Home Sea Shepherd’s history
Sea Shepherd’s history
Written by Dave Rideough   



Paul Watson is born in New Brunswick, Canada.[1]


At the age of nine, Paul has already begun a lifelong career of crime: after having found a beaver caught in a leg-hold trap, he steals and destroys hunters’ traps and disrupts deer and duck hunting activities.[1]

1968 - Early 1970s

Watson begins a tentative maritime career, serving as a crewman with the Canadian Coast Guard.[1]


Watson joins an anti-nuclear protest with members of the Sierra Club at the US-Canada border. Some participants of this protest go on to form the Don’t Make A Wave Committee, which in turn eventually becomes Greenpeace, leading to Watson’s claim of being one of its founders.[1]


Watson is an active member of Greenpeace and sits on its board of directors.[1]


Watson helps organize Greenpeace’s first anti-whaling campaign.[1]


Watson’s egotism and violent tendencies have become a serious concern. Greenpeace’s board of directors votes to expel him. The result is 11-to-1 in favour, with Watson himself being the only vote against.

After being thrown off of the board of directors, Watson quits Greenpeace altogether and founds Sea Shepherd.[2]


With financial assistance from the Fund for Animals, Watson purchases a British fishing trawler and names it the Sea Shepherd.[3]

In an interview on CBC Radio, Watson criticizes Greenpeace’s campaigns against the Canadian seal hunt. He makes a firm point that the harp seal is not endangered and that Greenpeace is exploiting its cuteness just to make money, to the detriment of species that actually need their attention.


Despite his cynicism toward anti-sealing campaigns, Watson directs Sea Shepherd’s first ever direct action campaign against the Canadian seal hunt.[4]

Watson has the bow of the Sea Shepherd filled with tonnes of concrete and rams the Cyprian whaling ship Sierra off the coast of Portugal. The Sierra is severely damaged, but her captain manages to radio for help and get her back to port. The Sea Shepherd is intercepted and seized by the Portuguese Navy. Later the same year, hearing that she will be sold for scrap to compensate the owners of the Sierra, Watson has engineer Peter Woof sneak aboard the Sea Shepherd and scuttle her.[5][6][7]


Sea Shepherd activists sink the Sierra at port in Lisbon with limpet mines.[8]

Sea Shepherd buys another fishing trawler and names it the Sea Shepherd II.[3]



The Sea Shepherd II illegally approaches a seal hunt in progress on the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, then gets stuck in an ice floe. Despite her deck being fortified with barbed wire and a water cannon, a Canadian Coast Guard strike team takes her in less than five minutes.[9]



The Sea Shepherd II illegally enters Faroese national waters to protest a pilot whale hunt in progress. When the Faroese Coast Guard approaches to board, the SS II crew shoots at them and tries to set fire to their zodiac boat with gasoline and flares. The SS II then flees to Scottish waters. Contary to the Faroese Coast Guard’s account, Sea Shepherd claims that their crew was unarmed and that the Coast Guard attacked them with machineguns.[10]


In the cover of darkness, a pair of Sea Shepherd activists breaks into the whale processing station at Hvalfjordur, Iceland. They destroy the facility’s machinery, computers and records. They then travel to Reykjavik Harbour, sneak aboard the whaling ships Hvalur 6 and Hvalur 7 and scuttle them.


In response to Sea Shepherd’s violent criminal activities, the International Whaling Commission revokes their observer status, banning them from all future meetings.



Watson travels to Iceland under the pretense of confessing to the 1986 sabotages and demanding to be arrested. In his police interview, he gets cold feet and denies any link to the crimes. Having no evidence or confession upon which to convict him, the Icelandic government declares him persona non grata and deports him.[11][12] Watson later lies about the whole affair, claiming that he actually did confess, and that Iceland’s refusal to lay charges is an implicit admission that their whaling is illegal.[13]



The Sea Shepherd II rams the Mexican fishing boat Tungui. Sea Shepherd claims the Tungui crew was catching dolphins in their nets.



