TEDxSF - Captain Paul Watson - 4/27/10

Uploaded by TEDxTalks on 10.05.2010

Ladies and Gentlemen, please give a warm welcome
to Captain Paul Watson.
PW: Thank you.
Today's top story: an activist anti-whaling group
has clashed in the waters off the Antarctic coast
with the Japanese whaling fleet.
The groups says it's driven the whalers
out of Australian Antarctic waters
and will continue to pursue and harass
the Japanese whaling fleet wherever it goes,
in the attempt to save whales.
Our mission here,
this is the fifth time we've been down here,
is to obstruct, intervene,
interfere, harass,
and try and shut down illegal whaling
by the Japanese whaling fleet
in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
There is nothing wrong
with being
as long as
you respect
the sanctity
of life.
Sea Shepherd maintains its anti-violence,
saying in its 30 years history
none of its actions have resulted in any injuries.
PW: We told
the Japanese Captain that we are not tolerating their illegal
whaling activities, which are prohibited by
a Federal Court Order from the nation of Australia.
What Japan's doing down there
is completely illegal.
They are killing endangered species
in an International Sanctuary.
As long as the Japanese fleet
is down here operating illegally,
we will continue to come down here and oppose them.
I love Paul Watson,
I love what he does.
It's like, what a beautiful, admirable, wonderful thing
that he does, out there,
and creatures
that cannot defend themselves.
The state of the oceans right now is
exceptionally serious.
Almost every commercial
fishing operation
is in a state
of deminishment, of decline,
and the oceans are dying.
And if they die,
we die.
It's as simple as that.
What makes the difference, really,
in a conservation
is not the government,
it's not a big organization,
it's really the passion of the individuals.
I just returned,
last month,
from the Southern Oceans,
where we spent three months
chasing the Japanese whaling fleet
for about 8,000 miles
along the Antarctic coasts.
This was our sixth
voyage to the Southern Oceans,
and our most successful.
This year, for the first time,
we saved more whales
than they killed.
We saved 528,
they killed 507.
But we also cost them
about 132 million dollars in losses.
And that is the language they understand,
profit and loss.
And that's why we've been down there,
to make sure that, every year, they do not make a profit.
Our goal is
to sink the Japanese whaling fleet, economically,
that is to bankrupt them,
and I think we're going to be able to do that.
Now, I wouldn't be able to do this if it wasn't for my crew.
all volunteers from all over the world.
And one of the criticism of people who see 'Whale Wars'
is that my crew are inexperienced,
and some people say incompetent.
But, you know,
I couldn't pay people,
I couldn't pay professionals,
to do what my volunteers do.
You can't buy that kind of passion,
and that's why we have them.
And I took some comfort
by looking at the Letters to the Editors to the London Times in 1911,
when similar criticisms was directed towards Ernest Shackleton,
for having incompetent, inexperienced crew.
And Shackleton said:
"You know, I don't want professionals.
I want men who have the passion to get me to the Pole,
and to get me back alive."
And that's what I have, with my crew.
And in 33 years
we have never had anybody seriously injured,
we have never injured anybody,
we have never been convicted of a felony,
and we have never been sued,
because we are going up against people
who are committing acts, crimes, on the high seas.
We are there to uphold international conservation laws,
and we act in accordance with the United Nation's World Charter for Nature,
which allows Non Governmental Organizations and individuals to do so.
And when people say:
'You know, why are you taking the law into your own hands?'
We're doing it
because the governments of the world do not have the economic and political will to do it.
We have all the rules,
and regulations and treaties,
we need to protect the oceans. But we don't have the politicians
willing to do anything about it.
And, for instance, with the protection of whales,
it all sounds very good,
everybody signs the papers,
but when it comes down to enforcement,
they don't do it.
There is no difference between the Japanese poachers
in the Southern Ocean
and the elephant poachers in East Africa,
except for the fact
that elephant poachers are black,
they're poor,
and they get shot for what they're doing.
These guys get away with it because they're wealthy,
and come from a wealthy nation
that's able to bully other nations into getting what they want.
We've had to do what we've been doing over the years
taking exceptional risk,
because one of the things I do ask my crew:
"Are you willing to die for a whale?
Are you willing to risk your life for a whale?"
And if they say no, we don't take them.
