May 10, 2012

Sea Shepherd: Pirates for the Ocean are in Colorado. ~ Michael Sobczak

Courtesy of the author

Are there pirates in Colorado?

Well, one pirate. A leader of many others, he is making his way into Colorado on May 11th.

Founder of the direct action environmental organization, Sea Shepherd has his sights set on the Colorado Rocky Mountains, a thousand miles inland and a mile above the nearest ocean. Good pirate, bad pirate…how do we know for certain?

Here’s a guy who helped found Greenpeace way back when and jumped ship to climb aboard his own vessel, now toting the skull and crossbones. Is Captain Paul Watson the good sheriff taking citizen actions in places like the Southern Ocean around Antarctica or an eco-terrorist as the Japanese whaling fleet would like to label him?

Courtesy of the author

Captain Paul Watson

“To some I am a hero. To others I am a pirate, a villain, even a terrorist,” says the memorable Captain Paul Watson. He thinks that all heroes have enemies and the greater the hero, the greater, stronger and more numerous his enemies.

Watson’s role model is James I. Waddell, commander of the Shenandoah, who during the civil war, fighting on the confederate side, sunk some 250 Union ships, 37 whaling ships in the Bering Sea, doing more than any other single individual to bringing an end to whaling.

Watson referred to as well to pirates Henry Morgan of Treasure Island fame, John Paul Jones who founded the U.S. Navy and Sir Francis Drake knighted by queen of England.

Pirate maybe, though he’s definitely not an eco-terrorist.

“BP is an eco-terrorist,” Watson says. He explained that there are different kinds of pirates—ones of compassion and others of greed. He is one of compassion, he said. His passion is the living Earth and especially our oceans; he has committed his heart, soul and body to their defense.

May 11th at Lionscrest Manor

You could stop in on May 11th at the Lionscrest Manor in Lyons, Colorado to make your own determination. The event is open to the public and Sea Shepherd hopes to raise awareness of their organization, giving those attending the opportunity to meet Captain Watson and crew members from previous campaigns.

Voyaging into the almost alien world of the coastal waters around Antarctica is not cheap. As a saying has it: below 50 degrees South there is no law; below 60 degrees South there is no hope; and below 70 degrees South there is no God. A season of trying to shut down the Japanese whaling fleet runs into the $3 million dollar mark.

So, Sea Shepherd and Paul Watson are aiming to raise as much as they’re able, while reaching out to the Colorado community of ocean-loving and caring individuals. In the process, they have Pete Kartsounes, an award winning local musician to provide music and a silent auction filled with donations from local businesses.

Sea Shepherd in Action

Paul Watson helped start Greenpeace; he was the eighth member to join and seeing the organization grow from their first ship, Greenpeace (an 85’ fishing boat) and their second, Greenpeace Too, to the large organization we see today.

Watson left Greenpeace in 1977 for many reasons, including their opposition to direct action campaigns and as well as due to a falling out with Patrick Moore. Captain Watson founded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and steered it to become perhaps the most aggressive, no-nonsense and determined conservation group in the world today.

Captain Watson says proudly about the maverick Sea Shepherd organization, “We made no excuses. We sank ships, we rammed ships, we made waves, rocked the boat.” He referred to an example in the early days of the ramming and mysterious sinking of the pirate whaler Sierra that is estimated to have killed more than 25,000 whales.

Courtesy of the author

Captain Watson says, “We are not a protest group…what we are doing is intervening against any illegal activity.”

States and individuals have rights related to the Environment under the UN Charter for Nature that states if nations do not enforce international regulations on the high seas (areas outside the 200 mile limits) then individuals are able.

Sea Shepherd works under these guidelines and has racked up an impressive list of accomplishments over its 35 years of pro-environmental action.

Starting as primarily an anti-poaching organization named the Fund for Animals, it has helped protect seals, whales, dolphins, tuna, plankton and sharks.

Sea Shepherd has done a lot in and around Watson’s home country of Canada. They have drawn a line in the waves at places like the Galapagos Islands (saying, “If we can’t protect the Galapagos, what can we protect?”) and has voyaged all the way down to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary on numerous occasions with the objective of economically sinking the Japanese whaling fleet, putting it into some $200 million in debt, all the while protecting the oceans and its animal biodiversity in many added ways.

