“All systems of oppression need to be challenged,” said a speaker at the Bali Vegan Festival in Ubud, Bali last month. Doing just that since 1977, Sea Shepherd, a non-governmental, non-profit environmental organization, has been using direct action tactics [along with lots of media attention] to protect marine life [and to educate consumers].
If you want to volunteer on a Sea Shepherd crew, you will be asked that question, “Are you willing to die for a whale?” The boats carry no guns but use film and public education to achieve incredible change. Their important work continues.
Sea Shepherd claims responsibility for damaging or sinking multiple whaling ships, through sabotage or ramming. The group has attempted to intervene against Russian, Spanish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Makah, Faroese, and Japanese whalers in multiple campaigns around the globe. Those actions have included scuttling and disabling commercial whaling vessels at harbor, using limpet mines (a type of naval mine attached to a target by magnets) to blow holes in ship hulls, ramming other vessels, throwing glass bottles of butyric acid (stinky rancid butter) on the decks of vessels at sea, boarding of whaling vessels while at sea, and seizing and destroying drift nets at sea. Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson has said that the organization has destroyed millions of dollars worth of equipment. The Sea Shepherd media extravaganzas have highlighted whaling, long-line fishing nets, and shark fining to get people everywhere informed and conscious of the destruction of life in our oceans.
Some shark populations have decreased by 60-70% due to shark fisheries.
Gary Stokes, Asia Director for Sea Shepherd, has spent the past 10 years on documenting, investigating, and exposing the shark fin trade. He was a guest speaker at the Bali Vegan Festival in Ubud last month. Indonesia is the #1 exporter of shark fins; Spain #2.
There is much economic pressure to ignore the international bans on shark finning.
Fishermen often choose to keep just the shark fins—only one to five percent of a shark’s weight—and throw the rest of the shark away rather than have the less valuable parts take up space on the boat. The finned sharks are often thrown back alive into the ocean, where unable to swim properly and bleeding profusely, they suffocate or die of blood loss. Shark meat sold to restaurants and markets is often used in seafood curries and stews.
Gary says that now 60% of the fish and seafood in our oceans are in terrible condition. Global fishing fleets are now at 2.5 times the sustainable level. Just one poaching boat, the “Lafayette” which works the waters off Chili and Peru around the Faroe Islands processes 1,500 tons of fish a day!! Much of that is Chilean tooth fish; in restaurants, it’s called “Chilean Sea Bass.” 😦 Much of caught sea food goes to animal feed.
A result of Sea Shepherd and other activists groups like Greenpeace and loud voices, many people now know to make conscious choices.
According to a National Geographic article, we now know to “look for the blue eco-label of the Marine Stewardship Council, or ask where in the world the fish comes from. . .[to] help you find the best and avoid the rest”
Stokes reports that forty percent of the tuna that comes into the U.S. is from illegal, unreported fisheries in Thailand. And forty percent of all fish caught is used for animal feed. 😦 If the world continues to consume and destroy marine life at the current rates, Stokes says that by 1948 there will be no fish!
Recently, Sea Shepherd Asia had a hiatus, a year off, when Japan temporarily halted whale hunting. Gary and his team got to go after other notorious pirate fishing vessels. For 110 days, a Sea Shepherd ship chased the “Thunder” – #1 on the Interpol list of pirate fishing vessels. Finally, the captain of the “Thunder” sunk his own ship rather than be caught with the incriminating evidence of illegal fishing!! But while part of the Sea Shepherd crew was saving the “Thunder” crew, other Sea Shepherd volunteers entered the sinking ship in time to collect computers and other evidence that has the captain and crew serving time in a Nigerian jail. [It would seem the owners of the pirate ships should be in jail too]. The photo above shows what has happened to other illegal fishing boats that Sea Shepherd has targeted.
Gary says of the ocean marine life, “We are losing everything.” We must all learn and act.
So why was Gary invited to speak at the Vegan Fest? The people who volunteer for the Sea Shepherd crews are ardent animal activists. Many are vegans. Since 2002, all Sea Shepherd vessels serve only vegan meals. It would be hypocritical, says Gary, to eat meat while chasing people who are killing marine life. Gary has been a vegetarian since 1980. When he first started going out on Sea Shepherd missions, Gary was more worried about what he would get to eat than about the possible confrontations the crew would meet. But, he has learned that the vegan meals are delicious, healthy, and accommodate everyone on board, and all religions.
The Sea Shepherd logo – a pirate to protect marine life:
Watch the following documentaries; you will likely cry, cheer, and laugh.
Paul Watson: The Whale Warrior: A Pirate for the Sea
Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist – a full documentary film
Seafood Watch has a free app for iPhone and Android that’s updated as recommendations change.
Please be ocean-friendly when you shop for seafood. Even better, eat vegetarian/vegan. Think about it. And tell your friends. Do what you can do.
Remember that ardent animal rights Sea Shepherd crews don’t have guns. Gary Stokes says that even one pissed off vegan is a force to be reckoned with.
Full steam ahead, Sea Shepherd. We need you now more than ever.