We be Pirates!
Commentary by Captain Paul Watson
“I am not what is called a civilized man, Professor. I have done with society for reasons that seem good to me.” ~Captain Nemo (by Jules Verne)
Oh me hearties, we be pirates!
It takes a pirate to stop a pirate and that is why the flag of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is the Jolly Roger. Yes, we be pirates! I’m not going to pretend otherwise. On the high seas we are indeed rogues and we sail under the stars that we choose to guide us, pointing our bows to wherever the need calls us. We answer only to those we have sworn our allegiance to, and it is under their letter of mark that we intervene against their enemies in an effort to defend and protect their lives and freedom.
Over the years, we have been called many names, some of which are accurate, but I have no intention of arguing with anyone over them. It was because we were called pirates that I adapted the Jolly Roger, designing it to reflect what we stand for, with the shepherd’s crook crossed with the trident of Neptune symbolizing our protection of life in the oceans and our determination to fight for their rights to survive and be free to be what they are in the sea. The skull reflects the death that humanity brings to the ocean, while the yin and yang whale and dolphin symbolize our desire to bring our seas into balance and restore the grace of the dolphin and the wisdom of the whale. It was also by a whale’s eye that I was inspired to establish Sea Shepherd so many years ago.
After all, it was not the British Navy that ended piracy in the Caribbean in the 17th century. That honor fell to Henry Morgan – a pirate. And it was pirate Jean Lafitte who stood with Andrew Jackson at the defense of New Orleans in 1814. It was pirate John Paul Jones who founded the United States Navy and the Russian Navy two centuries ago. It was pirates Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh who served Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I with great distinction. Simply put – pirates get things done without bureaucratic red tape.
Yes, we be proud pirates, however, we are disciplined pirates with our own special code of honor. That code demands that we do not cause injury or death to our enemies and that we operate within the framework of international conservation law – meaning that we only oppose unlawful exploitation of marine life. We are an anti-poaching organization.
We are pirates who hunt pirates, kind of like the Dexter character from the popular television series of the same name, we are very specific about who we target. We do not target legitimate operations, even when we may disagree with them. We are not a protest organization. We don’t hang banners, we intervene against illegalities.
As such, we have been called vigilantes. And indeed, we are vigilantes because when the law exists yet enforcement does not, a vacuum is created that allows for the actions of vigilantism. Sea Shepherd acts where enforcement does not exist or has failed. Our justification is the United Nations World Charter for Nature that allows for non-governmental organizations and individuals to intervene to uphold international conservation law. We are vigilante pirates operating on the high seas, yet bound by a code of honor to not inflict death or injury upon any person.
The Greenpeace Foundation condemns us for being violent. Yet we have never harmed a single person. What we have done in the past is destroy property, but only when that property was used to illegally destroy life. We view such acts as non-violent, and refer to them as aggressive non-violence, as even Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. remarked that violence cannot be committed against property. “I am aware that there are many who wince at a distinction between property and persons--who hold both sacrosanct. My views are not so rigid. A life is sacred. Property is intended to serve life, and no matter how much we surround it with rights and respect, it has no personal being. It is part of the earth man walks on; it is not man.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., The Trumpet of Conscience, 1967.
Therefore it is our view that the destruction of a harpoon, a gun, a sealing club, or a longline are all acts of non-violence because the result is the prevention of cruelty, suffering, and death to a sentient being.
Sea Shepherd has never lost a crewmember or had a crewmember seriously injured. Sea Shepherd has also never been convicted of a felonious crime or successfully sued in a civil court, yet Greenpeace falsely condemns us as being violent; this despite the fact that Greenpeace has suffered fatalities, injuries, felony convictions, and lost numerous civil suits.
But we can’t really blame Greenpeace or any other mainstream organization for opposing us because, well, the truth is…we be pirates! And as pirates, we are like the ladies of the evening of the conservation movement, meaning that many members of these groups secretly applaud and agree with us, but they don’t want to be seen in public as doing so. We can live with that.
