated that bottlenose dolphins and Asian elephants possess the advanced cognitive ability for mirror self-recognition, previously considered unique to humans and great apes. Her current research focuses on decoding dolphin communication and developing interfaces for facilitating interspecies communication.
As an expert in her field, Dr. Reiss conducts cognitive and field research in Roatan, Belize, and Bimini using a variety of approaches, including unmanned aerial systems, to obtain new perspectives on dolphin communication and behavior. Dr. Reiss is a Co-founder and Chair of the Interspecies Internet, a think tank to accelerate our understanding of interspecies communication.
Applying her research to advocating for global protection for cetaceans, Dr. Reiss has served on the AZA Animal Welfare Committee and was a science advisor for the California Marine Mammal Rescue Center. Her professional efforts have also included the rescue and rehabilitation of stranded marine mammals, including the rescue operation of Humphrey, the Humpback whale that wandered into the Bay area in 1985. Dr. Reiss’s work has been published in numerous international and national journals and was featured in science magazines, television programs, and newspaper articles. In her book, The Dolphin in the Mirror, released in 2011, she shares her personal and professional experiences with what she calls “magnificent minds in the water.”
Pritam is the Founder of the Singh Group of companies, having overseen the design, development, building, and management of properties, with a current value of over $5 billion. The Singh Group of companies, based in the Florida Keys, has gained a national reputation and won numerous awards for innovative design, the adaptive reuse of obsolete properties, historic renovation, and environmental remediation. Some of the Singh Group of companies’ most notable projects include the Truman Annex and Marker Hotel in Key West, Florida and the Tranquility Bay and Isla Bella Resorts in Marathon, Florida.
A lifelong engaged student of religion and philosophy, environmental and social activist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist in numerous movement and organizations for over five decades, Pritam has worked, supported, and affected change to conserve our oceans, protect animals, and educate and care for children.
Pritam is Chairman of the Board and past President of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS). Since 2015, under his leadership, the organization has grown and significantly broadened its conservation reach by partnering with countries worldwide to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. This organizational growth has allowed Sea Shepherd to gain international recognition as a guardian of the ocean, uniquely serving as the largest non-governmental marine conservation fleet in the world. He spends much of his time building collaborative partnerships with Sea Shepherd’s staff, consultants, advisors, and other stakeholders.
He is a longtime student of and collaborator with the renowned Buddhist monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. He has edited six books with Thich Nhat Hanh, notably No Death No Fear and Taming the Tiger Within. For 25 years, he has represented the Plum Village Practice Community worldwide. In February of 2004, at the Lin Chi Zen Great Ordination Ceremony organized in Deer Park Monastery, he was ordained as a Dharma teacher and minister in the 42nd generation of the Lâm Tê Dhyana School and the 8th generation of the Liêu Quán Dharma Line.
Pritam received his Sikh name in September 1976 during an Amrit Ceremony, held at the Akal Takht, Golden Temple in Amritsar, India.
Roundabout Theatre in New York, the Executive Producers Council of CAP/UCLA, and is a member of the Producers Guild of America and BAFTA USA. His most recent films include the award-winning Welcome to Chechnya, The Animal People, And She Could Be Next, and Call Her Ganda. His upcoming films include The Business of Birth Control, Hidden Letters, and Beirut Dreams in Color. He is a longtime supporter of Sea Shepherd, hosting many events at his home that have raised over $1 million. He believes that without Sea Shepherd, our oceans would face a devastating fate.
Mike is passionate about conservation, on land and sea. He actively preserves wilderness areas and defends wildlife, spending much of his time kayaking, wilderness camping, and scuba diving. It was only after learning about Sea Shepherd and meeting Paul Watson that Mike knew that Sea Shepherd was the right organization for him. For over 20 years, Mike has committed to keeping the Sea Shepherd fleet in the water and has provided assistance with multiple campaigns.
He has led over 100 expeditions to all oceans and studied every species of large whale in the wild. The institute he founded ran a five-year, around-the-world research expedition (the Voyage of the Odyssey) to measure contamination levels in ocean life. The voyage collected 955 skin/blubber samples from sperm whales from all oceans, obtained by biopsy dart (a procedure that does no significant harm to the whale). The samples were analyzed for their concentrations of metals—both toxic and non-toxic. The resulting data represent the first worldwide bioassay of the levels of these contaminants in ocean life.
An unexpected result was that sperm whales carry contaminant loads of toxic chromium that in many cases are at higher concentrations than chromium levels in workers who have died from lung cancer caused by 20+ years of exposure to chromium by breathing the air in a chromium factory. Funds are currently being sought to analyze these samples for a suite of synthetic, endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and for brominated fire retardants.
Dr. Payne is also Senior Scientific Advisor to the CETI Project, a group of 30 specialists who are attempting to translate sperm whale communications, with the goal of carrying out a conversation with a sperm whale (no matter how simplistic it may turn out to be).
Captain Watson taught environmental ethics at UCLA and the Pasadena College of Design. He is an author, public speaker, and a poet.
