Sea Shepherd Commentary & Editorial articles from 2012 and earlier.

For articles from 2013 and newer, visit our Sea Shepherd Commentary & Editorials page.


Wildlife Species are a Public Trust, Not Disposable Trinkets

Sea Shepherd’s position on the aquarium trade

By Robert Wintner, member of Sea Shepherd’s Board of Directors

Live fish ready to be sold onlineLive fish ready to be sold online
Photo: Robert Wintner
The aquarium trade serves a dark hobby, confining coral reef wildlife and destroying reefs around the world. Stripping reefs for an amusement industry is theoretically no different than capturing cetaceans for commercial shows. 98% of aquarium fish are wild caught. Many people may not reflect on the colorful fish in glass tanks used as furnishings for offices, bistros, waiting rooms, or homes—and some people may assume those fish are bred in captivity. The fact is that 2% of those fish are captive-bred and 98% are taken from the wild. This devastating practice results in severe mortality rates from the point of capture through handling, shipping, and acclimation. Coral damage is well documented and often witnessed with viewers observing anchors, chains, and nets in the coral and collectors breaking coral in pursuit of a few more bucks.

The aquarium trade is covered in verbiage, but trafficking in reef wildlife for the pet trade is not sustainable or “captive-bred whenever possible.” 40 million reef fish and invertebrates supply 1.5 million aquariums around the world, annually. Wildlife species are a public trust, not disposable trinkets. Marine reef systems are intricately balanced, with each species performing a role in reef maintenance and balance. Multiband Butterflyfish do not leave their reef by choice. Once stripped of Multiband Butterflies, the species is lost to that reef indefinitely. The Hawaiian cleaner wrasse is a charismatic, vital species endemic to Hawaii. They set up cleaning stations where many species gather for grooming in a social setting. Hawaiian cleaner wrasses die in thirty days of captivity without 30-40 other fish to clean, yet they ship out daily for retail sale. Many reefs in Hawaii are now vulnerable to parasite loading. Yellow tangs are herbivores, grazing on algae dawn to dusk to prevent reef suffocation, yet they ship out by the millions to enhance aquarium trade profits. Hawaii’s Director of Natural Resources should not be an aquarium collector. Nor should reef species be sacrificed to support any amusement industry, including sales of tanks, stands, lights, tickets, or decorative trinkets. Under pressure worldwide from acidification, climate change, and associated events—like crown of thorns starfish invasions triggered by warmer water—coral reef systems must maintain optimal immune systems with a full balance of species.

Will You Pledge $9.00 to Save a Whale?

SSS Steve Irwin and SSS Brigitte Bardot at seaSSS Steve Irwin and SSS Brigitte Bardot at sea
Photo: Billy Danger/Sea Shepherd
In honor of Sea Shepherd’s Ninth Antarctic Whale Defense Campaign, we are issuing a special fundraising challenge for one week beginning Monday, Nov. 19th. We are calling upon our supporters worldwide — whether you are new to Sea Shepherd or have been supporting for years — to donate just $9 toward the Operation Zero Tolerance campaign. If each of you who believe in our work and our critical mission would donate just $9, I know we will easily reach our $2 million goal. Why not make that pledge? No other marine conservation group puts their bodies and their equipment on the line, between the whalers and the great whales, to save lives. If you wish to give more, consider giving in multiples of 9 such as $99 or $999. Whatever amount you choose, please give what you can so we can defend the whales that inhabit the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and bring them the peace they so rightly deserve.

This could be the first year the whalers get zero kills, but we need your help to pull it off! Operation Zero Tolerance is not yet fully funded, and if we don't raise the necessary donations to see us through the next three months that make up this campaign, we may be forced to retreat earlier than planned — allowing the whalers to poach whales at will.

Once you give, you can watch your donation in action, as illustrated by the silhouette of our flagship, Steve Irwin, ‘filling up’ as we climb toward our fundraising goal. Please support Sea Shepherd’s vital work and send a strong message that you have Zero Tolerance for killing whales in an established whale sanctuary!

Together we will be there to defend, conserve and protect the great whales! Join us!


Captain Paul Watson

Zero Tolerance
Visit our
Zero Tolerance
site for more information about our
2012-2013 Antarctic Whale Defense Campaign


Protecting the Giant Pacific Octopus

The issue of law vs. ethics in protecting our oceans

Commentary by Suzanne West, Sea Shepherd Seattle Chapter Coordinator

Giant Pacific OctopusGiant Pacific Octopus
File Photo
As a resident of the Seattle area, I have developed a great appreciation for the waters of the Puget Sound. Many tourists visit our region to experience the great diversity of our landscape and a variety of tourist attractions, but some of the best sights can be found underwater. There is a long and rich history of diving here in this region and there are many popular locations for the local dive community. Recently, an incident occurred at a popular dive spot and it has created a call to action to protect the giant Pacific octopus by classifying an area as a new state Marine Protected Area.

