Paul Watson

Paul Watson

: Photo from Wikimedia Commons / Author of Photo: Witty lama


  • Early member and leader of Greenpeace
  • Former board member of the Sierra Club
  • Founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
  • Endorses the use of violence & property destruction to combat the activities of the fishing & poaching industries
  • Advocate of population control
  • “There’s nothing wrong with being a terrorist, as long as you win.”
  • “Earthworms are far more valuable than people.”


Paul Franklin Watson was born on December 2, 1950, in Toronto, Canada.

From an early age, he exhibited a strong desire to protect wildlife. When he was nine, for instance, Watson often destroyed leghold traps set by beaver hunters. According to, by age 15 he had “pledged allegiance not to Canada, the Church, or humanity, but to nature.”

In 1968, Watson became a member of the Sierra Club environmentalist organization.

That same year, Watson joined the Canadian Coast Guard, where he was stationed aboard weatherships, search-and-rescue hovercraft, and buoy tenders. From 1969 to the early 1970s, he also served with the Canadian, British, Norwegian, and Swedish merchant marines. Moreover, he joined the Don’t Make a Wave Committee whose activists protested America’s testing of nuclear weapons.

Early Member of Greenpeace

Starting in 1971, Watson was an early member and leader of Greenpeace, which went on to become one of the largest and most influential environmentalist groups in the world. During his time with Greenpeace, Watson often engaged in highly radical tactics to protect wildlife from hunters. For example:

  • maneuvering his inflatable Zodiac boat to block a large Soviet whaling vessel from approaching a group of sperm whales;
  • standing on ice to block the path of sealing ships and thereby causing them to stop in their tracks; or
  • handcuffing himself to a pile of seal pelts as they were being loaded onto a sealing ship.

Because Greenpeace objected to Watson’s use of such highly confrontational methods, he was expelled from the organization in 1977.

Another of Greenpeace’s early leaders, Bob Hunter, discussed Watson’s departure from the organization in his 1980 book, The Greenpeace Chronicle:

“No one doubted his [Watson’s] courage for a moment. He was a great warrior brother. Yet in terms of the Greenpeace gestalt, he seemed possessed by too powerful a drive, too unrelenting a desire to push himself front and center, shouldering everyone else aside… He had consistently gone around to other offices, acting out the role of mutineer. Everywhere he went, he created divisiveness… We all felt we’d got trapped in a web no one wanted to see develop, yet now that it had, there was nothing to do but bring down the axe, even if it meant bringing it down on the neck of our brother.”

Because of Greenpeace’s aversion to Watson’s radical methods, Watson in 1986 disparaged the organization as the “Avon ladies of the environmental movement.” On another occasion, he described it as “the world’s biggest feel-good organization.”

Other Ventures

During the same general time frame as when his association with Greenpeace was drawing to a close and then giving way to other ventures, Watson also served as:

  • a field correspondent for Defenders of Wildlife, 1976 to 1980
  • co-founder of the Earthforce Environmental Society, 1977
  • field representative for the Fund for Animals, 1978 to 1981
  • representative for the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals, 1979
  • co-founder of Friends of the Wolf, 1984

Founder of the Violent “Sea Shepherd Conservation Society”

After leaving Greenpeace in 1977, Watson established a brand new entity, the Earth Force Society (EFS), which in 1981 was renamed the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS). Watson described SSCS as “not a protest organization,” but rather, “a policing organization.” In practice, it was a radical outfit that traveled the oceans of the world perpetrating violence against the fishing industry. Watson oversaw a small fleet of ships — the first of which was EFS’s Sea Shepherdoutfitted with concrete-filled bows built for the sole purpose of violently ramming and sinking ships that he deemed enemies of the environment; this could include everything from large whaling ships to small commercial fishing vessels. Painted on the sides of at least one SSCS vessel were the names of boats it had previously rammed and sunk. As of 2011, for instance, SSCS had sunk a total of ten boats, and their names were listed on the port side of the SSCS vessel, Steve Irwin.

Watson’s vessels were also armed with high-powered water cannons; equipped with an attachment dubbed the “can opener” that was capable of piercing and tearing open the hull of a fishing boat; and protected by electrical barbed wire. Moreover, Watson and his crew men commonly used acid, “flash grenades,” “prop foulers,” and other agents of destruction to damage or sink the “enemy” vessels. Watson himself was known to brandish an AK-47 rifle and to fire it at fishing boats. And in some cases, he and his crew members personally boarded whaling ships to forcibly shut down their operations.[1]

Watson purchased his new organization’s first ship in December 1978 with financial assistance from The Fund for Animals, while the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals helped him buy fuel to run it. Watson and his crew then focused their energies on such activities as ramming pirate whaling ships on the open sea, sinking others while they were docked, spraying thousands of seals with dye, forcibly disrupting dolphin kills, and destroying miles of driftnets designed to ensnare fish as they swam by.