And when people say: "That's asking an awful lot,
to ask people to risk their life to protect an animal",
I say: "You know, I don't understand that.
In our world we ask people to risk their lives, people die,
and we kill,
for oil wells,
or for real estate.
I think it's a far more noble endeavor
to risk your life
to protect an endangered species,
or a threatened habitat.
And it really comes down to what are values are.
One of the things that I found,
over the years,
that is required, really,
to do what we do,
is to have an immunity to criticism.
And, quite frankly,
I don't really care what people think
about what we do out there.
And I'll tell you why.
Ma life was changed, back in 1975.
When I was first mate in the Greenpeace voyage
to protect the whales.
And, we had come up with this idea, to save whales.
We were reading a lot of Gandhi, at the time.
We though all we had to do
was put ourselves between the harpoon and the whales
and nobody would risk killing a human being
to kill a whale.
And so in 1975, in June,
Bob Hunter and I found ourselves in a small little rubber boat,
in front of a Soviet harpoon vessel,
only 60 miles off the northern coast of California.
-This was before the 200 mile limit -
And in front of us,
eight magnificent sperm whales that were fleeing for their life.
And every time the harpooner tried to get a shot
I would manoeuvre my boat and block his path.
And this worked for about 25 minutes,
until the captain on the Soviet vessel
came down the catwalk,
he screamed into the ear of the harpooner,
he looked at us, and he smiled, and brought his finger across his throat.
And that's when we realized
Gandhi wan't going to work for us that day.
A few moments later there was this incredible explosion,
and the harpoon flew over our head,
and slammed into the backside of one of the whales in front of us.
It was a female. And she screamed.
It was like a woman's scream.
It was very eerie.
And she rolled on her side,
in a fountain of blood.
And suddenly,
the largest whale is the pod
slammed the water with his tail, and disappeared.
And he swam right underneath of us,
threw himself out of the water,
hurled himself straight at the harpooner of the Soviet vessel,
to protect his pod,
to protect his kind.
But they were ready for him,
with a non-attached harpoon,
and very nonchalantly pulled the trigger,
and sent a second harpoon
point blank into this whale's head.
It exploded, and the whale fell back in the water
screaming in agony,
rolling on the surface.
And as he rolled about on the surface,
I caught his eye.
And he looked at me.
And he dove.
And I saw a trail of bloody bubbles
coming at us real fast.
And this whale came up and out f the water at an angle
so that the next move
was just to simply fall forward on top of us,
and crush us.
And as his head rolled up out of the water,
and I saw this eye
come up form the ocean,
and I looked into that eye,
and I saw something in that eye
that changed my life forever.
Because I saw understanding.
That whale understood
what we were trying to do,
because I could see the effort that the whale made
to pull himself back.
I could see his muscles clench.
He pulled himself back,
and his head began to slip back into the sea,
and I saw his eye disappear beneath the surface.
And he died.
He could have killed us.
He made the decision not to do so.
So the fact that I'm alive today
is because that whale made that decision.
So I owe my life to that whale.
But I saw something else in that eye.
Something that really had a profound impact on me.
And it was pity.
Not for himself, but for us,
that we could commit such and act of blasphemy
that we could take life so thoughtlessly,
so ruthlessly,
so mercilessly.
And for what?
The Russians were killing sperm whales
primarily for spermaceti oil,
and one of the uses for spermaceti oil was for lubricating machinery.
It's a very high-heat resisting oil.
And one of the pieces of machinery that were being manufactured,
by the Russians,
with spermaceti oil,
were intercontinental ballistic missiles.
And I said: "Here we are,
destroying these incredibly intelligent,
socially complex,
beautiful, sentient creatures,
for the purpose of making a weapon
meant for the mass extermination of human beings.
And that's when it struck me.
We're insane.
And, from that moment on, I said:
"I'm not going to do this
for people.
I'm going to do this
for them.
For the whales.
For the creatures of the sea".
And that's what we've been doing ever since.
In 1986 we sank
half of Iceland's whaling fleet,
at dock side,
and destroyed their whale processing plant.
It was a 10 million dollar hit on their industry,
that it took them 17 years to recover from.
And after that, a former colleague from Greenpeace
came up and said:
"I just wanted to let you know
that what you did in Iceland
was despicable, reprehensible and unforgivable.
