47 Sea Shepherd & Whaling Facts No One Is Telling You

Sea Shepherd facts

Sea Shepherd has been a marine wildlife conservation powerhouse for more than 40 years now. Since its humble beginnings, it has been surrounded by controversy and media exposure and they wouldn’t want it any other way.

The organization does not half-ass anything and likes to take a direct approach to stop the whalers in their attempts to decimate the whale population.

If you’d like to DONATE and show support to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society you can do so on their official website. You can also show your support by buying and wearing their merchandise.

When you’re done reading about Sea Shepherd, read some of our related posts and quizzes:

Table of Contents

Sea Shepherd Facts

1. What is Sea Shepherd?

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is an international non-profit, marine wildlife conservation organization dedicated to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world’s oceans.

Sea Shepherd is famously known for its efforts to stop whaling and stop the Japanese whaling vessels.

According to their official website, they have successfully stopped poachers and habitat destruction in Benin, Ecuador, Gabon, Indonesia, Italy, Liberia, Mexico, Namibia, and multiple other countries and facilitated hundreds of arrests and vessel seizures and the confiscation of thousands of illegal nets.

2. When was Sea Shepherd founded?

Sea Shepherd was founded in 1977 in Vancouver, Canada and incorporated in Oregon in 1981 as the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The predecessor organization of Sea Shepherd was the “Earth Force Society”.

3. Who is the founder of Sea Shepherd?

Sea Shepherd’s founder is Paul Franklin Watson. He first founded the Earth Force Society after he was ousted from the board of Greenpeace. They were disagreeing over his direct action activism which clashed with their pacifist nature.

https://twitter.com/CaptPaulWatson/status/1054184749135056896

Watson had no funding and only a handful of supporters when in 1978 he managed to convince Cleveland Amory, head of the Fund for Animals to fund his first ship, the Sea Shepherd. And the rest is history.

He was a co-founder of Greenpeace though. He crewed and skippered for it and was a founding board member in 1972. He promotes veganism, and a biocentric, rather than anthropocentric, worldview.

Biocentrism is an ethical point of view that extends inherent value to all living things opposed to anthropocentrism which is the belief that human beings are the most important entity in the universe.

Watson is a highly controversial but also inspirational figure in the marine conservation circles and environment activism circles as well.

4. Where is Paul Watson from?

Watson is a citizen of Canada and the United States. He born December 2, 1950 in Toronto, Ontario. As a child he was a member of the Kindness Club, which he has credited with teaching him to “respect and defend animals”.

5. What was the first Sea Shepherd’s action?

The first direct action undertaken by Sea Shepherd was against Canadian seal hunting in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in March 1979.

1979 was also the first time that the Sea Shepherds made headlines when, for the first time, they rammed a pirate whaling ship, the notorious Sierra – a pirate whaler that had roamed the oceans for 10 years, flouting international law.

Here is the archived 1979 news article from the People Magazine.

6. Is the Sea Shepherd legal?

From their website: “Sea Shepherd cooperates fully with all international law enforcement agencies and its enforcement activities complying with standard practices of law and policing enforcement.” And also, “Sea Shepherd adheres to the utilization of non-violent principles in the course of all actions and has taken a standard against violence in the protection of the oceans.”

7. How many ships does Sea Shepherd have?

The group has historically operated a number of vessels and as of 2018, Sea Shepherd operates twelve ships that they refer to as Neptune’s Navy. Most of these vessels are used to disrupt or hinder fishing, whaling or sealing operations.

8. What are the Sea Shepherd’s ships called?

They call the ships Neptune’s Navy and they consist of:

  • MV Brigitte Bardot,
  • MY Bob Barker,
  • MY Sam Simon,
  • RV Martin Sheen,
  • MY Jairo Mora Sandoval,
  • MY Farley Mowat,
  • MV John Paul DeJoria,
  • MY Ocean Warrior,
  • MV Sharpie,
  • MV Emanuel Bronner,
  • MY Alchemy,
  • MV White Holly.

9. How much money does Sea Shepherd have?

The Sea Shepherd Society is supported by private and corporate donations, lectures by Watson, internet advertising, and grants.