SSCS first gained public notoriety in 1979-1980, when it sank a Spanish commercial whaling vessel that it encountered off the coast of Portugal. In a 2004 interview, Watson proudly recalled the details of that incident:

“In July 1979, I hunted down, rammed, and disabled the pirate whaling ship Sierra, because for 10 years I watched as the International Whaling Commission and world governments did nothing to stop a ship that was blatantly flaunting international regulations protecting whales.

“I set out from Boston in the Sea Shepherd with a crew of 19 volunteers, found the Sierra 200 miles off the Portuguese coast, and chased her into the harbor of Leixoies. I gave my crew the option of departing if they did not wish to risk arrest by the Portuguese authorities. Seventeen of them left, leaving me, Peter Woof and Jerry Doran, two engineers.

“The three of us fired up the engine and made for the Sierra, which was in the middle of the harbor. I hit her at full speed across the bow to give warning, then made a tight circle and hit her as fast and as hard as I could on her port side. I saw Captain Nordegen firing a rifle at me but he was not a very good shot and I was a moving target. My bow sliced the Sierra open to the water line and forced her to go to a dock. We then fled, with the Portuguese Navy in pursuit. I was brought before the Port Captain and charged with gross criminal negligence. I replied by saying that there was nothing negligent about the ramming because I hit the bastard exactly where I intended to. The Port Captain actually laughed and said that I was technically right. He also could not identify the real owner of the Sierra, and said that until he did so, I was free to go.

“I returned in December to try and steal the ship from the harbor because a Portuguese judge had taken a bribe and ordered my ship turned over to the Sierra Trading Company. My crew and I were unable to steal the ship because it had been looted by the Portuguese police. So to prevent the ship from becoming the property of the Sierra Trading Company, we scuttled the Sea Shepherd on New Year’s eve in Leixoes harbor.

“Meanwhile, the Sierra had been repaired and was ready to return to sea. It never did so: on February 6, 1980, my crew blew the bottom out of her and permanently ended her career. We traded a ship for a ship, but it was a great trade because we also traded our ship for the lives of hundreds of whales.”

Watson’s Views on Violence & Lawbreaking

Watson has candidly argued that tactics of property destruction such as he directed against the Sierra, are wholly justified because they are necessary not only to thwart violence of a much greater magnitude targeting marine life, but also to draw media attention to the industry responsible for that violence. Said Watson on one occasion:

“To remain nonviolent totally is to allow the perpetuation of violence against people, animals, and the environment. The Catch-22 of it – the damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t dilemma – is that, if we eschew violence for ourselves, we often thereby tacitly allow violence for others, who are then free to settle issues violently until they are resisted, necessarily with violence … [S]ometimes, to dramatize a point so that effective steps may follow, it is necessary to perform a violent act. But such violence must never be directed against a living thing. Against property, yes. But never against a life.”

Notwithstanding his open endorsement of violence and property destruction, Watson at other times has taken pains to contend that “what we [at SSCS] do is aggressive non-violence,” because the “destruction of inanimate objects” does not, in his view, technically constitute violence. By Watson’s telling, violence “is an action force directed against a living, sentient creature, and so ramming a ship doesn’t count as violence.”

Notably, that definition of violence is at odds with the definition offered by Watson’s former organization, Greenpeace, which has stated:  

“We differ with Paul Watson on what constitutes violence. He states that nobody has ever been harmed by a Sea Shepherd action. But the test of non-violence is the nature of your action, not whether harm results or not. There are many acts of violence—for example, holding a gun to someone’s head—which result in no harm. That doesn’t change their nature. We believe that throwing butyric acid at the whalers, dropping cables to foul their props, and threatening to ram them in the freezing waters of the Antarctic constitutes violence because of the potential consequences. The fact that the consequences have not been realized is irrelevant.”  

On a number of occasions, Watson has emphasized that lawbreaking is sometimes necessary in order to bring about desired changes — like when figures like Gandhi and Martin Luther King disobeyed laws that theretofore had enforced morally bankrupt policies or practices. “We should never feel like we’re going too far in breaking the law,” Watson once explained, “because whatever laws you break to liberate animals or to protect the environment are very insignificant compared to the laws that are broken by that parliament of whores in Washington. They are the biggest lawbreakers, the biggest destroyers, the biggest mass-murderers on this planet right now.”

Imprisoned & Fined for Assaulting a Police Officer

In 1980, Watson was sentenced to 10 days in prison and fined $8,000 for his violent actions during a Canadian seal-hunt protest where he assaulted a police officer.

