Operation Divine Wind Q & A with Captain Paul Watson
1. This will be your eighth campaign to the Southern Ocean to defend whales. How many more voyages do you intend to lead against the Japanese whaling fleet?
Captain Paul Watson: That depends on how many times the Japanese whalers intend to return. As long as they attempt to kill whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, we intend to continue returning to oppose them. Every year we have gone down stronger than the year before and every year the whalers have gone down weaker than the year before. Our objective from the beginning was to sink the Japanese whaling fleet economically – to bankrupt them. We have done that. They continue to operate only because of massive Japanese government subsidies. We return every year to save as many whale lives as possible and to negate any profits from whaling by the Japanese. We intend to continue to oppose the Japanese whalers until they permanently depart from the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. I will die a very happy man if I can help make this happen.
2. Why did you name this campaign Operation Divine Wind?
Captain Paul Watson: I like to communicate with my opposition through symbolism that they understand. For example, our ships were painted black because black ships signify change in Japan, dating back first to the black ships of the Portuguese traders and priests and the black ships of the United States Navy under Commodore Perry. Thus, our black ships demand change in the Southern Ocean. For the same reason we named one of our campaigns Operation Musashi in honor of the Japanese legendary sword master Miyamoto Musashi who taught the twofold way of pen and sword meaning that our approach must be both confrontational and educational.
The origin of the word kamikaze, meaning “wind of the Gods,” goes back a thousand years when the Mongolian ruler Kublai Khan twice attempted to invade Japan. He failed on both occasions because his great fleets were destroyed by typhoons and these destructive winds or “kaze” were believed to have been divinely sent by the Gods or “kami.” The symbolism here is that the Sea Shepherd ships are the winds that protect the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary from illegal invasion by the Japanese whaling fleet.
3. Your last campaign Operation No Compromise was hugely successful. Do you anticipate that Operation Divine Wind will be just as successful?
Captain Paul Watson: Operation No Compromise was indeed a great success. We found the Japanese fleet early, we were able to block their operations and thus shut down their whaling activities. We chased the Nisshin Maru for over 3,000 miles until they finally gave up and went home six weeks earlier than they planned. Most importantly, the Japanese fleet was only able to take 17% of their kill quota and we saved 870 whales. Negated profits and saving the lives of hundreds of whales is a great victory indeed.
From the beginning, our objective was to sink the whaling fleet economically by bankrupting the industry. We have accomplished that objective, as the Japanese whaling fleet is now tens of millions of dollars in debt. For all intents and purposes, we defeated the fleet economically. Unfortunately, we have not yet defeated the Japanese whaling fleet politically.
Although we hoped that the whalers would not return in December 2011, we were prepared for them to do just that, knowing that they could only do so with huge Japanese government subsidies. The whalers have been given their subsidies including the equivalent of $30 million USD specifically budgeted to oppose Sea Shepherd. What does this mean? We shall soon see when we return to the Southern Ocean in December.
4. This will be the most challenging and possibly the most dangerous campaign that Sea Shepherd has ever undertaken. Are you and your crew ready to take on an angrier and better-financed whaling fleet?
Captain Paul Watson: This will be our eighth voyage to the Southern Ocean. We are veterans of this remote and hostile environment and undaunted by it. We are veterans of numerous skirmishes and confrontations with the whaling ships. We have experience but more importantly, I have something the whalers do not have. I have a passionate, dedicated, and courageous crew of volunteers from around the world. I could not pay professionals to do what these incredible people do for no pay. The whalers are engaged in taking lives. We are engaged in saving lives. It is our positive, life affirming energy in opposition to the negative death embracing energy of the industrialized killers. The men and women of my crews, past and present, have given themselves in a great enterprise to defend life, to defend the whales, and all of them for the rest of their lives will be able to look back with pride at what they have done, the adventure of it, the nobility of it, and the success and satisfaction of knowing that because they intervened – thousands of whales were spared the vicious and horrific death from the merciless harpoons of the Japanese whaling fleet.
5. The fact is that you are down there in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary all alone. There is no government assistance. There are no other groups down there to help you. If you get in trouble, there will be no help forthcoming. This must be intimidating and surely the very fact that you are so alone in this dangerous and controversial endeavor must give you cause to reflect that perhaps this is not such a wise thing to do?
Captain Paul Watson: Yes we are alone. We have repeatedly requested cooperation from Greenpeace. They refuse to acknowledge us. We have asked for New Zealand and Australia to send ships down to at least observe the situation and to be on hand in the event of a tragedy. After all, many of our crewmembers are Australians and New Zealanders. But I suppose that if what we do was not dangerous, difficult, or controversial everyone would be down there. Being alone down there is not a problem, it would be nice to get some support but we do what we do with the resources and support base that we have available to us. However, it is irritating that governments obstruct us and that Greenpeace publicly condemns us. It is especially irritating that Greenpeace also raises tens of millions of dollars each year from the public to save the whales of the Southern Ocean and yet they have not sent a ship there for years.