Like something out of a horror movie, a scene unfolded at Cove 2 on Alki beach on Halloween. Witnesses saw a diver dragging a giant Pacific octopus out of the water. The diver, identified as Dylan Mayer was seen punching the octopus. An article in the Seattle Times quoted Mayer (age 19) as reporting that he had no choice but to punch the octopus as it had wrapped its tentacles around his mask, nose, and mouth and he couldn’t breathe. He said it was extremely aggressive and “it did not like people and that led me to believe it was a newer one in the area, and not one of the regulars, which I let alone.”

The Return of a Dangerous Ecological Criminal

Commentary by Captain Paul Watson

Ocean Iron FertilizationOcean Iron Fertilization
Photo: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Can a man rape an ocean?

A few months ago a so-called geo-engineer named Russ George did just that. He spewed 100 tons of iron sulphate into the sea in an attempt to breed plankton in a scientifically suspect effort to capitalize on carbon credits.

Sea Shepherd is very familiar with Mr. George.

We stopped him in the Galapagos in 2007. We stopped him in Bermuda, Madeira, and the Canary Islands in 2008. We helped to drive him into bankruptcy in 2009.

Now he’s back.

This criminal polluter has managed to do off the coast of Western Canada the very thing we stopped him from doing off South America and Africa.

Satellite images have confirmed that George has spawned an artificial plankton bloom that is covering 10,000 square kilometers. He did this by dumping 100 tonnes of iron sulphate in the Pacific Ocean in an eddy 200 nautical miles west of the Canadian islands of Haida Gwaii.

Cove Guardians Begin Live Stream of Dolphin Slaughter in Taiji

Commentary by Omar Todd

EZ Earth TV archive footageLivestream footage of the captive pens
File Photo
The battles we fight have always more than one front. We are first an aggressive, non-violent, direct-action organization. One of Sea Shepherd’s greatest tools has often been the camera, even before the days of social media.  The camera can capture the raw emotions, feelings, and action in details which social media cannot.  It can be surgical in its precision when showing a particular moment or atrocity. This becomes intensified when the viewer realizes what they are seeing is actually taking place at the moment he or she watches. The camera captures moments that would otherwise be lost or too easily ignored by those that would rather pretend tragedy and slaughter does not happen.

One man in particular has been there with his camera at the ready from the very beginning and is possibly the oldest veteran crewmember apart from Captain Watson himself. Peter J. Brown began as a cameraman for CNN on one of Sea Shepherd’s earliest campaigns and has been involved with Sea Shepherd, in one way or another, ever since.  Last year’s documentary Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist, which consists of film footage carefully taken over a period spanning 35 years on various Sea Shepherd campaigns, is the crown of his work so far.

The Way of Water

Combating disastrous deceptions with the power of patience

Commentary by Captain Paul Watson

Captain Paul WatsonCaptain Paul Watson
Photo: Billy Danger/Sea Shepherd
On October 26th The Japan Times reported on the March 11, 2011 Japanese tsunami donations scandal with the headline “Misuse of Disaster ‘Reconstruction’ Money Runs Rampant.” In the article it plainly admits that the Fisheries Ministry was given 2.3 billion [Yen] for countermeasures against the Sea Shepherd anti-whaling group.

Professor Yoshimitsu Shiozaki of Kobe University, an expert on reconstruction of disaster areas, stated in the Japan Times, “this time the funds are being used in a more deceptive way.” Japanese Member of Parliament Kuniko Tanioka was quoted as saying, “It has turned out that the funds have been used for projects they had not imagined…It has dampened the disaster victims’ will to rebuild their lives.”

The Fisheries agency has been very defensive about their anti-Sea Shepherd allocation, insisting that the budget to counter Sea Shepherd will “eventually benefit areas in and around the city of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, where about 1,200 people work in whaling related industries.”

Oops, reality check!!! “Whaling related industries!”

We thought this was about science, not jobs. We thought the purpose was research, not profits.

Sea Shepherd’s interference is against so-called “scientific whaling” in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.  So what is it exactly - a whaling industry or scientific whaling?

It appears it is whatever is convenient, as required by the Japanese whaling propaganda machine. Right now there are coastal towns with real people suffering because of lack of funds to repair their homes and to recover their lives. Yet the Nisshin Maru is currently in Hiroshima undergoing $24 million dollars worth of repairs and upgrades.

Nisshin Maru being repaired in portNisshin Maru being repaired in port
Photo: Sea Shepherd

The Japanese government is not only illegally killing whales in an internationally recognized whale sanctuary, they are also denying assistance to their own people in order to continue this crime of killing whales.

