Captain Paul Watson

Et tu, Sea Shepherd Global? The Betrayal of Captain Paul Watson Continues…

On September 1, 2022, after Captain Paul Watson’s recent resignation from Sea Shepherd USA and upon mass criticism of abandoning their famous direct action tactics for their new focus on scientific research, Sea Shepherd USA (SSCS) and Sea Shepherd Global jointly released the following statement: “Sea Shepherd Conservation Society USA and Sea Shepherd Global continue standing shoulder-to-shoulder in defense of marine wildlife around the world.”

And to make matters even more capricious, Watson received notice the next day that he has also been removed from Sea Shepherd Global’s Board of Directors. 

Sea Shepherd Global Director, Alex Cornelissen, who Watson mentored  and provided the opportunity to rise from the ranks of galley cook all the way up to captain on numerous Sea Shepherd campaigns, wrote:

“I am sorry to inform you that based on the conversations that we’ve had, and the legal issues between you and SSCS (USA), we asked you to step down from the board. Since you have not complied with that request, the majority of the Global Board has decided that it is a conflict of interest for you to remain as a Director on the Board of Sea Shepherd Global; and has therefore reached the decision that you are no longer a Director of Sea Shepherd Global.”  

This shocking betrayal has prompted many long-standing Sea Shepherds to wonder if anyone left in this movement has any integrity?

Sea Shepherd Global not only vows to stand, “shoulder to shoulder” with bonafide traitors and some seriously questionable characters, but without any formal VOTE whatsoever by the entire Global Board of Directors. It appears they are trying to simply “cancel”  the very person who started the modern day movement of direct action conservation! 

It seems clear that certain people here need a refresher course in respect for their elders.

Paul Watson has paved the way for generations of activists, including those currently being paid to run the organization he created close to half a century ago.

How truly ungracious that Sea Shepherd Global has now turned to the dark side, undoubtedly due largely in part to legal threats by Sea Shepherd US, led by President Paul Labombard, aka Pritam Singh, who has publicly referred to himself in the past as, “an enlightened capitalist.” Well at least he does not suffer from modesty.

While Sea Shepherd US continues to use Global images, although they do not oversee or fund Global campaigns, they also have the audacity to threaten legal action over trademark and copyright violations. Over the last year, Sea Shepherd US has filed trademark rights not only to the logos designed by Paul Watson, but also to the name Sea Shepherd itself! Paul Watson has also been informed he no longer has the right to use, post or even wear anything with the Jolly Roger logo and has been threatened with a lawsuit if he speaks to the media.

Seriously, is this just a bad joke?

Sea Shepherd Crew in Action, Photo: Simon Ager

According to Paul Watson in a recent post on social media to his supporters:

“The announcement by Sea Shepherd Global yesterday may have caught many of you by surprise. It certainly caught me by surprise. There has been a disturbing lack of transparency about the relationship between Sea Shepherd US and Sea Shepherd Global.”

The September newsletter stated:

“For decades, the words “Sea Shepherd” have been synonymous with the fight to protect endangered species and protecting the oceans’ habitats. This work is more important now than ever as the world establishes Marine Protected Areas that must actually be “protected,” and as entire species battle extinction.”

Correction: For decades the words “Sea Shepherd” have been synonymous with the one man behind it all: Captain Paul Watson. And it is HIS legacy of protecting wildlife and habitat through the actual enforcement of conservation laws to which we should all be gratefully indebted. 

According to Watson:

“I thought that Sea Shepherd Global would support me and I urged people to continue to support Global but under threat of lawsuits by SSCS (US), Alex Cornelissen, despite his serious concerns about SSCS (US),decided to make an agreement between Sea Shepherd Global and SSCS (US). Apparently, part of this agreement was to demand that Global dismiss me from the Global Board and Alex informed me of this fact this morning.” 

Sea Shepherd Global has apparently consented to support the new course of non-confrontational, non-controversial and non-action that SSCS (US) wishes to pursue. “Science will be our primary mission—not an afterthought,” stated Singh in a highly defamatory article against Paul Watson published in Science Magazine in June, 2022. 

Yet the recent newsletter now claims otherwise: “Sea Shepherd Global and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society will continue to lead with direct action.” So which is it folks–Direct action or Science? The contradictory messaging is rather confusing, if not outright deceitful to supporters who have a right to transparency. Something sure smells rotten in Denmark, and it’s not just the smell of dead pilot whales.


Sea Shepherd Direct Action Crew Antarctica, Photo: Gary Stokes

According to Watson:

“It all stems from SSSC and the decision by SSCS President Pritam Singh to change the focus and the direction of Sea Shepherd in the USA. No more direct action, no more controversial campaigns and no more confrontations with poachers. In June 2022 when I said that I could not support this radical change in priorities nor could I participate in it, I was told that I was an employee and I had to do what I was told. In response I resigned.”