And you are an embarassement to this movement."
And I said: "So?"
"We didn't sink these whaling ships for you,
or for the 'movement',
or for any human being on the planet
but, John,
find me one whale,
in the ocean,
that disagreed with what we did,
and I promise we won't do it again."
They are our clients.
They are who we represent.
But I have to point out that,
in all of the years of doing this,
we've not been convicted of any crimes.
Now, that might sound like a serious crime,
to sink half a whaling fleet.
I had to fly to Reykjavik,
to demand to be arrested.
And the next day they escorted me to the airport,
and put me on a plane.
And the Minister of Justice,
stood up in Parliament, and he says:
"Who does he think he is?
He comes into our country and demands to be arrested.
Get him out of here."
They knew that to put me on trial
would be to put Iceland on trial.
And that's the last place they wanted to go,
is into that court.
Because we intervene against illegal activities,
that's what we do.
Last year I gave a lecture
at the FBI Academy in Quantico,
and one of the FBI agents said:
"You know, Sea Shepherd is walking
a pretty damn fine line
when it comes down the law."
And my answer was:
"Who cares who fine it is?
As long as you don't cross it."
And they had to agree.
But they said: "You know, we've had over 4500 volunteers
in our organization,
some of your people have gone on,
and committed eco-crimes."
I said: "Yes, what's that got to do with me?"
"You train them, you are responsible."
I said: " I've got three names for you:
Timothy McVay, Lee Harvey Oswald, Osama Bin Laden.
You train them, you are responsible."
The fact is that
you know, we get called a lot of things,
we get called eco-terrorists
a lot.
Nobody's got any warrants out for my arrest,
but I'm still called and eco-terrorist.
But, you know, in a world where the Dalai Lama
is officially a terrorist,
I don't mind being one.
It's just a lot of name calling,
really, when it comes down to it.
But when they started to call us pirates,
I said: "Oh, that sounds real good. I like that."
And so we adopted our own Jolly Roger,
and our ships are black.
We try to be as intimidating as possible,
because it takes me back to the 17th century,
when piracy was out of control
in the Caribbean.
The British Navy wasn't doing much about it,
because there was too much money being taken
under the table,
being made from piracy.
And so piracy flourished.
until one man,
Henry Morgan,
came along and shut them all down.
Piracy was shut down by a pirate, not by the government.
They are the biggest pirates of all.
Always have been, still are.
So we look upon ourselves
as Pirates of Compassion
in pursuit of Pirates of Profit.
This year we went down to the Southern Oceans
with three ships.
We came back with two.
One of our ships was deliberately rammed,
cut into two, and sunk,
by a Japanese harpoon vessel.
And the Captain, Pete Bethune,
is now a prisoner, in Japan,
and he'll be going on trial,
charged with numerous things,
but most of them are politically insipred.
But one of the things
that I was mostly impressed by
is that they charged him under the Control of Swords Act.
Because he had a knife.
As any sailor does.
And because he had that knife,
and he boarded a harpoon vessel in the dead of night,
and knocked on the door of the wheelhouse and presented himself,
he was arrested.
He was basically confronting the captain of the vessel
that had destroyed his ship.
He was arrested.
Well, the Control of Swords Act was brought in
to control the samurai,
a Japanese tradition,
back in 1865,
what they are trying to say is that
is, actually,
a tradition that they are defending.
Well, in fact whaling
was introduced to Japan
-modern whaling-
by General Douglas Mc Arthur.
So, if whaling is a tradition,
so isn't the American occupation?
I don't think they want that back.
being charged under the Control of Swords Act
makes Pete Bethune the last samurai,
and so we are proud to have the last samurai in our crew.
(Applause. Laughter)
And over the years, when we are talking about courage,
I have seen such courage
amongst my crew,
that it's unbelievable.
Doing things that,
you know,
I just find
incredible that people
have that passion
to go ahead and do what they do.
And over the years we've done
some ... rather ... silly things,
in hindsight.
In 1981,
we landed
on Soviet Siberia.
The first people to invade Russia
Since World War Two,
to get evidence
on illegal whaling activities.
And we stepped out of the boat,
and there were two Soviet soldiers
patrolling the beach
as we went about documenting this.
