What exactly was the Watson Problem? Time Line
Around 2018, some of the up-and-coming leaders of Sea Shepherd began complaining about the “Watson Problem.”
These Sea Shepherd leaders had become captains and directors because Captain Paul Watson mentored them and gave them the opportunity to rise in the ranks. One began as the ship’s cook and another as a deckhand. Paul Watson trained them, encouraged them, and made them both captains. He was appointed to be the director for Sea Shepherd Australia. The fourth was encouraged to be the art director for Sea Shepherd.
In 2019 when Captain Watson sent the Brigitte Bardot to Iceland to oppose whaling, these four became concerned that fighting whalers was like yesterday and was not the kind of image they wished to continue to encourage. In the words of Peter Hammarstedt, they wanted to “rebrand” and this meant ending confrontational campaigns in favor of fostering partnerships with government and industry, including the fishing industry as demonstrated by Jeff Hansen embracing a relationship with Austral Fisheries, a fishing corporation owned 50% by the huge Maruha Daichiro Fishing Corporation.
Why, because David Carter of Austral Fisheries helped to secure an Australian federal tax status for Sea Shepherd Australia and that meant bringing in some big buck donations. In addition, Austral Fisheries sold Sea Shepherd Australia a ship at a significant discount and threw in a donation of a few hundred tons of fuel. Suddenly Sea Shepherd Australia supported “sustainable Fishing.”
When Captain Paul Watson questioned this relationship, they refused to provide answers and he was asked to leave the Board of Sea Shepherd Australia.
Sea Shepherd USA, Sea Shepherd Global, and Sea Shepherd Australia had problems with their founder questioning their motives and their contradictions, asking questions about the legitimacy of their African and Mexican government partnerships, and refusing to change the course of the movement towards something very much different from the strategy of aggressive non-violence that Captain Watson had established in 1977.
Captain Watson suddenly became too radical for his own creation. And so he was ousted and those who ousted him changed the course of the movement to something more mediocre, more compromising, and more mainstream.
The new leader of Sea Shepherd USA is now a wealthy Florida property developer who owns a sport fishing lodge in Alaska. The director of Sea Shepherd Australia is a cycling buddy to the CEO of Austral Fisheries.
But just what is the “Watson Problem” that they were so concerned with and why have they removed hundreds of pages of Sea Shepherd’s history from the website in addition to removing the pictures and the bio of their founder in a blatantly Orwellian revisionist move as they try to rewrite the history of the movement, they hi-jacked.
What did Captain Paul Watson do that led the four men he trusted to refer to him as the “Watson Problem?”
What is so controversial about his personal history that has caused them to censor that history?
With the history removed from their website, they are revising the history to suit their rebranding and that means removing a great deal if not all of the history of their founder.
In a conversation with Sea Shepherd Global CEO Alex Corneilissen in 2022, he said, “No one asks about Paul Watson anymore. Peter (Hammarstedt) and I are the face of Sea Shepherd now. People have forgotten who he was.”
Many people would disagree.
Let’s take a brief look at the “Watson Problem” and the “controversial” actions of his career.
This is Captain Paul Watson’s 52 years of “controversial” history that Sea Shepherd now wishes to erase and revise to suit their new agenda.
1971 – Crewmember on the Greenpeace Too voyage to protest nuclear testing in the Aleutians.
1972 – Co-founder of the Greenpeace Foundation.
1973 – Volunteer medic for the American Indian Movement during the occupation of Wounded Knee, South Dakota.
1975 – 1st Officer on the first Greenpeace voyage to defend whales from the Soviet whaling fleet.
1976 – Campaign organizer and leader of the first Greenpeace campaign to oppose the Canadian baby harp seal hunt.
1977 Leader of the 2nd Greenpeace campaign to protect baby harp seals. Escorted Brigitte Bardot to the seal hunt. Snatched a sealing club from a sealer and tossed it into the water, beaten by sealers.