The newsletter continued to highlight their partnership and direct action as the continued aim of both organizations:

“With our shared mission and our groundbreaking initiatives, we continue to collaborate on how best to accomplish our mutual goal of saving marine wildlife. From the Gulf of Guinea, where Sea Shepherd Global is partnering with Gabon, São Tomé and Príncipe to patrol Africa’s largest marine protected area, to Mexico where Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is the last line of defense for the endangered vaquita porpoise, our engagement on the front lines is protecting the oceans’ inhabitants and preserving some of the most fragile ecosystems in the world.”

However, numerous critics have recently been questioning Sea Shepherd US’s current Milagro campaign, with specific regard to what is actually being done to protect the vaquita porpoise. According to some, a whole lot of nada. First Officer and Ship Manager, Haans Siver, recently shared her concerns via Facebook:

“I have been an activist for Sea Shepherd US for 12 years, however, the last campaign that I crewed in Mexico for the Vaquita has raised 2 major issues for me. Firstly, SSCS has now moved away from the guiding principles of Sea Shepherd. Secondly, the method that they have chosen to undertake these changes is, to me, dishonest, underhanded and not in line with the culture of transparency that kept me coming back year after year.”

Those of us not suffering memory loss may recall when Paul Watson left his role as a National Director of The Sierra Club in 2006 due to the organization’s hypocritical promotion of trophy wildlife hunting. He did so, not only due to his own moral compass and respect for nature, but also to uphold the core values of its founder. “This is John Muir’s Sierra Club,” he said. “It is not supposed to be the Safari Club.”

Newsflash: This is Paul Watson’s Sea Shepherd. And it’s not supposed to be Summit at Sea!

Paul Early Days (black and white) – alongside Paul are the only two crewmembers — Peter Woof, left and Jerry Doran, right — who chose to stay aboard with Paul during the first Sea Shepherd campaign in March,1979. The destination was the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the Eastern coast of Canada to publicize the Canadian seal hunt by utilizing direct action tactics to save seal pups. Image Credit: Sea Shepherd UK

These recent decisions seek to change the focus and the direction of Sea Shepherd in the US and turn any remaining vessels into an elite fleet of hum-drum scientific research vessels, funded by donors. Say bon voyage to any REAL activism that makes a REAL difference.

The problem, according to Watson, lies with SSCS (US):

 “They have scrapped the White Holly, the John Paul DeJoria and the Sharpie. They have sold the Brigitte Bardot and have plans to sell the Martin Sheen. They have purchased the Sharkwater against my advice and they plan to use it as a comfortable platform for scientists to do research, becoming in effect an Uber service for researchers.”

With this latest, abrupt turn of events, dismantling of The Sea Shepherd fleet, and blatant bullying from Singh and his hand-selected US Board, it is most likely a matter of time before Global also removes Watson’s picture, bio, and history from their website as they have done on the US website. Added Watson:

“They can’t expect to dismiss a director and the founder of this movement and expect everyone to ignore the fact or to not question it.”

To that end, it appears obvious that as a Global Board member, Captain Paul Watson was not consulted about this recent agreement to cooperate with Sea Shepherd US, nevermind his recent dismissal from Sea Shepherd Global. 

Sea Shepherd Direct Action, Image Credit: Deborah Bassett

Who is calling the shots here and why aren’t all Board members being involved in such critical decisions? Anyone with an IQ above room temperature can understand that these actions are a major red flag, if not illegal. According to Watson:

“As a Global Board member, I did not receive an invitation to a Board meeting to discuss this. Alex Cornelissen did not call for a vote by the directors, he simply stated that the Global Board made the decision to dismiss me from the Global Board. Aside from myself, at least one other of the six directors was not notified of a meeting or of a vote on my dismissal. I don’t even have a vote count nor confirmation that a vote took place. I do know I was not given an opportunity to vote.”

Sea Shepherd Global is required by law to provide an explanation as to why this decision was made, by whom, and just what their relationship with SSCS (US) will be going forward. Until recently there was a Sea Shepherd Legal team, but it looks like they have been shut down now as well and one cannot help but wonder why.

Added Watson: “Working with SSCS (US) under its present leadership means being associated with an entity that is not what Sea Shepherd is meant to be. It will only serve to taint Global with the excessive salaries, the non-vegan ships, the aggressive marketing of merchandise and the non-confrontational new direction in which SSCS (US) is going.”