Ties to Earth First! and the Communist Party of New Zealand

During the 1980s, Watson became a staunch supporter of Earth First!, which he dubbed the “Army” of his SSCS. Earth First!, in turn, considered SSCS to be its “Navy.”

In the late 1980s, Watson was a key leader of the Communist Party of New Zealand.

Sinking 2 Icelandic Whaling Ships in 1986

After Watson and his crew deliberately sank two whaling ships in Iceland’s Reykjavik harbor in 1986, Watson shouldered all responsibility for the crimes, going to Iceland in 1988 and offering himself up for trial. When the prosecutor asked him if he personally had been involved in the attacks in question, the SSCS leader replied: “No, but I am responsible for all activities undertaken in the name of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. I give the orders.” The prosecutor then asked him, “Did you give the orders to sink the ships?” And Watson said, “I did.” He was unrepentant, however, telling the prosecutor that “we intend to sink the two other ships [in the four-ship Reykjavik whaling fleet] at the first opportunity.” Within 24 hours, Watson was deported without being charged and was declared “persona non grata” in Iceland.

When a former Greenpeace colleague subsequently criticized Watson for the 1986 ship sinkings, Watson replied: “So what? We did not sink those ships for you or for any of the six billion hominid a–holes on this planet…we could not give a damn what human beings have to say about the actions.”[2]

“Heart of the Wood” & the Practice of Tree Spiking

Aside from jeopardizing the lives and safety of seamen in the fishing industry, Watson has also taken his activist crusade onto dry land. For awhile, he oversaw the radical group Coeur du Bois (Heart of the Wood), whose members were infamous for spiking trees targeted for cutting by the logging industry. Indeed, Watson himself claimed to have invented the practice of “tree spiking,” which consists of driving large nails into trees in attempt to hurt lumberjacks during the felling or milling process. His plan succeeded, when in 1987 a mill worker in California suffered a broken jaw when his band saw struck spikes embedded in a tree, causing the blade to splinter in an explosion of shrapnel. Without a scintilla of remorse, Watson said: “Those loggers don’t give a damn for future generations… And if they don’t have any compassion for the future, I don’t have any compassion for them.”[3]

Political Campaigns in the 1980s & 1990s

Watson worked with the Green Party of British Columbia in Vancouver during the 1980s and 1990s. He ran twice run for Parliament in Canada’s federal elections, including 1984 when he placed fourth with a mere 1.06 percent of the vote. He also ran for mayor of Vancouver in 1996, placing third with approximately 7 percent of the vote.

Intercepting a Reenactment of Columbus’ Voyage

In 1991, Watson and his SSCS crew intercepted a 500th anniversary reenactment of Christopher Columbus’ three-ship voyage of the discovery of America. In the course of his activities, Watson boarded the Santa Maria replica off the coast of Puerto Rico, symbolically reclaimed San Salvador Island on behalf of its indigenous people, and coerced Spain to apologize for its alleged historical sins against those people.

Arrested in Canada

In 1993, Watson was arrested in Canada for chasing Cuban and Spanish trawlers off Newfoundland; he was charged with three counts of mischief, two of which carried a possible maximum sentence of life imprisonment. When acquitted after a four-week trial, Watson said of SSCS: “We say things that people don’t want to hear and do things people don’t want to see, but I don’t see any other way of tackling these problems.” “We’ve got to be outspoken and interventionist,” he added. “We know we’ll get into trouble for it and we’re certainly not whining about that.”

Author of Environmentalist Strategy Guide That Endorses Sabotage & Deception, and Demeans Human Beings

Also in 1993, Watson published Earthforce! An Earth Warrior’s Guide to Strategy. In that book, he specifically endorses the tactics of “monkeywrenching” — i.e., civil disobedience along with covert sabotage of property designed for use in activities harmful to animal life. Watson also writes that while “humans may consider themselves to be divine legends in their own mind, the biological reality is that they are simply overly glorified, conceited apes.”

In Earthforce! as well, Watson openly advocates the use of deception in combatting his ideological foes. “Deception is a weapon,” he states. “Your worldly mind will understand the justification for deception in the presentation of your arguments. Your universal mind, the real you, can remain at peace with the knowledge that your deception has only served to deceive your enemies and not yourself.” “If you do not know an answer, a fact, or a statistic,” he adds, “then simply … make it up on the spot and deliver the information confidently and without hesitation.”

Convicted for Trying to Sink a Norwegian Fishing & Whaling Vessel

In 1997, Norway convicted Watson in absentia and sentenced him to a jail term of 120 days for the scuttling of a whaling ship at dock, and the intentional ramming of a Norwegian coast guard vessel. Ultimately, Watson spent 80 days in detention in the Netherlands.[4]

“Environmental Hero”

In 2000, Time magazine named Watson as one of the 20th century’s environmental heroes.