When I think of the whales that we have saved, and the whales that we will be able to save once again this year, I have no doubt that our strategies and tactics have, and will continue to prove successful. I’m not interested in winning a popularity contest; our concern is to save lives despite the criticisms and the controversy. The bottom line is that we have never injured anyone, we have no intention of injuring anyone, and we operate within the boundaries of the law. Saving lives lawfully without inflicting physical injuries to the whalers is what I think to be a very responsible and effective approach.
We are also experienced in being self-reliant and safety for our crew is of paramount consideration. We have not suffered any serious injuries despite seven voyages to the most hostile and remote seas in the world.
6. Who will be on your crew this season? Any newcomers? Which veterans will be returning?
Captain Paul Watson: The big news on returnees will be Peter Brown and Shannon Mann. Peter has been away since Whale Wars Season one and Shannon missed last year’s campaign. Laura Dakin will be returning as Chief Cook on the Steve Irwin. Alex Cornelissen will be once again captain the Bob Barker and Locky MacLean will be the skipper of the Brigitte Bardot.
I believe we will have a highly motivated, truly passionate, and very courageous crew for Operation Divine Wind. We also have a very passionate international group of people onshore backing up the efforts of the crews on the ships. More than one hundred crewmembers will participate as crewmembers on the ships this season representing some 22 nationalities.
7. You have a new ship this year…the Brigitte Bardot. What will this ship be used for and when did Sea Shepherd acquire it?
Captain Paul Watson: The Brigitte Bardot is not a new vessel. We simply changed the name of last year’s interceptor the Gojira (Godzilla) to the Brigitte Bardot. The reason being is that the one thing more frightening than Godzilla, is Godzilla’s Japanese lawyers. Thus we have changed the name of the beast to that of the beauty, and the vessel is now called the Brigitte Bardot in honor of our longtime friend and supporter Brigitte Bardot. This season we will have the Bob Barker, the Steve Irwin and the Brigitte Bardot in the Southern Ocean for Operation Divine Wind.
8. Sea Shepherd had another fast interceptor vessel – the Ady Gil. It was destroyed by the Japanese whalers and the skipper Peter Bethune was arrested by the Japanese. You also had a falling out with Bethune. Why was that and what is the situation now? Will he be a part of Operation Divine Wind?
Captain Paul Watson: No, he will not be a part of Operation Divine Wind nor will he be participating in any Sea Shepherd campaign in the future. The reason for this is simple, he provided false information and cooperated with the Japanese prosecution to enable the Japanese to build a case against me. Bethune told the Japanese that I ordered him to board the Shonan Maru No. 2 when the footage captured by cameras clearly illustrated that I advised him not to board the Japanese vessel. This was an unforgivable betrayal and cause for dismissal from Sea Shepherd. Bethune is presently attempting to sue Sea Shepherd for the loss of his vessel the Ady Gil. However, the Ady Gil wasn’t owned by Sea Shepherd, it was owned by Ady Gil and skippered by Pete Bethune. The New Zealand investigation found Bethune 50% negligent for the loss of the Ady Gil, the Japanese whalers were found responsible for the other half. Instead of suing the Japanese, Bethune decided to sue Sea shepherd for a half a million dollars. Sea Shepherd was not responsible for the loss of the Ady Gil and we don’t believe that this lawsuit will accomplish anything for Bethune other than a waste of time and money that could otherwise be used to defend the whales.
9. Animal Planet’s television series Whale Wars brought Sea Shepherd and its crew into the living rooms of millions of people around the world. What has it been like having your own television show?
Captain Paul Watson: We have undertaken seven voyages to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary since 2002. During the 2006-2007 Operation Leviathan Campaign, we had a film crew onboard that produced the At the Edge of the World documentary. Animal Planet joined us the following season for the 2007-2008 Operation Migaloo Campaign. Since then, Animal Planet has been onboard to document the 2008-2009 Operation Musashi Campaign, the 2009-2010 Operation Waltzing Matilda Campaign, and the 2010-2011 Operation No Compromise Campaign. We anticipate Animal Planet to announce their plans for the fifth season of Whale Wars soon.
10. How have Australia and New Zealand responded to Sea Shepherd and Operation Divine Wind?
Captain Paul Watson: The support we get from the people of Australia and New Zealand is overwhelming. However, the governments do not reflect such support. Both governments are quite hostile and their loyalty tends to be with the Japanese government over the wishes of their own people. We receive very positive media coverage in Australia. The ports of Sydney, Hobart, Fremantle, Melbourne, and Brisbane have been super supportive. Australians are the most passionate people on the planet when it comes to defending whales. Sea Shepherd is not alone in our opposition to end illegal whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary - we have the support from millions of Australian and New Zealanders, the support of the Aboriginal community, and the support of the Maori community.
11. Is there a message you would like to leave us with before you depart for the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary?
Captain Paul Watson: Yes, I have a message. Firstly, I am confident that we will continue to successfully intervene against illegal Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. We have no intention of retreating from this struggle until we end whaling completely and forever in the sanctuary. My one message to the world is this: our oceans are dying and we need to defend biodiversity in our seas with all the courage, imagination, and passion we can muster for the simple fact remains that if the oceans die – we all die. We cannot live on this planet with a dead ocean.