Captain Paul Watson on Whale Wars
Question: Do you think that the series Whale Wars helps your cause?
Captain Paul Watson: I think that Whale Wars is a very powerful tool in our efforts to end illegal whaling activities. It is both a dramatically entertaining and educational series. It brings people to one of the most hostile and remote areas of the planet and involves them intimately in the fight to save the whales. This kind of exposure translates into public support and political power. Whales Wars is good for Sea Shepherd and it is good for the whales.
Question: There are many negative comments on the Whale Wars forum, many attacking you personally. Does this concern you?
Captain Paul Watson: Not really. The kinds of people who visit website forums to leave negative remarks tend to be the kind of losers who have nothing better to do. Anyhow, my clients are whales not people. I'm not much concerned with the opinions of people over all. If people choose to support what we do then we welcome that support. If they choose to dismiss what we do, it is of no consequence to us. Overall I find this kind of negative criticism to be both encouraging and amusing. In a world where people are the problem, pissing off people who dislike what we are doing is a bonus. You have to actually be doing something to get people all worked up, so these attacks are encouraging, they are telling us we are on the right track and going in the right direction.
Question: But if other people read these opinions and are influenced to not support your efforts, is this not a concern?
Captain Paul Watson: It is not a concern whatsoever. We want intelligent supporters, people with the ability to think, to question, to discriminate, to seek the truth. If people are easily influenced by the opinions of others then these are the sort of weak minded people we do not need as supporters.
Question: There has been criticism that your crew appear to be amateurs, that they are not professional seamen. How do you respond to that?
Captain Paul Watson: I respond by saying that I agree with this assessment. I need people of passion on our campaigns. I need dedicated volunteers willing to risk their lives to protect the whales. The average soldier in the trenches in World War I or in the field in the Second World War were not professional soldiers - they were volunteers or they were drafted, they were amateurs.
Question: Your critics say that this is unsafe and that you are putting lives at risk and that this is an irresponsible thing to do.
Captain Paul Watson: I have been taking volunteer crews to sea since 1975 and in over 300 voyages; I have never lost a crewmember, not even one single serious injury. I think that is a record that speaks for itself. What is interesting is that our opposition are not so safety conscious. This year the Japanese whaling fleet had three serious injuries and one fatality. Two years ago they had two fatalities. They have had two devastating fires on the Nisshin Maru in the last decade. Perhaps our critics should be more concerned for the safety record of the whalers and not us.
Question: Another criticism and one voiced by a couple of Sea Shepherd crewmembers in the first season of Whale Wars was that you are sending volunteers to do things that you won't do yourself like boarding a whaling vessel or doing actions in inflatable boats.
Captain Paul Watson: I am the Captain of the ship and my place in on the bridge. I've also been doing this for four decades and I've done all the things that I ask my crew to do today. I would never ask a volunteer to do something that I would not do myself or have not done myself. My responsibility is to command the campaign from the bridge and I am responsible for all actions and all consequences. I do sometimes miss being in the small boats but that is no longer my place to be.
Question: Some of the crew in the first season of Whale Wars were openly critical, even disrespectful of you. Did that bother you?
Captain Paul Watson: No it did not bother me but it is not an attitude that I tolerate. All the crew who were disrespectful were removed from the crew upon return to the first port. I made the mistake of taking on a few people without properly vetting them first. One turned out to be a coward, another was just a complainer who did not seem to know our history, and a third was another whiner who I made the mistake of giving a second chance to and the fourth an insubordinate cowboy. They were the only four I had problems with and they were removed. I haven't received a single complaint about anyone on this year's crew.
Question: Some critics on the Whale Wars forum dismiss your claims of being shot by the Japanese whalers? What do you say to that?
Captain Paul Watson: People can think whatever they wish. I was shot in an area where there really is no jurisdiction for any policing body to investigate. The Australian Federal Police refused to examine the evidence i.e. the bullet, the vest, my clothing, the ships doctor's medical report etc. I can't prove I was shot and the Japanese can't prove that I was not. However I did an interview on camera just prior to being shot and there is no bullet hole in my clothing or vest and no shattered badge. There are no guns on my ship that could have been used to shoot me and none of the crew saw or heard anything that would suggest that I shot myself or another crewmember shot me. One moment I am on camera without any visible evidence of a bullet entry and the next there is a hole in my suit. It's pretty hard to catch a bullet on film in mid-air. It was a bullet that came from a few hundred yards away so it had lost considerable force by the time it struck me. I have that bullet and it has been examined by a U.S. law enforcement agent but he like everyone else has no legal authority to investigate the incident. The ocean is the Wild West and the normal laws simply do not apply. Was I shot? I know I was. My crew know that I was. What anyone else thinks is irrelevant.