“Earthworms Are Far More Valuable Than People”

Watson’s love of animals and nature, coupled with his low regard for humanity, once led him to say at an “Animal Rights 2002” conference: “There are 30-million plus species on this planet. They’re all earthlings. They’re all equal. Some are more ‘equal’ than others, I admit: earthworms are far more valuable than people.” The Greens’ Favorite Terrorist,” written by Thomas Ryan and published by on May 4, 2004.

Watson’s “Ten Commandments”

Watson has gone so far as to preach a set of “ten commandments” that he authored with the goal of elevating animals and nature above people, and pressuring humans to change their lifestyles in order to be less harmful to animals and the environment.

  • The first commandment reads: “Don’t bring any more humans into being. There are enough of us.”
  • The third commandment reads: “Go vegan and reduce your consumption of resources.”
  • The seventh commandment reads: “Reject anthropocentrism and adopt a biocentric perspective.”

Violent Altercation with Costa Rican & Japanese Vessels, & Attempted Murder Charges

In the early 2000s, several Latin American governments asked SSCS to act on their behalf in combating poachers in the ocean waters off their coasts. One of these governments was that of Costa Rica, which in May 2002 joined with a Costa Rican environmental group to ask SSCS to intervene against such poachers in the vicinity of Cocos Island, situated some 300+ miles off that nation’s Pacific coast. In compliance with the request, SSCS dispatched a vessel called the Farley Mowat (previously known as Sea Shepherd III and Ocean Warrior) to address the matter. While making its way toward the island, the Farley Mowat encountered a Costa Rican ship, the Varadero 1, which was engaged in poaching as part of a shark-finning operation. The Farley Mowat crew contacted Costa Rican authorities, who in turn instructed them to apprehend the poachers and take their vessel into custody. When the poachers attempted to escape, Watson and his men used water hoses “to intimidate them” — after which the two boats collided, resulting in damage to the Varadero 1.

When the Farley Mowat subsequently subsequently reached port in Costa Rica, a judge and prosecutor told Watson that: (a) the Varadero 1 crew was alleging that Watson had rammed their ship and attempted to kill its captain, and (b) he would be charged with destruction of property and attempted murder. The charges were subsequently dropped, however, when Watson presented the prosecutor with video footage of the altercation which had been filmed by a documentary team that happened to be aboard the Farley Mowat when the incident had occurred.

But a few days later, a new prosecutor stated that Watson would be reinvestigated and should be held in jail while possible new charges were pending. At that point, Watson’s Costa Rican lawyer advised his client to return to the United States. Watson was in fact charged anew for the Varadero 1 incident, but he failed to appear for his trial.

In 2010, one of SSCS’s boats, the Ady Gil, sunk after colliding with a Japanese whaling vessel. In April of that year, the Japanese Coast Guard obtained an arrest warrant for Watson “on suspicion of ordering sabotage activities against Japan’s whaling fleet.” Meanwhile, the International Criminal Police Organization, commonly known as Interpol, listed him as “Wanted” at the request of Japan.

In 2012, a Costa Rican court declared Watson a “rebel” because of his failure to appear in court to face the charges stemming from his 2002 altercation near Cocos Island, and issued a warrant for his arrest on the charge of “violation of ship traffic.” On May 12, 2012, Watson was arrested in Frankfurt, Germany in compliance with a Costa Rican extradition request. Six weeks later, Costa Rica submitted a modified extradition request accusing Watson of the far more serious crime of “shipwreck endangerment and aerial disaster.”

And on May 15, 2012, Japanese authorities formally requested that Watson be arrested on conspiracy charges related to the aforementioned 2010 incident with the whaling ship in the Southern Ocean.

When he was arrested on the Japanese warrant in Germany, Watson, a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen, had his American and Canadian passports seized by authorities. Soon thereafter, though, the United States gave Watson’s American passport back to him and assured him that the U.S. was not planning to arrest or deport him based on the Japanese warrant. But Canadian officials refused to return Watson’s Canadian passport at that time.

Watson later learned that Japan had also applied for an extradition order on July 19, 2012, aiming to extradite him from Germany.

After having spent some 70 days under house arrest in Germany, Watson fled to Antarctica for fear of being extradited to Japan. He also feared that if he were to be sent to Costa Rica, he would be in danger of being killed because of a $25,000 bounty that shark finners had placed on his head. A month after Watson left Germany, Interpol, at Germany’s request, issued a Red Notice on him for both Costa Rica and Japan.

In 2014, Watson was granted asylum by France, which protected him from the extradition requests by Costa Rica and Japan.

In June 2016, Watson’s Canadian passport was returned to him, and he subsequently entered the United States.

In March 2019, The Criminal Appeals Court of the Second Judicial Circuit of San José in Costa Rica decided to dismiss all charges against Watson, thereby bringing to a close the 17-year legal dispute.