Captain Watson has received many awards and commendations over the years. He was awarded honorary citizenship to the French town of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and was made an honorary citizen of the Florida Keys in 1989. Other awards include Toronto City TV's Environmentalist of the Year Award for 1990, the Jules Verne Award, the Amazon Peace Prize, and the George H.W. Bush Daily Points of Light Award for his volunteer efforts with conservation activism. In 2000, Captain Watson was chosen by Time Magazine as one of the environmental heroes of the 20th Century.
Sea Shepherd Leadership
Although she has a love for the administrative and database aspects of her job, her favorite part of her position is speaking and working with the supporters, donors, and volunteers of the organization. Having been on staff at Sea Shepherd for a number of years, Michaela has seen firsthand the monumental work that can be done by compassionate supporters. Like preeminent marine biologist and oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, Michaela believes, "Our past, our present, and whatever remains of our future, absolutely depend on what we do.”
another six years running a successful campaign in the Galapagos Islands as the Director of Operations.
In his current role as Chief Executive Officer for both Sea Shepherd Global and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Captain Cornelissen guides global operations for both organizations. Leading a highly capable team of professionals that spans five continents, he oversees a wide array of international public-private partnerships, manages country agreements, and is responsible for the movements of all vessels in Sea Shepherd's fleet.
Considered an expert on illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing as well as marine wildlife protection, Captain Cornelissen is a sought-after guest lecturer and travels the world to highlight Sea Shepherd's critical work. His commentary has been featured by BBC, NBC News, CNN, The Guardian, Forbes, and The Sydney Morning Herald. Captain Cornelissen's tireless efforts and devotion to protect marine wildlife have also been highlighted in publications such as The New Yorker and The New York Times.
Captain Cornelissen first joined Sea Shepherd 20 years ago as a crew member of Farley Mowat. What began as a sabbatical turned into a life-long commitment to ocean conservation. On his first day at sea, he dove into the waters of the Galapagos Marine Reserve to save a turtle from a longline.
Under Captain Cornelissen's leadership, the organization has grown its staff and fleet of ships, increased its funding, and significantly broadened its conservation reach by partnering with countries worldwide to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. This organizational growth has allowed Sea Shepherd to gain international recognition as a guardian of the ocean, uniquely serving as the only private navy in the world. It has also allowed the organization to realize its ultimate goal: to save more marine wildlife, protect endangered species, and safeguard our planet's most fragile marine ecosystems.
Though his leadership duties keep him frequently on land, he still enjoys getting out on the ships as often as possible. For 20 years, Captain Cornelissen has been proud to serve side-by-side with the most inspiring and passionate people he knows.
Some of the campaigns that David has participated in include Operation Gulf Rescue, following the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and protecting turtles on beaches across Central America.
David grew up in Colorado, and, after earning his BS in Business Management, spent 18 years in law enforcement in both Colorado and California. In 2007, David formed a private investigation company, with the primary focus of assisting people that had been accused of committing criminal offenses or whose constitutional rights had been violated by the police or government.
David remains active in the fight for criminal justice equality and constitutional rights issues, and in his free time is an active volunteer with the ACLU.
Bob Barker, with Peter at the helm, set the world record for the longest pursuit of a poaching vessel at sea. Chasing the Interpol-wanted illegal fishing vessel Thunder for 110 days, Bob Barker covered three oceans and 11,000 nautical miles before its captain intentionally sank his own vessel in the Gulf of Guinea in a bid to destroy evidence. The transoceanic pursuit was covered extensively by The New York Times and is the subject of the book Chasing Thunder by Eskil Engdal and Kjetil Saetter.
Since then, Peter has directed civilian offshore patrol vessels (COPVs), under so-called ‘ship rider’ agreements, with the African states of Liberia, Gabon, São Tomé and Príncipe, Benin, Sierra Leone, Namibia, The Gambia, and Tanzania to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
Ongoing partnerships between Sea Shepherd and the law enforcement agents of African coastal and island States have resulted in the arrest of 73 vessels for illegal fishing and other fisheries crimes over the past five years.
As a result, in 2018, Peter was nominated for the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Pritzker Emerging Environmental Genius Award, given to a person under the age of 40 with an innovative solution to addressing an environmental concern.
Peter is also the 2016 recipient of the prestigious Winsome Constance Kindness Gold Medal for Humanitarian Service, previously awarded to Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dame Jane Goodall, Mrs. Maneka Gandhi MP, and Sir David Attenborough.
In his 24 years of military service, Chuck held many operational commands in key strategic locations, including Officer in Charge of the USCG Stations in Ketchikan, Alaska, Marathon, Florida, and Puerto Rico, where he was directly responsible for USCG search and rescue and maritime law enforcement operations.
Chuck holds a BS in Organizational Leadership from Thomas Edison State University. He is a graduate of the US Army Sergeants Major Academy and the National Defense University’s senior leader capstone/keystone course. He is a licensed U.S. captain and, in addition to his numerous awards, is the recipient of four U.S. Meritorious Service Medals.
