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Historically, mankind has drawn sustainable harvest from the sea. But modern corporate, floating-fish-factories and other high-tech, indiscriminate fish harvesting are irreparably damaging our oceans and marine life. Research has shown that virtually every commercial fishery in the world is in a state of collapse and that our oceans are in great distress.
Enter the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a group dedicated to educating individuals, corporations and governments about balancing human impacts on oceans. Formed by Paul Watson, one of the original founders of Greenpeace, the Sea Shepherds patrol the oceans, stopping illegal, exploitive fishing and the senseless killing non-target species such as whales, dolphins, turtles and sharks. GOOD DIRT spoke with Captain Paul Watson by satellite phone on his ship the FARLEY MOWAT, off the coast of Brazil.
Watson: What we try to do is bring people on land, through the power of the camera, out on to the oceans. We show them the destruction that’s taking place and then we also show them the efforts that we’re making to try to stop that destruction. The fact is that if we can’t save the oceans we won’t be able to save ourselves because the oceans are the key to the very foundation that gives life to this planet, everything from the weather to the food chains.
Alex Cornelissen, the first mate of the Farley Mowat expressed his concern about the widespread pollution of the oceans that he sees every day:
Alex: I think people gotta realize that the oceans are a very important aspect of their lives. If we are polluting the oceans, we are basically polluting our own lives.
The Sea Shepherds are deeply committed to helping police the oceans for illegal drag trawlers, drift netters and long lines.
Watson: There are plenty of international rules and regulations and treaties protecting the oceans. Unfortunately there’s no organizations, governments or non-govenmental, that are empowered to uphold those laws, really there is no jurisdiction. So we’ve taken it upon ourselves to assume that jurisdiction.
Inside international waters, the Sea Shepherds and their ship, the Sirenian, currently have a five-year contract with the Gallapagos National Park to enforce regulations against poaching in the marine reserve. They’ve had substantial success.
Watson: We’re also involved in protecting Malpelo Island off of Columbia, Cocos Island off of Costa Rica and the offshore islands off of Brazil where I’m presently at now. We get a lot of satisfaction out of the fact that we can directly intervene and we can stop and shut down illegal fishing operations, illegal whaling operations. So we can really measure our success in the number of animals saved, literally tens of thousands of whales, hundreds of thousands of dolphins, hundreds of thousands of seals and millions of fish.
The Sea Shepherds provide know-how, equipment and manpower to help park rangers protect these and other World Heritage sites from illegal poaching.
Another important aspect of Watson’s work is empowering individuals to understand that they can make a difference. Over the years, thousands of crewmembers have learned how to use education, inspiration and action to change their world.
Watson: A good example of that is that one of my crew members way back in 1979 said, “well I’d like to do something about protecting animals which are being abused in laboratories,” something he was impassioned about. And he said, “well, I don’t really know what to do,
I ‘m just 19.” So I said, “look, you can certainly make a difference if you put your mind to it and use your imagination.” So he went back to Maryland, got a job in one of the labs and documented everything that was happening, exposed that to the Washington Post and to the television stations, ended up shutting down the lab and that was the beginning of the organization that he founded which is the People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Farley Mowat, an environmentalist and author of “Never Cry Wolf” is a supporter and major benefactor of the Sea Shepherds.
Mowat: They’ve brought a sense of balance, I think, to many people’s lives so that we see not only ourselves but we see the other creatures as well, that makes us be cautious about how we treat them. And in doing this, they’ve established a conduit of understanding between fishermen and conservationists. I have learned in my 83 years that if we don’t cooperate with, if we don’t become, essentially and emotionally, part of the living world around us, we don’t have much hope of a future. We are part and parcel of one fabric. We’re one thread in the fabric of life. Sea Shepherd is setting an example for all of us to follow.
The good news here is that the Sea Shepherds’ work is raising awareness of the delicate balance of all life on Earth and inspiring change. For more information about the Sea Shepherds and how you can support their efforts, please visit our website at gooddirtradio.org.
Changing the world for the better happens when individuals care enough to take action. Please choose a subject you’re passionate about and get involved. If you’d like some ideas, check us out on the web.
I’m Tom Bartels and I’m Tami Graham. Thanks for joining us on GOOD DIRT RADIO. Digging up good news ….for a change.