“A Good Pirate” Who Endorses “Violent Action” & Terrorism

At a 2002 animal rights conference, Watson said: “The fact is that we live in an extremely violent culture, and we all justify violence if it’s for what we believe in.” He added: “There’s nothing wrong with being a terrorist, as long as you win. Then you write the history.”

In a 2004 interview with the now-defunct SATYA magazine, Watson was asked to address the critics who, because of his aggressive and violent tactics, accused him of being a terrorist or a pirate. Among the most noteworthy questions and answers were the following:


The Sea Shepherd flagship has its bow filled with cement for ramming other boats, is armed with water-cannons, protected by electrical barbed wire, and flies the skull and crossbones on its flag. Are you the captain of a 21st century pirate vessel?


In a world of pirates, how can the real pirates be identified? The word pirate conjures up many images that run the spectrum from romantic to ruthless, greedy to generous, adventurous to terrorist.

I fight piracy, but my campaigns against illegal fishing and whaling were often met with accusations that it was myself and my crew who were the pirates…. I look upon myself as a good pirate in pursuit of bad pirates. Like any pirate, I seek a treasure but I wish for my treasure to remain in the sea, whereas those I pursue are intent upon plundering our oceans of life, diversity, and beauty.

I am a good pirate because in my entire career I have caused no death and inflicted no injury to the people who have shot at us, bombed, beaten, jailed us, and threatened our lives. My crew and I have saved countless lives of creatures as diverse as sea cucumbers to sharks, sea turtles to whales, seal to cod, and so many more. So to answer your question: In a world run by evil, profit-mongering, violent, resource plundering, mass killing buccaneers, I am one of those rare pirates who seeks not profit, nor blood, or treasure. I seek stability and conservation, protection, and the satisfaction of saving lives.


One of the last paragraphs of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s charter says that “SSCS opposes and has taken a standard against violence in the protection of the oceans. It condemns and deplores eco-terrorism and other violence in the name of conservation.” Considering what Sea Shepherd is famous for, the sinking of whaling ships, can you define what you mean by “eco-terrorism” and “violence” when used in the name of conservation?


Eco-terrorism is a form of violence usually carried out by corporations. The Exxon Valdez was an eco-terrorist ship. Union Carbide conducted eco-terrorism in Bhophal, [India]. Eco-terrorism is simply the terrorizing of the environment and living things within the ecosystems under assault. Counter eco-terrorism is the neutralization of eco-terrorism. Therefore, the destruction of a whaling ship is counter-terrorism. In fact, Sea Shepherd specifically targets illegal activities and thus we are a law enforcement organization.

We operate under the principles of the UN World Charter for Nature and, under the section labeled Implementation, enforcement by nongovernmental organizations and individuals is authorized. I have used the Charter as my defense in court and was acquitted of charges in Canada in 1995 because I successfully argued that my intervention was lawful. I have been arrested numerous times but never officially convicted of a crime. I do not have a criminal record because I don’t break laws, I uphold them. I do not condemn and deplore the use of violence in upholding justice. I refrain from it myself, and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has never caused a death or even an injury in our 25-year history. I do not however sit in judgment of the actions, strategies, or tactics of others. Strength lies in diversity of approaches and I support all means of fighting to protect this planet.

I also draw a distinction between actions against property and actions against life. Violence cannot be undertaken against non-sentient objects. There is only violence against life. Destroying an object that is used to violently injure or take life is in fact an act of nonviolence.


Are you tactically and ethically opposed to the use of violence as a legitimate means of social change for the environmental and animal rights movements?


We are a violent species, and we always solve our problems with violence. There have been no exceptions. Nonviolent victories are a myth. Force has always prevailed. The independence of India was not achieved by Gandhi alone; there was a violent insurgency going on against the British at the same time. Gandhi utilized nonviolence as a tactic against the self-righteous British for the purpose of humiliating them, and it worked; where[as] it would never have worked against the Nazis or Stalin’s Communist Party. Martin Luther King did not win civil rights achievements by himself, he had the help of the Black Panthers and riots in the streets.

Nonviolence works as a complement to violent action, it has never worked by itself. Violence can only be defeated by a greater force of violence or by the strategic implementation of applied violence.

When is terrorism not terrorism? First, when you win. Once a terrorist wins and becomes a President or a Prime Minister, they are referred to as statesmen. Secondly, when you manipulate the media to justify your violence, and thus justifiable violence is not considered terrorism.

Terrorism is as terrorism does. It is simply rhetoric. One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter.


Do you think it is too late to slow down sufficiently or stop the destruction of the planet?