Question: There have been criticisms that Animal Planet scripts the show and the Japanese whaling industry has accused Animal Planet of helping to plan tactics and strategies. Is this true?
Captain Paul Watson: There is absolutely no validity to such accusations. Animal Planet documents what they observe. They do not participate in meetings nor are they involved with any discussion or decision regarding tactics and strategies. They have no say in where we go, what we do or how we do it.
Question: Some critics say that the very name of the ship, the Steve Irwin was chosen by Animal Planet because of Steve Irwin's successful Animal Planet series. Is this true?
Captain Paul Watson: This is not true and entirely coincidental. Steve was a Sea Shepherd supporter and I have always been a supporter of Steve and Teri Irwin. Steve in fact wanted to come onboard with us to confront the Japanese whalers. I was scheduled to meet him to discuss this only a few weeks after the date of his death. Jeff Hansen, a director for Sea Shepherd Australia arranged for me to meet with Teri Irwin and Teri was very supportive of my suggestion that we rename the ship in honour of Steve. I felt that if we could not bring Steve with us to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary then we could at least bring his name. Steve represents everything I believe about activism - that individuals through passion and commitment have the power to change the world.
Question: Whale Wars seemed especially critical of Peter Brown your first officer. Was that criticism justified?
Captain Paul Watson: Whale Wars is a television show and as such it looks for drama and conflict and just as Animal Planet has no say in what we do and how we do it, we have no say in how they produce and edit their television show. For the record, Peter Jay Brown is one of the most passionate defenders of this planet that I am honoured to have as a friend. He has skippered my ships without mishap. We first met in 1982 when he came to Japan as a journalist to cover our campaign to protect dolphins. He has served as documentarian and ship's officer, as a Sea Shepherd director and as an advisor for twenty five years. I am the Godfather to his son Paul. I trust him completely.
Where Peter differs from me is that where I tend to tolerate problems with crew until I have the opportunity to remove them, Peter does not suffer fools and sometimes his lack of diplomacy cultivates enemies. On the campaign covered by the series, Peter's enemies happened to be the four disgruntled crew previously mentioned. They did not dare confront or defy me openly so they took out their animosity against Peter Brown and this was reflected negatively in the show.
My trust in Peter was illustrated when I gave him command of the ship when I had to sleep after being up for 72 hours. I knew I could sleep soundly with Peter in command of the bridge. He even dealt with the mutiny against him by Wilfred in a decisive manner. Wilfred was rightfully relieved of his duties and Peter had my full support for the decisions he made while he was in command of the campaign.
The show was incorrect in having Peter appear to be blamed for the overturning of a small boat during launching. The Bosun, David Jennings openly disobeyed my orders on launching the boat and he disobeyed Peter Brown's orders on deck. There is a fault to be attributed to Peter Brown and myself for allowing Dave Jennings to be in the position he was in - that was an error primarily on my part, but the actual capsizing of the boat was caused by Dave Jennings.
Question: What are your criticisms of the first season of Whale Wars?
Captain Paul Watson: I liked the show very much and I think the Animal Planet crew did a very good job overall. My only criticism is directed towards the lawyers for refusing to acknowledge the illegal whaling activities by the Japanese whaling fleet. I think the legal department were negligent in not citing the international treaties and regulations that the Japanese whaling fleet are in violation of. References to "legal quotas" had no basis in fact. I think the lawyers were worried because of Japanese pressure and complaints. I think Animal Planet was concerned that the show would appear one-sided. However the Japanese were offered the opportunity to present their side and they refused. Ideally there should be film crews on the ships of both sides but Japan refused to cooperate.
Question: How do you think the 2nd season of Whale Wars will compare to the 1st season?
Captain Paul Watson: I think that the 2nd season will be much more dramatic and intense and will focus more on our actions than our problems. Things were much different this year. We had a far superior crew. The Animal Planet crew this year were more professional, more disciplined and better organized. Whale Wars 2 will be a major hit. I am confident of that.