Nations such as the United States, New Zealand, Germany, and many others are complicit in this crime by refusing to uphold international conservation law and by their willingness to assist Japan in their harassment of anyone who attempts to stop illegal Japanese whaling activities.

These nations know that Japan is acting unlawfully but they kow-tow to Japan because of trade relations.

It is truly amazing that Sea Shepherd has not only been able to continue our interventions against the whalers, but we are actually defeating them in the field and in the courts. Sure it has its price. Being forced underground because of Japan’s power to manipulate Interpol into issuing a politically-motivated Red List issuance is inconvenient, but it has not slowed the momentum of the Sea Shepherd crews in preparing our ships for Operation Zero Tolerance.

The Japanese whalers survive as glorified welfare bums, sucking funds from the victims of the tsunami and earthquake and milking the Japanese taxpayers. Their bloody industry is dead and the Japanese people are becoming increasingly aware of how deceitful and corrupt this industry is.

Being exiled from my own country and forced to remain at sea is a small price to pay in this long struggle to end whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. I love being at sea and I have friends supporting me all around the world. We are united by the common desire to save the lives of whales and dolphins and to protect the overall diversity of life in our oceans.

I was pleased this week to see the release of Nils Greskewitz from the jail in Shingu, near Taiji. Sea Shepherd Advisory Board attorney Oliver Wallasch donated his legal expertise to negotiate the release of Nils. He returned home to Germany after paying a fine and damages to a statue that he accidentally damaged.

Nils knew that climbing on the statue was a violation of the Cove Guardian rules. He recognized this and took responsibility for his actions. Personally I viewed the sight of the bent harpoon on the statue of the whaler as a positive omen.

The Japanese police used the incident as an excuse to raid the Cove Guardians and to confiscate their laptops, phones, and cameras. They returned the items damaged, yet due to the generosity of our supporters worldwide we had been able to replace the equipment within twenty four hours and Operation Infinite Patience is now streaming live via

We have been fighting the dolphin slaughter in Taiji ever since we first exposed this horrific atrocity to the world in 2003, when we documented the slaughter and freed fifteen captured dolphins back into the sea. We will never abandon the dolphins at Taiji and we will never abandon the whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, no matter how dangerous, daunting, and inconvenient it is, or will be.

I am so proud of what Sea Shepherd is doing and accomplishing around the world. The Cove Guardians have been on the ground in Taiji for nearly two months and will remain on the ground until March. The Sea Shepherd ships are fully prepared to confront the Japanese whalers. Our efforts in the Galapagos over the past twelve years have made an enormous impact. Sea Shepherd France is championing the sharks near Reunion Island and Sea Shepherd is expanding our efforts to protect sharks across the South Pacific.

We are demonstrating that a small group of passionate individuals can challenge enormous economic powers and still triumph over formidable opposition.

We are exercising the power of water. We are like individual drops coming together to form a deluge to overwhelm the enemies of those we defend and protect. Water can overwhelm without causing harm. Water can flow to where it is needed and when the task is completed, water can simply be still and at peace.

Farewell to Russell Means

Commentary by Captain Paul Watson

Russell MeansRussell Means
Photo: Lloyd Cunningham, Gannett/Argus Leader
Back in March 1973, David Garrick and I traveled down from Canada to South Dakota. We managed to hike and crawl some twenty miles through the brush and snow, passing armed Federal officers until we made our way into the village of Wounded Knee.

I was 22 years old, foolhardy, reckless and admittedly naïve, but I had just read Dee Brown’s "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" and I was determined to support the American Indian Movement (AIM).

I was there to support the occupation of Wounded Knee by AIM and to report on the situation back to Robert Hunter at the Vancouver Sun. I was also there to write about the experience for the Vancouver weekly newspaper, Georgia Straight.

David and I became citizens of the Independent Oglala Nation of Wounded Knee and Pedro Bissonette stamped and signed our Canadian passports to that effect.  David and I spent a month in the village while it was under siege and I volunteered as a medic. With food running low, all but the essential warriors were asked to leave to provide more resources for the small group of defenders that would stay behind.

Endangered Steller Sea Lions Could Become Next Target on the Columbia River as Case for California Sea Lions Returns to Court

Commentary by Sandy McElhaney, Onshore Volunteer, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

California sea lion painfully branded by government workersCalifornia sea lion painfully branded by government workers
Photo: Erwin Vermeulen/Sea Shepherd
The California sea lions at the center of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s Dam Guardian program will have their day in court in Portland, Oregon on Friday, October 19.  On this date, lawyers for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) will present oral arguments in a case against the Secretary of Commerce and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).  HSUS seeks to overturn a permit that was issued to allow the lethal removal of California sea lions at the Bonneville Dam.