According to Haans Siver from a meeting that occurred after two weeks at dock with the crews from the Sharpie, the JPD, the Farley and the Sharkwater, approximately 40 crew members in total, they were informed about this new direction:

“We were told SSCS will be changing its name from Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to Marine Protection Alliance, because Sea Shepherd has such a bad name that SSCS is not able to sign on other countries to work with, so they are going to change the name to MPA to get other countries on board. Is this what they want us to hear or is there an alternative motive? My question is if Sea Shepherd Global has done amazing partnerships with other countries and has proven our reputation without having to change who we are and what we do, then why does SSCS (US) feel the need to abandon who we are and what we do?”

Good questions, Haans. One look at Marine Protection Alliance and it doesn’t take a research scientist to recognize that Singh and his cronies have knocked out a rather generic site to appear as a viable conservation effort. To date, the BOD of MPA is currently made up of all privileged, predominantly caucasion, men in suits. Does this image truly embody the diversity of volunteers, hailing from over 35 countries, who have served Sea Shepherd for over 45 years? Again I must ask, is this just a bad joke? 

Furthermore, if Singh wanted to morph Sea Shepherd into a new organization with a new philosophy and direction, why not just start his own non-profit instead of hijacking Paul Watson’s? Does he truly and insultingly believe no one will notice the difference? If so, he is seriously underestimating the legions of Captain Watson supporters around the globe. 

To add further insult to injury, the recent newsletter stated:

“We are a volunteer-driven global movement that is entirely donation-funded by people around the world who realize the urgent need to protect our oceans.The challenges facing marine wildlife grow every day, and all Sea Shepherd entities stand together to meet them.”

Really? If all Sea Shepherd entities “stand together” then why is the US Board aggressively sending out cease and desist letters  to ANY former chapter coordinator that speaks out against this hostile takeover and their allegiance to Paul Watson? Why are they silencing the volunteers who have built up the organization for decades and shutting down US chapters, dismissing thousands of willing and capable volunteers, and effectively cutting off a major revenue supply from all of each  chapters’ fundraising efforts?

Added Watson: “They claim that I am too controversial and too confrontational to continue to be associated with Sea Shepherd. However, I am what I have always been and will always be and that is a proponent of direct action, aggressive non-violent tactics, vegan vessels, and a movement without fear of controversy or confrontation.”

It is this unique direct action that no one has ever tackled in the same way as Paul Watson. And those who have actually worked on the frontlines of ocean conservation — no one on the current US Board aside from Singh and his ego — know that it is imperative that these tactics continue in the defense of life, diversity and interdependence in the sea.

And Watson’s philosophy of aggressive non-violence has proven highly effective. On his watch, Sea Shepherd successfully drove the Japanese whaling fleet from the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, confiscated over 150,000 meters of illegal gill nets in the Vaquita Refuge, and knocked the bottom out from under the Canadian sealing industry. Captain Paul Watson’s Sea Shepherd has safeguarded the Galapagos Islands from poachers, defended dolphins in Taiji, saved pilot whales in the Faroe Islands, and removed numerous salmon farms from the waters of British Columbia, to name just a few victories.

Pritam Singh, on the other hand, owns a sportsmens’ fishing lodge in Alaska and through the years has come under investigation for some of his business dealings. Of course the latter comes as no surprise as Singh seems hellbent on stripping another man of his lifetime work, achievements and legacy.

Paul Early Days – on ice flows with seal. Image Credit: AI Johnson

In positive news, the launch of the new Captain Paul Watson Foundation in the USA will continue the work Paul Watson has been carrying out for close to 50 years. For those who seek to give credit where credit is due, I personally encourage you to continue supporting Captain Paul Watson’s legacy of conservation in action and let us forge ahead as a united front in our fight to TRULY save the Oceans. We don’t need more research. We need action. 

Stated Watson in an open letter to his current crew members and volunteers:

“I have always said that an individual can be taken down, an organization can be taken down, but a movement survives, and it survives because of the strength, the passion, the courage, the persistence, the dedication and the imagination of each and every person involved, with every net pulled, with every poacher intercepted, with every life saved, with every piece of plastic removed and with every vegan meal served. Never forget that it is action that defines what Sea Shepherd is and it is the crew on the ships and volunteers on the beaches that transform action into lives saved and habitats protected.”

It is somewhat ironic, embarrassingly so really, that many of those involved who have risked their lives countless times to defend marine life have folded so easily to a capitalist property developer who has no business at the helm of this great organization.

“I will not be going quietly into the night. I intend to continue doing what I have been doing for the last 45 years. I truly never thought I would ever see this kind of treachery and betrayal in the movement that I created. I am a fighter, always have been and always will be. I did not face off against the Japanese whaling fleet in the hostile remote waters of the Southern Ocean only to surrender to this nonsense.  I will rebuild, regroup and I will return to the high seas to once again defend life, diversity and interdependence in the Ocean.”

We Salute You, OUR Captain Paul Watson! 

Deborah Bassett
Non Profit Consultant
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