Its revenue for the year 2010 was $11.4 million. Most of the organization’s revenue, 83.2 percent, is spent on its programs, while 16.7 percent of revenue is spent on administrative and fundraising.

84 per cent of the income came from individual donors, and 16 per cent from merchandise sales.

10. Do Sea Shepherds get paid?

The group is operated by volunteers and a small number of paid staff. Sea Shepherd accepts volunteers with all sorts of backgrounds.

Many of them have never worked on a ship before joining the organization and they learn everything they need to from veteran crew, professional mariners, and those with specialized skills.

The number of crew on board at any one time varies and is also dependent on the ship. You can expect to join anywhere from 5 to 18 other individuals.

11. What does the Sea Shepherd logo mean?

The Sea Shepherd website says that “Our Jolly Roger logo represents our fight against piracy against the oceans whether that be illegal whaling, IUU (illegal, unreported, unregulated) fishing, or poaching in marine reserves. Our logo contains a shepherd’s crook and Neptune’s trident to symbolize our mission to conserve, defend, and protect our oceans. Our logo also features a dolphin and whale inspired by the yin-yang symbol to represent the fragile balance of our ocean’s ecosystems.”

12. How can I work for Sea Shepherd?

To be eligible, you must meet the following requirements:

– You must be a minimum of 18 years old.

– You must know how to swim.

– You must comply with the Sea Shepherd “zero tolerance” drug policy and smoking rules.

– You are financially responsible for travel to and from the ship and all personal items.

– You must agree to be filmed/photographed while on campaign.

There are six primary areas on their ships: Bridge, Deck, Engine Room, Galley, Communications and Media and they are looking for navigators, sailors, marine engineers, mechanics, electricians, carpenters, welders, cooks, doctors, medics or nurses, small boat operators, photographers, videographers, computer and networking specialists, electronics hobbyists and experts, software developers, radio and antenna technicians, and even a few unskilled dedicated Ocean Defenders who are willing to be trained.

You can read the crew FAQ here or directly apply here.

13. How does Sea Shepherd campaign?

They have a long history of using direct action to defend marine wildlife and protect their habitat in the world’s oceans.

The organization is also increasing co-operation with national governments in assisting anti-poaching activity in national territorial waters and marine reserves.

14. Are Sea Shepherds vegan?

Sea Shepherd ships have been vegetarian vessels since 1979 and vegan since 2002.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is not a vegan or vegetarian organization however, nor an Animal Rights or an Animal Welfare organization. They identify themselves as a marine wildlife and habitat conservation movement.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B_2h4S2DJF7/

15. Are Sea Shepherd Pirates?

A US court has declared the conservation group Sea Shepherd to be “pirates” and ordered it to stop its aggressive actions against Japanese whalers.

Scott West, a spokesman for Sea Shepherd, told the Guardian that the judge’s opinion is “only an opinion”, and that the label of “pirate” is “ludicrous” given that “there is no personal gain, and there’s no violence”.

16. Is Sea Shepherd a non profit?

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) is a non-governmental, non-profit environmental organization. In the United States, it has a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.

17. Who is funding Sea Shepherd?

84 per cent of the income came from individual donors, and 16 per cent from merchandise sales.

18. Is the Sea Shepherd still active?

They are still active although COVID-19 has halted some of their operations for some time.

https://twitter.com/seashepherd/status/1285888329213513728

19. How many whales has Sea Shepherd saved?

According to the Society, since Sea Shepherd embarked on its first whale defense campaign, over 6000 whales have been saved from Japan’s deadly harpoons.

20. What does Sea Shepherd do to stop whaling?

The Organization uses direct action against whaling ships but also uses media campaigns to put a spotlight on their efforts and the cruel and unnecessary actions of whaling ships.

21. Where are the Sea Shepherd headquarters?

It is truly a global organization with offices and chapters in many countries all over the World. Its global headquarters are in Amsterdam. Find the whole list of offices here.

22. Is Sea Shepherd part of Greenpeace?

They are not a part of Greenpeace organization as they have opposite tactics in trying to save the environment.

23. Sea Shepherd vs Greenpeace

Paul Watson, a founding member of Greenpeace by many respectable publications, is not considered as a founder of Greenpeace by Greenpeace themselves.