We will not destroy this planet. We may be conceited but we are not as great as we would like to believe we are. The Earth will abide long after we are gone. It has survived greater pollutions than we have thrown at it. It has survived mass extinctions and it will survive us. The question is will we survive, and how many species will we drag down with us to extinction?

I personally feel that humanity is doomed. We are the last of the hominid primates, and this was a group that was never very successful to begin with—overly territorial, obsessed with trivialities, violent, petty, and completely lacking in empathy for other species. The world will be a much nicer place without us. But if we can buy time for other species and ecosystems, and if some of us can alleviate the suffering inflicted on other species, then this is a worthwhile pursuit….


Over the years you have faced serious charges from various countries, have been arrested and imprisoned by Interpol, and at one point were looking at a life sentence in a foreign jail. What did you do psychologically to cope with such prospects, and what words of comfort can you extend to those currently serving political sentences?


Going to jail is simply the price of doing business as an activist. When Ralph Waldo Emerson asked Henry David Thoreau what he was doing in jail, Thoreau replied, “What are you doing out there?”

Jail and prison are life experiences and like any experience it can be pleasant or unpleasant, hard or easy, interesting or boring, depending on the psychology of the person imprisoned. People can adjust to any environment if required. The best thing to do is find a niche and survive and, if possible, find the means to flourish. Prison also provides insight into the state of conditions for all the animals imprisoned on farms, ranches, zoos, laboratories, game parks, and aquariums. Most of the world’s citizens spend their entire life in captivity; and the death penalty is the most common sentence given to nonhumans after serving their time.

Three Years on the Sierra Club’s National Board of Directors

In April of 2003, Watson was elected to the Sierra Club‘s National Board of Directors. His goal for the Sierra Club was to alter the its founding philosophy to include his own brand of radicalism. As he declared at one “animal rights” demonstration: “One of the reasons I’m on the Sierra Club board of directors right now is to try and change it…we’re only three directors away from controlling that board…Once we get three more directors elected, the Sierra Club will no longer be pro-hunting and pro-trapping, and we can use the resources of the $95-million-a-year budget to address some of these issues.”[5]

The Sierra Club’s policy on hunting and fishing had been clearly outlined since 1994, when the organization’s Board of Directors had stated: “Acceptable management approaches include both regulated periodic hunting and fishing when based on sufficient scientifically valid biological data and when consistent with all other management purposes and when necessary total protection of particular species or populations.”

Watson’s three-year term on the Sierra Club board ended on May 17, 2006, and he did not seek re-election. In fact, he officially resigned a month early, on April 17, as a gesture of protest against the organization’s recent essay competition entitled “Why I Hunt,” where the first prize was a $12,700 hunting trip to Alaska, and additional prizes totaling $3,000 were awarded as well. “It appears to me that the Sierra Club should have better projects to spend $15,700 on  than sending some nimrod to Alaska to shoot wildlife,” said Watson. “Last year they turned down my request for a $5,000 grant to assist the rangers in the Galapagos National Park deal with poachers.” Announcing also that he did not plan to show up at his final Sierra Club board meeting scheduled for May 17-20, Waton said: “I have no intention of attending a meeting of a hunting club. I wonder how many of the Sierra Club’s 750,000 members know and approve of killing animals with their contributions?”

Pursuing a Japanese Whaling Fleet for 4,000 Miles

In 2006, Watson spent weeks pursuing a Japanese whaling fleet over 4,000 miles along the Antarctic coastline. On January 31 of that year, he published an article in The Guardian about the incident:

“My crew and I have just arrived in Cape Town, South Africa, after a gruelling voyage of 50 days in the storm-tossed, remote waters of the Southern Ocean. There we pursued the Japanese whaling fleet over 4,000 miles along the Antarctic coastline, costing them 15 days of whaling.

“It was a daunting chase. Each time our boat, the Farley Mowat, intercepted the Japanese pirate whalers they would cease killing whales and flee. They were afraid of us, and we wanted them to be afraid of us. We were not in these remote waters to protest or to document their illegal activities. We were there to enforce international conservation law against their illegal activities.

“We were acting in accordance with the United Nations World Charter for Nature that allows non-governmental organisations to uphold international conservation law in areas outside the jurisdictions of nation states. We were doing what the governments of the world are refusing to do: enforcing the law banning whaling.

“Did it work? Hideki Moronuki, the head of the whaling section of the Japanese fisheries ministry, has now voiced his concern that Japan will fail to reach its quota of whales this year because of harassment by whale defenders. If he is right, our voyage will have been worth our efforts. […]

“This year, it was only resources that limited our cause from being more effective. Japan’s investment in the death of whales results in profits to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds. But there is no profit in protecting whales and investing in life, and so we tackle the killers with slower vessels, volunteer crews and inadequate equipment.