1977 – Voted off the Board of Directors of Greenpeace for stealing and destroying a sealer’s club.
1978 – Founded the Earthforce Environmental Organization and led a campaign to East Africa to investigate elephant poaching.
1978 – Changed the name of Earthforce to Sea Shepherd, purchased the trawler Westella, and renamed it the Sea Shepherd.
1979 – The first ship campaign with the Sea Shepherd disrupting the Canadian baby seal hunt in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Arrested under the Sea Protection Act for preventing the slaughter of 1,000 seals. Arrested under the Seal Protection Act for disrupting the seal slaughter.
1979 – The hunting down with the Sea Shepherd and ramming of the pirate whaler Sierra in Leixoes, Portugal. No charges.
1979 – Scuttling of the Sea Shepherd in Leixoes harbor to keep it from confiscation after the ramming. No charges.
1980 – The sinking of the pirate whaler Sierra in Lisbon, Portugal. No charges.
1980 – The sinking of the Spanish whalers Isba I and Isba II in Vigo, Spain. No charges.
1980 – The shutting down of the pirate whaler Cape Fisher in the Canary Islands, Spain.
1981 – The purchase of the Sea Shepherd II and the invasion of Soviet Siberia to get evidence of illegal Russian whaling and a successful escape from pursuit from the Soviet Navy, a frigate, and two helicopter gunships. No charges.
1981 – Published Sea Shepherd, My Fight for Whales and Seals.
1982 – Intervened and ended the slaughter of dolphins at Iki Island, Japan.
1983 – The blocking of the harbor at St. John’s, Newfoundland with the Sea Shepherd II to keep the sealing fleet from departing and the chasing of the Magdalen island sealing boats out of the Gulf of St. Lawrence resulting in a confrontation with the Canadian government and charges under the Seal Protection Act for disrupting the slaughter of seals. The Sea Shepherd II was ordered confiscated, and Captain Watson was sentenced to 21 months in prison but released on appeal after 9 days. The sentence was later reversed by the Quebec Court of Appeal.
1983 – Organized the first intervention against the killing of pilot whales in the Faroe Islands.
1984 – Organized Friends of the Wolf and led a campaign to disrupt the aerial shooting of wolves in British Columbia. Appealed the 1983 conviction.
1985 – Won the Sea Shepherd II back after successfully suing the Canadian government plus winning a cash settlement for damages caused to the ship while it was being detained.
1985 – Published Cry Wolf!
1985 – Sailed to Reykjavik, Iceland with the Sea Shepherd II to warn the Icelanders that if they violated the IWC moratorium on commercial whaling that he would return and would sink their whaling ships
1985 – Arrived in the Faroe Islands with the Sea Shepherd II to disrupt the Grindadrap.
1986 – Returned to the Faroe Islands with the Sea Shepherd II to disrupt the Grindadrap with a BBC film crew that produced the documentary Black Harvest.
1987 – Purchased the ship Divine Wind and led a campaign to the Bering Sea to oppose high seas drift netting.
1989 – With the Sea Shepherd II, chased poachers out of the waters around Cocos Island off the coast of Costa Rica with paint ball guns and black powder cannons.
1989 – Freed dolphins from a Mexican purse seine net off the coast of Mexico
1992 – Scuttled the Norwegian whaling boat Nybraena in the Lofoten Islands of Norway.
1992 – Published Earthforce – a guide for strategy for Environmentalists. Also published Ocean Warrior.
1991 – Confronted Taiwanese drift netter in the Caribbean.
1992 – Confronted Japanese drift netters with the Sea Shepherd II in the North Pacific and seized and destroyed a 100-mile long drift net. Rammed two drift netters to destroy the power blocks.
1992 – Intercepted the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria off Puerto Rico, seized the Santa Maria, and had a stand-off with the Puerto Rican police until the Spanish government agreed to apologize for 500 years of injustice to the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
1993 – Purchased the ship Cleveland Amory and drove the Cuban and Spanish trawlers off the Nose and the Tail of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Arrested and charged with three counts of Mischief.