In fact, the rival environmental group maintains Sea Shepherd is a violent organization whose tactics may endanger the lives of fishermen and whalers and has called Watson a violent extremist and will no longer comment on his activities.

Paul Watson was ousted from the board of Greenpeace for disagreements over his direct action activism which clashed with their pacifist nature.

24. Has Sea Shepherd killed anyone?

Sea Shepherds have not killed anyone. Only ones getting killed are the whales and other marine wildlife.

25. How can I donate to Sea Shepherd?

If you’d like to donate and show support to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society you can do so on their official website. You can also show your support by buying and wearing their merchandise.

Sea Shepherd’s Whale Wars

26. Are there any Sea Shepherd documentaries?

There are plenty of documentaries featuring the crew and ships of the Sea Shepherd organization. I’ll mention some of them:

You can find an extensive IMDB list here.

27. What is “Whale Wars”?

Whale Wars is a stunning and dangerous limited series that spotlights both the controversial Japanese whaling trade and the tactics that the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and its staff and volunteers use to cripple it.

The TV show premiered on November 7, 2008 on the Animal Planet cable channel and it follows Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, as he and the crew aboard their various vessels attempted to stop the killing of whales by Japanese whalers off the coast of Antarctica.

Whale Wars became a hit for the channel and has received mostly positive reviews.

28. How many seasons of “Whale Wars” were there?

There are 7 seasons of Whale Wars and a couple of spin-off series including Whale Wars: Viking Shores, Seal Wars, and Ocean Warriors.

29. Is Whale Wars on Netflix?

Whale Wars is a production of Animal Planet but it can now be found on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and other platforms.

30. Was Whale Wars Cancelled?

In 2016/2017 Sea Shepherd’s Operation Nemesis wasn’t successful, so the footage wasn’t interesting enough to justify a new season even though apparently Animal Planet paid for production of a new season of Whale Wars.

Although not officially cancelled, it kinda is. I could find accounts of the show being more and more expensive to produce so it didn’t make it financially sound for the network to continue producing the show.

There were also concerns because Sea Shepherd and Paul Watson were served injunction and were prohibited from coming within 500 yards of any ICR (Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research) whalers on the open sea, and were strictly prohibited from “physically attacking any vessel engaged by [whalers or] navigating in a manner that is likely to endanger the safe navigation of any such vessel.”

31. Will Whale Wars return to TV?

It might. If it does come back it will probably not be against Japanese whalers because they now have far more advanced military tecnnology that they are utilising against Sea Shepherd. In Paul Watson’s words:

“What we discovered is that Japan is now employing military surveillance to watch Sea Shepherd ship movements in real time by satellite and if they know where our ships are at any given moment, they can easily avoid us. During Operation Nemesis, the Sea Shepherd ships did get close and our helicopter even managed to get evidence of their illegal whaling operations but we could not physically close the gap. We cannot compete with their military grade technology.”

Paul Watson on Operation Nemesis and Whale Wars

More on their continued efforts to stop whaling:

“We will not be sending ships to the Southern Ocean this year, but are not abandoning the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. We need to cultivate the resources, the tactics and the ability to significantly shut down the illegal whaling operations of the Japanese whaling fleet. In the meantime, it’s time for the Australian government to live up to their promises. Sea Shepherd has been down in the Southern Ocean doing what the Australian government has the responsibility to do but have refused to do, and that is upholding international and Australian conservation law.

Paul Watson on Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and Whale Wars

32. Whale Wars cast

The cast of Whale Wars varies from season to season and it consists of crew members and officers of Sea Shepherd ships and the organization.

Most notable cast members are of course Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd and captain.
Peter Hammarstedt
, former first mate and now captain of the MY Bob Barker, who was born in Sweden, is the Director of Ship Operations for Sea Shepherd Global, sits on the Board of Sea Shepherd Global and is Chairman of Sea Shepherd Australia.
Pete Bethune, Former Captain of Ady Gil (2010)
Chuck Swift, who was captain of MY Bob Barker and Alex Cornelissen, who was Captain of RV Farley Mowat.
Lockhart MacLean, former first mate of MY Steve Irwin and captain of the MV Brigitte Bardot.
Siddharth Chakravarty, captain of MY Steve Irwin.
Benjamin “Pottsy” Potts, chief cook and helicopter assistant, later bosun on MY Bob Barker and one of the two crew-members who boarded a Japanese whaling vessel Yūshin Maru No. 2.
Giles Lane, helicopter assistant and second of two crew-members who boarded a Japanese whaling vessel Yūshin Maru No. 2.