“Despite this, every time we intercepted the Japanese whaling fleet, they stopped whaling and ran from us with their faster ships. They knew we would not abide the killing of a single whale in our presence. They ran from our reputation as the most aggressive whale defending organisation in the world.

“We now plan to return to the Southern Ocean in December, and if we can get the support, we will return with a faster, longer-range vessel to shut down the outlaw Japanese whaling fleet completely. To do so we must raise the funds to purchase and run a faster and more powerful ship. We must also recruit a new crew of courageous volunteers willing to spend three months in dangerous interventions. It is an ambitious and daunting plan, but with the support of people who want to end the killing of the whales, I am confident we can return to the Antarctic whale sanctuary and that we can shut down the bloody, criminal business of whaling there.”

Supporter of Population Control, Remaking Society, & Socializing the Economy

In 2007, Watson wrote an opinion piece titled “The Beginning of the End for Life as We Know it on Planet Earth? There is a Biocentric Solution.” Some excerpts:

“Does humanity have a future?

“We are presently living in what conservation biologists refer to as the Holocene extinction event. This is the sixth global mass extinction event in last 439 million years.

“The previous five extinction events wiped out between 50 to 95 percent of species each time. The most recent event was 65 million years ago at the end of the Jurassic period, a cataclysmic occurrence that exterminated the dinosaurs, the dominant group of species at of that period.

“Evolution addresses the diminishment of biological diversity through speciation, but it takes at least ten million years to build up diversity of species to the level prior to a mass extinction event.

“The world ten million years after the Jurassic crash was radically different than the world of the dinosaurs. The world after the Holocene extinction event, the one we are in now, will be as radically altered and most likely one of the species that will not survive the event will be the present dominant species – the human species.

“In a way, the Holocenic extinction event could also be called the ‘Holocenic hominid collective suicide event.’ […]

“[T]he reality is that what is happening now is the result of the collective actions of us hominids. We are the ruthlessly territorial primates whose numbers have soared far beyond the level of global carrying capacity for the deadly behavioural characteristics that we display.

“This did not happen yesterday because we suddenly became aware of the dangers of global warming. It began 50,000 years ago when a relatively hairless primate stumbled out of equatorial Africa and began wiping out the megafauna of the time. Wherever this creature (our ancestor) went, their arrival was followed by large die-outs of megafauna. Primitive hominids were well-organized, efficient, slaughter crews. As they advanced, the mammoth, sabre-toothed cats, cave bears, giant sloths, camels, horses, and wholly rhinos fell to their stone weapons and deliberately set fires. The extinction of all of these great mega-species is directly attributable to “primitive” human hunters. The hunting down of the mega-fauna was followed by the advent of agriculture and the domestication of selected animals. Domesticated cows, goats, sheep, and pigs grew in numbers and denuded large areas of grasslands. Irrigation systems began to toxify land. Then agriculture was followed by industrial activities, and finally, by the burning off of vast amounts of fossil fuels. […]

“Today, escalating human populations have vastly exceeded global carrying capacity and now produce massive quantities of solid, liquid, and gaseous waste. Biological diversity is being threatened by over-exploitation, toxic pollution, agricultural mono-culture, invasive species, competition, habitat destruction, urban sprawl, oceanic acidification, ozone depletion, global warming, and climate change. It’s a runaway train of ecological calamities.

“It’s a train that carries all the earth’s species as unwilling passengers with humans as the manically insane engineers unwilling to use the brake pedal. […]

“I’ve heard from some denialists that species extinction is natural. Yes it is, but the normal extinction rate over millions of years has been about one species per year and the niche vacated is readily filled by another species that begins to specialize in filling that niche.

“But, we are now losing species faster than they can be replaced and entire ecological niches are being vacated permanently. […]

“Today racism, cultural rights, and the right to exploit nature for commercial gain are the weapons used to defend gross over-exploitation of species and the destruction of natural habitats. […]

“There is only one cure, only one way of stopping this rising epidemic of extinctions. The solution requires an extraordinarily immense effort by all of human society but it is achievable.

“We need to re-wild the planet. We need to ‘get ourselves back to the garden’ as Joni Mitchell once so poetically framed it.

“This is a process that will require a complete overhaul of all of humanities economic, cultural, and life style systems. Within the context of our present anthropocentric mind-set the solution is impossible. It will require a complete transformation of all human realities. […]

“We should not be living in human communities that enclose tiny preserved ecosystems within them. Human communities should be maintained in small population enclaves within linked wilderness ecosystems. No human community should be larger than 20,000 people and separated from other communities by wilderness areas. Communication systems can link the communities.

“In other words, people should be placed in parks within ecosystems instead of parks placed in human communities. We need vast areas of the planet where humans do not live at all and where other species are free to evolve without human interference.