1993 – Took the vessel Edward Abbey to Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island to oppose Clear Cut Logging.
1994 – Scuttled the Norwegian whaling boat Senet in Norway
1994 – Published Seal Wars!
1994 – Devised a form of cruelty free non-lethal form of sealing by discovering that baby harp seals could be brushed for their hollow fibered transparent molting hair. This was an alternative commercial product and he hired sealers to do it.
1994 – Took the ship Whales Forever to Northern Norway to disrupt Norwegian whaling. Confrontation with the Norwegian Navy ship Andenes, resulted in a collision that damaged both ships. Despite being depth charged and fired upon the Whales Forever eluded pursuit for 500 miles making it safely back to the Shetland Islands.
1995 – The launching of the seal brushing campaign was sabotaged by a riot of sealers who beat Paul Watson up severely and forced him off the Magdalen Islands.
1995 – The highly publicized and controversial trial for Mischief for chasing the foreign trawlers off the Grand Banks found Captain Watson not guilty.
1995 – Green Party candidate for Mayor of Vancouver, British Columbia.
1996 – Given honorary citizenship to the French town of St. Jean Cap Ferrat.
1997 – Arrested in the Netherlands on an extradition request by Norway for the sinking of the Norwegian whaler Nybraena. Held for 120 days and then released after the Dutch Court ruled against extradition.
1997 – Purchased the Sea Shepherd III and attended the IWC meeting in Monaco at the invitation of Prince Rainier.
1998 – Led a successful campaign with the Sea Shepherd III and the Sirenian to oppose the killing of Gray whales by Makah Tribal whalers.
1999 – Delivered the patrol boat Sirenian to the Galapagos National Park as a gift. Initiated a working partnership with the Galapagos National Park to protect the Galapagos Marine Reserve. A permanent program.
2000 – Took the ship Ocean Warrior to the Faroe Islands to disrupt the Grindadrap.
2000 – Named by Time Magazine as one of the top 50 Environmentalists of the 20th Century
2000 – Took the Sea Shepherd III to the Faroe Islands to oppose the Grindadrap.
2001 – Stopped and detained an Ecuadorian shark killing longliner the San Jose off Cocos Island and turned it over to the Costa Rican rangers. Initiated a working partnership with the Galapagos National Park to protect the Galapagos Marine Reserve. A permanent program.
2002 – The first campaign to hunt down the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean.
2002 – Shut down an illegal Shark finning operation in Guatemalan waters, arrested twice in Costa Rica, and released.
2002 – Worked with Rob Stewart to produce the documentary film Sharkwater.
2003 – Initiated the first campaign to expose the slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Japan. Two crewmembers freed 16 Pilot whales from the net and were arrested and later released.
2003 – Elected to the National Board of Directors of the Sierra Club.
2005 – The first campaign to oppose the Japanese whaling fleet. Using the ship Farley Mowat, Captain Watson engaged in two confrontations with the Japanese factory ship Nisshin Maru. Produced the documentary film At the Edge of the World.
2006 – Purchased the ship Robert Hunter to join the Farley Mowat in interventions against Japanese whaling Operations in the Ross Sea. Operation Minke.
2006 – Resigned from the National Board of Directors of the Sierra Club to oppose their support of hunting.
2007 – Awarded the Amazon Peace Prize by the Vice President of Ecuador.
2007 – Took the ship Steve Irwin to hunt down and disrupt the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean. Initiated the production of the Animal Planet series Whale War. Operation Migaloo.
2008 – Operation Tar Baby Farley – Sent the Sea Shepherd II into the Gulf of St. Lawrence to disrupt the Canadian Seal hunt. The ship was seized. Captain Watson refused to pay the fine and the ship was confiscated. Captain Watson said that the Canadian government took care of the retirement of the Farley Mowat.