But they just thought we were Russians.
who else would be landing on a Soviet beach
with cameras.
We were just too audacious.
So for 40 minutes we documented everything,
then we went back to our boat,
and as I was pushing the boat out,
a Russian soldiers came over,
he pointed at the boat,
and he said: "Sto eta?" - What is that?"
And i said: "Eta Zodiac" - "It's a Zodiac."
And he said: "Eta Mercury?”
And that's when it suddenly dawned on me,
we were in trouble: Mercury outboards engines.
And they said: "American."
I turned my back on him,
to push the boat out,
and I said to the two guys in the boat,
the one with the camera,
I said: "What's he doing?"
"He is taking his gun down."
I said: "Wave and smile at them."
So they waved and smiled.
And it's pretty hard to shoot
when there's somebody waving and smiling at you, I think.
So that confused them,
and they ran off.
We saw them running up the hill.
We got back to the boat,
we were cruising along,
feeling pretty good,
we had gotten all the documentation
on their illegal whaling activities that we needed,
and about an hour later
two helicopter gunships
came out of nowhere
and started straifing
our bows with flares,
and shortly thereafter
a big Soviet fregate
pulled up alongside.
And as they pulled up alongside
the captain said: "Stop the ship.
And prepare to be boarded by Soviet Union."
I said: "Captain,
we don't have room for the Soviet Union. We're not stopping."
Nobody had ever said no to them
And, quite frankly, they didn't know how to deal with no.
And they chased us for an hour,
and we passed back into US waters
and got away with it.
And we got away with these things so many times.
So, like, in 1979,
we had chased the pirate whaler
across the Atlantic,
and I had it cornered
in a harbor in Portugal.
And I brought my crew together,
I had 20 crew, well, including myself,
and I said: "look, I can't say
"look, I can't say
you are not going to get hurt on this.
We're going to go out,
and we're going to go ram that ship,
and we're going to disable it,
because it's a pirate whaling ship
and it's about time its career was ended.
And I said: "But I can guarantee you one thing,
we're all going to go to prison in Portugal,
because there's no way we can get out of that.
So you've got 10 minutes
to pack your stuff and get on the dock,
because we're heading out there,
with or without you."
10 minutes later,
of my crew of 20,
17 were
on the dock.
the two guys who stayed were engineers
-so I was able to-
that's all you really need.
We got the engines going, pulled out,
went at the Sierra,
hit it on the harpoon to damage it,
did it, and warned them.
We did a 360 degree turn around them,
came in at 50 knots,
struck them broadside,
split them open on the waterline.
They were shooting at us at the time.
And then we tried to leave,
but of course the Portuguese Navy
came after us and brought us back.
And I was brought before the Port Captain,
and charged with gross criminal negligence.
At which point I told them
there wasn't anything negligent about it.
We hit them exactly
were we wanted to hit them.
It was intentional.
And he said:"Well, yeah, that's true,
but I don't know who owns that boat.
And until I can find an owner,
you're free to go."
And we walked out,
and one of the crew
who had got off before,
said: "Well, if I knew you were going to get away with it
I would have been there too."
So, sometimes
you have to go into these things
knowing that
there's really no way to get away with it.
And those are the risks
that we've been taking over the years.
And I think those are acceptable risks
because the one thing I am most afraid of
is that we're going to destroy
diversity in our world's oceans.
And if that happens
we're all in serious trouble.
And every single commercial fishery right now
is in a state of collapse.
And every species on this planet
is a rivet in the hull
of the biosphere spaceship Earth.
And we're going to pull one species too many,
and we're going to have some very serious problems
with our life support system.
Because there are basic laws of ecology:
the law of biodiversity,
the law of interdependence of those species,
and the law of finite resources.
And no species has ever survived
on this planet
without living in accordance
with those three basic laws.
And last year I was severely criticized
on the Fox Network
because I said:
"You know, worms are more important than people."
And everybody got really upset.
But, you know, I made that statement intentionally.
Because it's true.
Whales are more ... oh,
worms are more important than people.
Because they can live on the earth
without us.
We cannot live without them.
Bees are more important than we are,
because we can't live without
they can live without us.
And that's what we have to realize and understand:
that if we're going to survive on this planet
we have to respect
the rights of all of those species
to survive.
Because we need them
more than they need us.
Thank you.