The crew has slept amongst seals to disrupt the attempts to kill them, they protect whales in the Southern Ocean as well biodiversity in the Galapagos Islands; dolphins in Japan, sharks in the South Pacific and blue tuna near the brink of extinction in the Mediterranean.

Sea Shepherd is a direct action organization aimed at not hurting other human beings. Captain Watson says one of his favorite books he has written for environmental activists is EarthForce: An Earth Guide to Strategy.

Another worthwhile book of his is Ocean Warrior: My Battle to End the Illegal Slaughter on the High Seas. Among numerous tactics, Sea Shepherd utilizes stink bombs made out of butyric acid—rancid butter and a substance to make decks slippery. The organization has owned many ships in its 35 years including the original Sea Shepherd, Sea Shepherd II renamed Ocean Warrior then Farley Mowat and the Edward Abbey, a 95 foot former US Coast Guard patrol boat, named after a friend that Watson met during a wolf campaign and whom mentioned Sea Shepherd in his “Hayduke Lives.”

Colorado Chapter of Sea Shepherd

Captain Watson quotes Margaret Mead, “Never believe that an individual does not have the power to change the world.” Speaking of whales, Watson says the ultimate commitment of love and the greatest expression of selfishness and courage is the “willingness to die in defense of another or for others.”

The Colorado chapter of Sea Shepherd is an active arm of the organization at largely based in Washington state. Danielle Olivas-Wheeler is the Colorado Coordinator, who worked for two years at Sea Shepherd’s headquarters before moving to Colorado about three years ago to work for the organization out of her home-based Boulder office.

She initially wanted to take part in the Shark Defense campaign around Galapagos Islands and to help protect blue fin tuna in the Mediterranean where still exists very real, very greedy, pirates. She enthusiastically says that Sea Shepherd is the most effective environmental organization in the world, filling a void in the environmental movement and thinks the end is near for the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean.

Courtesy of the author

Danielle is responsible for helping select local on-shore volunteers and future crew campaign members.

Volunteers such as Craig Johnson, Molly McNulty, Clay Wilson, Tammy Henkels, Kelli Stanko and Sheila Nixon who live in the Boulder-Denver metro area want to go to places like Taiji Japan to be Cove Guardians, Galapagos Islands and on campaigns to stop sealing, protect sea lions and to the Southern Ocean around Antarctica.


They are an eager, upbeat bunch of individuals living a mile high though yearning and preparing for the challenges faced in protecting the oceans. Why do they seek to help the oceans and its wildlife?

Molly McNulty thinks the oceans have such a big part to do with our daily life and wants to help protect them.

Craig Johnson is motivated by many reasons, like supporting Sea Shepherd’s anti-poaching mission and protecting the unprotected areas and animals.

For Sheila Nixon, she grew up on the ocean and even though she’s lived in Colorado for 19 years her heart still lies with the sea and wants to protect the sea life she sees as family. The planet is beautiful to Clay Wilson and he thinks Sea Shepherd is very effective in protecting that beauty.

So, why should you go to the May 11th event at the Lioncrest Manor in Lyons, Colorado?

These local volunteers claim it’s an excellent opportunity to meet Captain Watson and other ocean advocates—Captain Watson being an inspiration to us all, as he continues to give his life to the cause. Attending is a way to celebrate Sea Shepherd’s 35 years, while having a lot of fun in the process, says Danielle Olivas-Wheeler.

All of Sea Shepherd’s financing comes from individual supporters. It is a volunteer-based organization utilizing word of mouth and they don’t spend large amounts of money advertising or solicitation.

Getting out to the event would with group’s efforts in raising money and increasing the membership base. And, Pete Kartsounes is going to be playing at the May 11th event! He’s a very popular local musician having played all around Boulder and surrounding area, and is similar to singer Wendy Woo (“Angels Laughing”).

These local Colorado ocean advocates, be they burgeoning compassionate pirates simply fed up with the greedy pirates out there, are confident in Captain Watson and believe that Sea Shepherd is one of the most successful conservation organizations around that gives them hope of shutting down abuse of our oceans.

If you go:

Courtesy of the author

*Additional note: Pete Hammarstedt, fresh out of the Antarctica Campaign, will be in Colorado July 7 & 8, 2012.


Michael Sobczak is a writer living in Boulder, Colorado at the base of the Rocky Mountains. He has a strong interest in environmental issues both locally and in the surrounding world.


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Editors: Bryonie Wise/Kate Bartolotta

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