2008 – 2009 – Release of the documentary film Pirate for the Sea by Ron Colby.
2008 – 2009 – Operation Musashi. Confrontations with the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
2009 – 2010 – Operation Waltzing Matilda. Confrontations with the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
2010 – 2011– Operation Divine Wind. Confrontations with the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
2010 – Received the Asociación de Amigos del Museo de Anclas Philippe Cousteau: Defense of Marine Life Award
2011 – 2012 – Operation No Compromise. Confrontations with the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
2011 – Release of the documentary film Eco-Pirate – The Story of Paul Watson by Trish Dolman.
2011 – 2012 – Operation Blue Rage – the freeing of 800 illegally caught Bluefin Tuna.
2011 – 2012 – Operation Viking Shores – Two ships and a helicopter to the Faroe Islands.
2012 – 2013 – Operation Zero Tolerance. Confrontations with the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
2012 – Arrested and detained in Germany on extradition requests by Costa Rica and Japan. Escaped from Germany and without papers, crossed the Atlantic, North America, the Pacific to American Samoa onto the Southern Ocean for Operation Zero Tolerance.
2012 – Awarded the Jules Verne Award for Conservation.
2012 – Costa Rica and Japan have Paul Watson placed on the Interpol Red Notice list. Costa Rica for “shipwreck endangerment” and Japan for “conspiracy to trespass on a whaling ship.”
2013 – Spent 8 months in exile in the South Pacific.
2012 – Offered a $35,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the men who murdered Jairo Mora Sandoval.
2012 – 2013 – Operation Zero Tolerance.
2014 – Organized the Sea Shepherd Summit in Vermont.
2014 – U.S. Federal Court Judge Alex Kozinki officially labels Captain Watson as a pirate although he was never charged with piracy.
2015 – Initiated Operation Milagro to protect the endangered Vaquita in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez.
2015 – Featured in the documentary film How to Change the World about the origins of Greenpeace.
2015 – Initiated Operation Virus Hunter to oppose salmon farming in British Columbia.
2017 – Initiated Operation Good Pirates of the Caribbean to provide relief supplies to hurricane victims in Dominica, the Bahamas and Antigua.
2017 – With the change in government in Costa Rica, Paul Watson is removed from the Costa Rican Interpol Red Notice list but remains on the Japanese list.
2017 – The documentary film WATSON is released.
2019 – Removed from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Board of Directors.
2019 – Received a commendation from Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont.
2020 – Established the Church of Biocentrism and Interdependence.
2022 – Resigned from Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
2022 – Ousted from the Sea Shepherd Global Board of Directors without a meeting, a discussion or a vote.
2022 – Purchased the ship Vigilant and renamed it the John Paul DeJoria
2022 – Resigned from the Board of Directors of Sea Shepherd Australia in protest of the partnership between Sea Shepherd Australia and the Austral Fishing Corporation.
2023 – Took the John Paul DeJoria to Iceland to oppose the killing of endangered Fin whales.
2023 – Took John Paul DeJoria to the Faroes to disrupt the killing of Pilot Whales and Dolphins.
2023 – Published Hit Man for the Kindness Club.
2023 – Preparing the John Paul DeJoria to return to Iceland to defend the endangered Fin whales and to challenge super trawlers.
This is the history that the men who engineered the hostile takeover of the Sea Shepherd movement want to remove. They want their founder’s legacy to be swept under the carpet and forgotten.
Why? Paul Watson refused to abandon his principles and his strategy of aggressive non-violence and he refused to rebrand Sea Shepherd as just another mainstream organization that compromises and works with governments and corporations.
They call him a pirate. When I asked him what he thought of being called a pirate, he simply laughed and said, “Pirates get things done.”
Captain Watson remains a director with Sea Shepherd France and Sea Shepherd Brazil and has now established the Captain Paul Watson Foundation in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Germany, Ireland, and Italy. Sea Shepherd UK is now the Captain Paul Watson UK.