“We need to radically and intelligently reduce human populations to fewer than one billion. We need to eliminate nationalism and tribalism and become Earthlings. And as Earthlings, we need to recognize that all the other species that live on this planet are also fellow citizens and also Earthlings. This is a planet of incredible diversity of life-forms; it is not a planet of one species as many of us believe.

“We need to stop burning fossil fuels and utilize only wind, water, and solar power with all generation of power coming from individual or small community units like windmills, waterwheels, and solar panels.

“Sea transportation should be by sail. The big clippers were the finest ships ever built and sufficient to our needs. Air transportation should be by solar powered blimps when air transportation is necessary.

“All consumption should be local. No food products need to be transported over hundreds of miles to market. All commercial fishing should be abolished. If local communities need to fish the fish should be caught individually by hand.

“Preferably vegan and vegetarian diets can be adopted. We need to eliminate herds of ungulates like cows and sheep and replace them with wild ungulates like bison and caribou and allow those species to fulfill the proper roles in nature. We need to restore the prey predator relationship and bring back the wolf and the bear. We need the large predators and ungulates, not as food, but as custodians of the land that absorbs the carbon dioxide and produces the oxygen. We need to live with them in mutual respect.

“We need to remove and destroy all fences and barriers that bar wildlife from moving freely across the land. We need to lower populations of domestic housecats and dogs. Already the world’s housecats consume more fish than all the world’s seals and we have made the cow into the largest aquatic predator on the planet because more than one half of all fish taken from the sea is converted into meal for animal feed.

“We need to stop flying, stop driving cars, and jetting around on marine recreational vehicles. The Mennonites survive without cars and so can the rest of us.

“We can retain technology but within the context of Henry David Thoreau’s simple message to “simplify, simplify, simplify.”

“We need an economic system that provides all people with educational, medical, security, and support systems without mass production and vast utilization of resources. This will only work within the context of a much smaller global population.

“Who should have children? Those who are responsible and completely dedicated to the responsibility which is actually a very small percentage of humans. Being a parent should be a career. Whereas some people are engineers, musicians, or lawyers, others with the desire and the skills can be fathers and mothers. Schools can be eliminated if the professional parent is also the educator of the child.

“This approach to parenting is radical but it is preferable to a system where everyone is expected to have children in order to keep the population of consumers up to keep the wheels of production moving. An economic and political system dependent on continuous growth cannot survive the ecological law of finite resources. […]

“Curing a body of cancer requires radical and invasive therapy, and therefore, curing the biosphere of the human virus will also require a radical and invasive approach.”

One of “50 People Who Could Save the Planet”

In January 2008, The Guardian named Watson as one of its “50 people who could save the planet.”

In March 2008, Watson claimed that he had been struck by a bullet that lodged in his bulletproof vest– shot either by a Japanese crew member or a Japanese Coast Guard personnel — during a recent clash between his anti-whaling vessel, the Steve Irwin, and a whaling ship, Nisshin Maru, in the Southern Ocean. But Glenn Inwood, spokesman for the Japanese whalers, told ABC Radio: “Any claim from Paul Watson that he was fired at with a gun and has a bullet lodged in his bulletproof vest is absolutely false.” And the Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research and the Japanese Coast Guard said that in combating people like Watson, they used only “noise balls” and “flash grenades” designed to temporarily render their targets blind and deaf.

Asserting That the Deaths of Many Seals Are a “Greater Tragedy” Than the Deaths of Four Seal Hunters

In April 2008, Watson stated that while the March 29th deaths of four Canadian seal hunters in a marine accident during a commercial seal hunt constituted a tragedy, he felt that the killing of hundreds of thousands of seals each year was an even “greater tragedy.”

Returning to SSCS as Board President and Executive Director

In the spring of 2016, Watson returned to SSCS as its board president and executive director.

Return of Watson’s Canadian Passport

In June 2016, Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May helped Watson get his Canadian passport returned to him by the government, when she signed on as Watson’s guarantor on the passport application.

Resignation from SSCS

In late July 2022, Watson resigned from SSCS and promptly set up a new organization, the Captain Paul Watson Foundation, with his former work colleague and friend, Omar Todd. In his resignation letter to SSCS, Watson wrote: “It is with great relief that as of July 27th, 2022, I have ceased my employment and cut all ties with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (USA)…. My role is to rock the boat, to make waves, to provoke people to think about the damage we are collectively inflicting upon biodiversity and the interdependence of life in the ocean. The current USA Board seeks to turn our vessels away from confronting illegal poachers that prey on endangered species and instead seeks to turn our fleet into non-controversial research vessels.”


  1. “The Greens’ Favorite Terrorist,” written by Thomas Ryan and published by on May 4, 2004.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.

Additional Resources:

Whale Wars: How TV Turns Violent Green Activists into Popular Entertainment
By David Hogberg
October 7, 2011

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