He holds a degree in Computer Engineering but spent several years working in the fields of recreational and technical scuba diving, hyperbaric medicine, and marine conservation. These experiences fueled his love for the ocean and his desire to help protect marine biodiversity. JP spent many years working as a volunteer fireman specializing in underwater and mountain rescue, showcasing his courage, compassion, and desire to help others. In recent years, his efforts have extended to helping the planet’s most vulnerable citizens: the animals.
He has served as a crew member on multiple Sea Shepherd campaigns over the years in roles varying from deckhand, to media, to campaign leader.
In his current position, JP serves as a liaison with governmental bodies, working closely with international authorities to establish and maintain partnership agreements relating to the protection of the ocean and its most vulnerable species.
"Anyone privileged to live in nature comes to feel that respect for all life is at the foundation of what it means to act ethically. It is deeply meaningful to me to find that respect woven throughout Sea Shepherd. Professionally, I am a typical scientist: curious, skeptical and independent-minded, and I will follow data wherever they lead. I am thrilled to contribute to the passionate mix at Sea Shepherd."
As an analyst, he has provided commentary to domestic and international media outlets, including FOX News, BBC, Sky News, Times of India, and The New York Times. Roger has lectured and consulted on communications and public engagement in more than 25 countries. Projects range from providing advocacy strategy for the National Family Farm Coalition, advising European cities on their bids to host major sporting events, a two-year communications project for Ernst and Young across three continents, building a grassroots fundraising program for the National WWI Memorial in Washington, D.C., and seven years of communications strategy for MIT’s Sloan School of Management.
Tamara has served on the front lines of ten Sea Shepherd campaigns. In Mexico, she stood shoulder-to-shoulder with courageous and passionate activists, working tirelessly to protect the world’s most endangered marine mammal: the vaquita porpoise. She has supported the scientific efforts of conservation researchers in the Revillagigedo Archipelago and the Guadalupe Biosphere Reserve.
In Canada, she participated in Sea Shepherd’s Operation Virus Hunter campaign, amplifying the voices of First Nations in their fight to protect wild salmon and coastal ecosystems from the devastating ecological impacts of salmon farming.
In the Caribbean, she documented and supported Sea Shepherd’s response to climate crises, bringing aid and supplies to hurricane survivors.
In Costa Rica, she monitored the critical nesting beaches for endangered sea turtles, ensuring the safety of the mother turtles, hatchlings, and eggs.
Through these experiences, Tamara has witnessed the scope of the plight of the world’s ocean and all of its inhabitants firsthand. But she has also seen the profound impact that a dedicated and compassionate group of individuals can have and finds daily inspiration in the heroism of her Sea Shepherd crewmates.
Tamara’s activism was most recently featured in the popular Netflix documentary Seaspiracy.
She has decades of experience as a research field ecologist and conservation program leader. As a National Research Council postdoctoral fellow with NOAA, Dr. Edwards designed and implemented a research program focused on mitigating the impacts of commercial fisheries on North Pacific seabirds, expanding on her Ph.D. work on albatrosses. Among many other positions, she served as Country Director for the Wildlife Conservation Society and Chief of Party for USAID, responsible for program development, staff, and in-country communications with partners, funders, the government, and media.
Having dedicated her life to conservation, Dr. Edwards has lived and worked on four continents, forging partnerships among scientists, communities, conservation organizations, governments, the private sector, funders, and intergovernmental organizations. She lived for four years in extremely remote parts of Africa among indigenous rainforest and savannah communities, and later was awarded the Mongolian government’s highest environmental leadership award, in part for her focus on empowering Mongolian women to be environmental leaders.
Ann has a Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Washington, an MSc in tropical wildlife conservation from the University of Florida, and a BA in biology from Brown University. She lives on Vashon Island in Washington, U.S.A.
As a lifelong surfer and waterman, Octavio has been given a unique perspective of the ocean, which has also allowed him to see the oceans dramatically change due to human activity. Trying to mitigate this negative change is why he continues to fight for our oceans. In his spare time, Octavio enjoys being in the water, participating in open-water ocean swims and surfing, and living on the coast of mainland Mexico.
Now she is dedicated to ensuring crew worldwide have the opportunity to practice activism with Sea Shepherd, who are at the forefront of ocean conservation.
Arthur first started working with Sea Shepherd in 2002, which coincidentally was shortly after he saw an organization’s ship in action in the Galapagos.
A graduate of the UCLA School of Law, Arthur also holds an M.B.A. from the UCLA Anderson School of Management. He has worked as a transactional and civil rights lawyer with national and boutique law firms regularly assisting business start-ups. Prior to forming The Law Firm for Non-Profits, he was general counsel for a national direct marketing company. Informed by this background, a growing passion of Arthur’s is fostering entrepreneurial and business management best practices among individual nonprofits and the sector as a whole.
A keynote speaker on topics of interest to directors and executives of nonprofits, Arthur has taught at UCLA, USC, the Claremont Graduate School, CalArts, and China University of Political Science and Law. He is the author of numerous articles on nonprofit law and is a coauthor of Advising California Nonprofits.