Sea Shepherd ships Sea Shepherd II and Edward Abbey ram three Costa Rican fishing vessels and attack their crews with butyric acid, water cannons, paintball guns and “pie cannons”.[14]


The Edward Abbey is damaged in more attacks on Mexican fishing boats. She illegally sneaks into port at Acapulco for repairs. She is discovered and chased away by the Mexican Navy.


A Sea Shepherd activist scuttles the Taiwanese fishing boat Jiang Hai. Sea Shepherd accuses her crew of illegal driftnetting.


The Sea Shepherd II and Edward Abbey encounter Japanese driftnetters north of Hawaii. They steal some of their netting, ram one of their ships and chase the rest off.


Sea Shepherd activists try to scuttle the Norwegian whaling ship Nybraena while its crew is attending a Christmas party. Paul Watson and Lisa DiStefano are charged with gross destruction of property.



The Sea Shepherd vessel Cleveland Amory, skippered by Watson, encounters the Cuban trawler Rio Las Casas in the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Watson demands she pull up her nets and return to Cuba. The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans radios the Rio Las Casas, informing them that Watson has no authority to give such an order. Enraged, Watson has his crew attack the Rio Las Casas with butyric acid and cut her trawl. The RCMP radios to Watson that he is under arrest. Watson ignores them and proceeds to try to order another fishing boat off of the Banks. The RCMP boards the Cleveland Amory and arrests Watson.


The Sea Shepherd ship Whales Forever illegally enters Norwegian national waters to protest their whale hunt. The Coast Guard ship Andenes intercepts her, and the Whales Forever collides with her. The Andenes responds by deploying small boats to drop depth charges. The Whales Forever flees to Scottish waters.

Sea Shepherd activists attempt to scuttle the Norwegian whaling ship Senet.

Mid to late 1990s

The Makah American Indian tribe wishes to resume subsistence whaling, as they were allowed by treaty. Sea Shepherd aligns itself with anti-Indian-rights activists who threaten, harass and assault Makah – even their children. In one such incident, activists swarmed a bus full of young Makah children, pounding on the windows and shouting “murderers!”



Watson is put on trial in Newfoundland over the 1993 attack on the Rio Las Casas. In his defense, he invokes “colour of right”: He claims that he mistakenly believed the UN Charter For Nature gave him authority to intervene. He is convicted anyway.

He later tells his supporters that UN Charter For Nature itself was his defense, and that he was in fact acquitted.


Watson and DiStefano are put in trial in Norway for the attempted scuttling of the Nybraena in 1992. They are convicted in absentia. Watson is arrested in Germany on an Interpol warrant but then released after 1 day; the German prosecutor decides the warrant contains contradictory information. Watson is arrested again in the Netherlands and detained there for 80 days (two thirds of his 120-day sentence, required by treaty).



The Sea Shepherd ship Ocean Warrior, skippered by Watson, attacks the Costa Rican longliner Varadero I off the coast of Guatemala. The Ocean Warrior rams the Varadero I and uses water cannons on her deck crew. The Guatemalan and Costa Rican authorities issue warrants for Watson’s arrest. Watson flees to Panamanian waters.



Sea Shepherd activists Allison Lance and Alex Cornellisen are caught destroying dolphin pens in the village of Taiji, Japan. They are arrested and jailed for three weeks.



Sea Shepherd tries to disrupt a seal hunt on the Saint-Lawrence. This time they confront sealers directly with flags and clubs. The activists are arrested.


The Sea Shepherd ship Farley Mowat attemps to disable and strand the Japanese whale processing ship Nisshin Maru in the Antarctic ocean.



The Farley Mowat rams the Japanese whaling supply ship Oriental Bluebird.


The Farley Mowat is detained in South Africa for her crew’s criminal activities against the Japanese whaling fleet. She illegally leaves port and flees to Australia.



Sea Shepherd once again attacks the Japanese whaling fleet in the Antarctic Ocean. The Sea Shepherd ship Robert Hunter rams the Kaiko Maru and attempts to prop-foul her.