We have also been called eco-terrorists but then anyone who disagrees with anyone else’s views is labeled a terrorist these days. The word terrorist used to mean something, and was a word to instill fear, yet today when his Holiness the Dalai Lama is officially designated as a ‘terrorist’ by China, we don’t mind being called such. Our answer to that is simple. We’re not hiding in a cave in Afghanistan, and our accusers can either arrest us or give the rhetoric a rest before they dilute the language and potency of such a word. No, we’re certainly not eco-terrorists and the proof of that is we are not in jail and we are not on the payroll of BP or Mitsubishi.
As proud Sea Shepherd pirates, we have no problem with being condemned by the forces of destruction on this planet and the rhetoric of condemnation is a steady onslaught from whalers, sealers, shark finners, seal clubbers, fish poachers, and polluters. The more enemies we recruit from that crowd of ecological criminals, the more successful and credible we become.
The whalers, sealers, and other sea-going poachers hate us like they hate no other groups opposing them; in fact, they are fanatical in their hatred of us to the point of amusement at the silly things they try to do to stop us. If we were not a threat, if we were not effective, we would not have earned such passionate animosity.
Some of the other conservation and environmental organizations oppose us also, mainly because we don’t conform to their idea of what we should be. When we stepped beyond the bounds of petitions, lobbying, demonstrations, and banner hanging, we fell out of favor with much of the ‘green’ crowd, but our objective is to stop whaling, not to protest it. And we don’t serve the conservation and environmental movements, we serve the global eco-system, specifically the marine eco-system.Sea Shepherd does not conform to the bias and narrow mindedness of the so-called conservation and environmental movements. We don’t have a leftist agenda nor do we have a rightist agenda. In fact, we have no political agenda at all. We may not be politically correct but we strive to be ecologically correct. Being ecologically correct means acting in accordance with the three basic laws of ecology. (1) The law of diversity, (2) The law of interdependence, and (3) The law of finite growth. It also means pointing out real contradictions instead of burying them under the guise of social political correctness.
The law of diversity dictates that species diminishment is not in the interest of the ecological integrity of the planetary eco-system. The law of interdependence dictates that all species are inter-dependent with each other. The law of finite growth dictates that there are limits to growth and limits to carrying capacity. This means that the survival of fish, whales, worms, bacteria, trees, and humans are all equally important. It also means that humanity must incorporate the rights of other species into our own plans for survival on this planet, and it means that human overpopulation issues must be addressed.
Sea Shepherd operates independent of cultures, race, nationalities, and philosophical beliefs. We represent exclusively the interests of all marine species, and we do so from a deep ecological and bio-centric perspective. In other words we are not involved in human priorities in any way. This has motivated some to call us misanthropic. We have no problem with that.
People are free to call us whatever they like, any name they wish, and they are free to accuse us of anything they like. We don’t care because opinions are irrelevant, and besides, we be pirates and therefore we’re not impressed with how we are viewed by people who disagree with us.
What we are concerned with is saving the lives of the species in the oceans that we represent. And as long as we do so within the boundaries of the law and without causing injury to those we oppose, all other concerns, opinions, accusations, and condemnations are simply irrelevant.
We also realize that we are not everyone’s cup of tea. Some people dislike us for what we do and who we oppose, and some people support the reasons we do what we do but oppose our tactics. It really does not matter because we embrace those who do support us and we remain unconcerned about those who don’t. We don’t try to be all things to all people, but we remain consistent and accountable to ourselves.
Sea Shepherd is what we are, and that means we are aggressive interventionists. We may destroy and seize property used to illegally destroy life. We may say things some people don’t like to hear. We will inevitably do things that some people don’t like. And we may sometimes use tactics some people disagree with. Thus we expect opposition.
We are not a large organization and we have no intention of ever being so. We are a crew of volunteers, activists, and sailors intent on saving our oceans from ourselves and the ecological destruction of humanity. We reject a bureaucratic structure and we are not interested in becoming mainstream or respectable. I mean who ever heard of a respectable pirate? We are rabble-rousers, risk takers, troublemakers, and, well, pirates – always have been, and always will be.
If you support this approach, you can be a pirate beside us. Welcome aboard matey.