In May, a federal judge denied a motion from HSUS for a preliminary injunction to halt the killing of these sea lions on the Bonneville Dam in 2012. The animals are charged with consuming salmon listed under the Endangered Species Act.  While fishermen are allowed to catch up to 17 percent of the prized fish, HSUS maintains that the California sea lions take only about 1 percent of the salmon on the Columbia River.

According to a May 2012 document from NMFS to the Directors of the Oregon and Washington Departments of Wildlife, 39 California sea lions deemed as “predators” of endangered salmon have been killed since 2008 and 11 have been taken into captivity.  This figure does not include California sea lion C021, who was captured on a floating trap in Astoria and killed on August 30, 2012.

Operation Zero Tolerance Set to Launch November 5th

For the first time our crew plans to meet the whaling fleet in the North Pacific

Commentary by Captain Paul Watson

Captain Paul WatsonCaptain Paul Watson
Photo: Björn Lexius Photography
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s campaign to defend the whales will begin earlier this year than in previous years with the Sea Shepherd flagship Steve Irwin scheduled to depart from Melbourne on November 5th, when Operation Zero Tolerance (OZT) will officially begin.

Operation Zero Tolerance will be the ninth annual Southern Ocean campaign launched by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Over these nine years, the Japanese whalers have suffered tens of millions of dollars in losses attempting to illegally kill whales in Antarctica's waters.

This time, instead of meeting the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, Sea Shepherd will meet the whalers in the North Pacific off of Japan.

This year Sea Shepherd Conservation Society will deploy four ships, a helicopter, eight small RIB’s, three drones and more than one hundred international volunteers.

In addition to the ships Steve Irwin, Bob Barker and Brigitte Bardot, Sea Shepherd will unveil a fourth ship once the campaign is underway. This fourth ship is the Sam Simon, named for the famed television producer and wildlife advocate. The Sam Simon will be deployed in the Southern Ocean to wait for the whaling fleet in the event the whalers elude the other Sea Shepherd ships.

The Bob Barker will depart later in November to meet the whalers and the Steve Irwin at sea along with the Brigitte Bardot.

“It’s time to bring this intervention North, to show the Japanese whalers that we intend to ensure there will be no whales killed this season,” said Captain Paul Watson. “We have never been stronger and the Japanese whalers have never been weaker. We need to take advantage of our strengths and their weaknesses and we need to bring this campaign home – to Japan!”

“The Japanese fleet is surviving at the expense of the Japanese people because of massive allocations of relief funds donated from around the world to aid the victims of the earthquake and tsunami disaster of 2011. We need to shut down this glorified welfare project and to do that we need to once again deny the whalers any ill-gotten gains from their illegal operations in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary,” said Bob Barker Captain Peter Hammarstedt of Sweden.

“The key to success in stopping these illegal whaling activities in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is basic economics. We will negate their profits. Our objective is to sink the Japanese whaling fleet economically — to bankrupt them,” said Captain Paul Watson. “And we are well on our way to doing just that.”


Zero Tolerance
Visit our
Zero Tolerance
site for more information about our
2012-2013 Antarctic Whale Defense Campaign


Costa Rica Bans Shark Finning. Or Have They?

Commentary by Captain Paul Watson

Captain Watson at the helm of the Steve IrwinCaptain Watson at the helm of the Steve Irwin
Photo: Barbara Veiga/Sea Shepherd
The following story is from the Tico Times of Costa Rica. On the surface it looks like a victory for sharks.

Sea Shepherd is not buying it. This is simply smoke and mirrors by President Laura Chinchilla. Costa Rica is simply trying to do damage control for all the attention focused on shark-finning since Costa Rica issued a warrant for the arrest of our founder and president Captain Paul Watson in May of this year.

Why do we think that President Chinchilla is not sincere?

The first reason is that she will continue to allow shark fins from Nicaragua to be shipped to China through Costa Rican ports. This will of course allow for shark fins taken in Costa Rican waters to be smuggled through with the Nicaraguan shipments. The question needs to be asked as to why the shark fins are not being shipped directly from Nicaraguan ports? The answer is that Costa Ricans are heavily involved in this trade of fins from Nicaragua and the shark fin industry of both countries is linked.

The second reason is that 400,000 sharks were slaughtered in Costa Rican waters in 2011 and Costa Rica exported some 30 tons of shark fins. This means some very well connected people are making a great deal of money and that kind of money buys influence.

The third reason is that China has been investing a great deal of money in Costa Rica and China is the major market for shark fins. Chinese shark fin buyers have been very busy in Costa Rica over the last few years.