Sea Shepherd again tries to disrupt the Japanese whale hunt in the Antarctic. Two Sea Shepherd activists from the Steve Irwin illegally board a whaling ship. The Steve Irwin speeds away, abandoning them. Sea Shepherd then claims that the two activists are being “held hostage” by the Japanese.

After another Sea Shepherd attack on a whaling ship, Japanese Coast Guard agents onboard throw flashbangs at the Sea Shepherd activists. Watson claims that they were in fact throwing lethal “concussion grenades” and that he was shot in the chest by a hidden JCG sniper.


The Farley Mowat illegally encroaches on a seal hunt in progress in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. The Farley Mowat is seized by the Canadian government, and her captain and first mate, Alex Cornelissen and Peter Hammarstedt, are arrested. Watson posts bail for them – $10,000, paid entirely in $2 coins. Cornelissen and Hammarstedt flee the country. They are convicted in absentia in September 2009 and fined $11,607 each.



While attacking the Japanese whaling support ship Shonan Maru №2, the Sea Shepherd speedboat Ady Gil collides with her and is severely damaged. The Sea Shepherd ship Bob Barker tries to tow the Ady Gil back to port, but after some difficulty, Watson gives the order to scuttle her. He tells the media that the Japanese intentionally rammed and sank her.


Sea Shepherd activist Pete Bethune sneaks aboard the Shonan Maru №2 under the pretense of conducting a citizen’s arrest on her captain and presenting an invoice for the sinking of the Ady Gil. He is detained by the bridge crew, brought back to Japan and placed under arrest.



Pete Bethune is convicted for his participation in attacks against the Japanese whalers, for damaging and illegally boarding the Shonan Maru №2, and for carrying a prohibited weapon aboard the Shonan Maru №2. He receives a two year prison sentence – suspended for five years – and is deported.

Mid 2010 – Present

A Sea Shepherd activist team calling themselves the “Cove Guardians” travels to Taiji to document the dolphin hunt and harass the villagers. Cove Guardians make obscene gestures and shove cameras in the villagers’ faces. They shout racial epithets and call the fishermen murderers and child molesters. They desecrate the local Shinto shrine and post pictures to Facebook of the act.



The Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami leaves the Cove Guardians stranded in the town of Ōtsuchi. They depend on the charity of locals to get them safely to the nearest airport to flee the country.


Despite the kindness shown to him by the people of Japan, Scott West returns to scout for the next Cove Guardians campaign, and is just as insulting as ever.


  1. Paul Watson Bio, Tribute.ca.
  2. Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd And Greenpeace: Some Facts, Greenpeace.org.
  3. Neptune’s Navy, SeaShepherd.org.
  4. Environmentalists Jailed After Painting Baby Seals Red, Ocala Star-Banner, Ocala, FL, March 11, 1979, p. 2A.
  5. Victory At Sea, TIME Magazine, July 30, 1979.
  6. Seized Ship Scuttled, Spokane Daily Chronicle, January 3, 1980.
  7. The Sea Shepherd, SeaShepherd.org.
  8. Bite Back magazine, Spring 2003.
  9. Anti-Sealing Vessel Boarded, The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, WA, March 28, 1983, p. 3.
  10. Police Thwart Anti-Whaling Protesters, The Los Angeles Times, July 13, 1986.
  11. Sea Shepherd’s Violent History, Institute for Cetacean Research.
  12. Sea Shepherd’s Record Of Violence, High North News Extra №7, April 10, 1994.
  13. Iceland Officially Cancels Whaling Operations For The Next Year, SeaShepherd.org, August 24, 2007.
    (“In January 1988, Captain Paul Watson flew to Iceland and demanded to be charged for the sinking in order to stand trial in response to Iceland's bogus charges of criminality. Iceland refused to lay charges, a silent acknowledgement that they were well aware of the illegal nature of whaling under international law.”)
  14. Blue Rage – History, SeaShepherd.org, 2010.
Joomla templates by a4joomla