33. Did Whale Wars stop the Japanese?

Since Sea Shepherd embarked on its first whale defense campaign, over 6000 whales have been saved from Japan’s deadly harpoons. Sea Shepherd did not stop the Japanese from whaling unfortunately.

One of the reasons for that is that the Japanese are now using military equipment and satellites to track Sea Shepherd’s ships and that makes it easy for them to avoid them.

Whaling

What is commercial whaling?

34. What is whaling?

Whaling is the hunting of whales for their usable products such as meat and blubber. The earliest forms of whaling date to at least circa 3000 BC. It was practiced as an organized industry as early as 875 AD.

Contemporary whaling is subject to intense debate.

In some countries whale watching has become a significant industry and has replaced whaling, but in a few others, the two business models exist in an uneasy tension.

The live capture of cetaceans for display in aquariums (e.g. captive killer whales) continues.

35. Is whaling bad?

Yes, whaling is bad. It inherently hurts whales, other marine life and oceans in general. It is cruel to these majestic animals of which some are critically endangered.

Whales are some of Earth’s largest animals, with the strongest and deepest voices. Some annually migrate from the tropics to the poles, some sing elaborate songs, and many live in close, complex societies.

Dr Harry Lillie, who worked as a ship’s physician on a whaling trip in the Antarctic half a century ago, wrote a report on whaling:”If we can imagine a horse having two or three explosive spears stuck in its stomach and being made to pull a butcher’s truck through the streets of London while it pours blood into the gutter, we shall have an idea of the method of killing. The gunners themselves admit that if whales could scream, the industry would stop for nobody would be able to stand it.’ The use of harpoons with explosive grenade heads is still the main technique used by whalers today.”

36. Is whaling banned? When was whaling banned?

Yes, in 1986, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned commercial whaling because of the extreme depletion of most of the whale stocks.

Iceland and Norway lodged official objections to the moratorium and have continued a commercial hunt. Japan and Iceland have also continued to hunt whales under the guise of “scientific whaling”.

Following its withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission (IWC), Japan resumed commercial whaling for the first time in 31 years in July 2019.

Whaling is a small industry in Japan, employing around 300 people. About five vessels are expected to set sail in July. Even though they’re small, their impact on whale populations is rather big.

More than 30,000 whales have been killed by whaling since the IWC moratorium.

37. Is whaling illegal?

You see, when in 1986, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned commercial whaling some countries simply said no and continued business as usual. Countries like Norway and Iceland did it out in the open and Japan did it under the guise of “scientific research”. And now even Japan returned to outright commercial whaling.

So how do they get away with it? Realistically, no one can do anything to them for not complying. The same is true when USA one-sidedly decides to leave international treaties.

38. How many whales are killed each year?

From between 1900 and 1999, approximately 2.9 million whales were killed.

Every year, Japan, Norway, and Iceland hunt around 1,500 large whales. New report reveals 100,000 dolphins and small whales are also hunted every year.

Total Catches of Whales since 1985/86 since the moratorium came into place

39. Is whaling cruel?

Whether it is one whale or a thousand, whaling is simply wrong and inherently cruel. There is no technique that would ensure the killing of a whale without horrific pain and suffering.

40. When did commercial whaling begin?

The earliest forms of whaling date to at least circa 3000 BC and it was practiced as an organized industry as early as 875 AD.

41. What is The International Whaling Commission?

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) is an international body set up by the terms of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW), signed in Washington, D.C., United States, on 2 December 1946 to “provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry”.

42. What is The International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling?

The International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling is an international environmental agreement signed in Washington, D.C. on 2 December 1946 and took effect on 10 November 1948.

It governs the commercial, scientific, and aboriginal subsistence whaling practices of eighty-nine member nations.

43. How much is whale meat worth?

The price in Japan in 2006 was less than 2,000 yen ($16.60) per kilo. That is way down from $40 in 1990s.

What about a whole whale? According to an estimate by the Japanese government of an average whale’s worth in 2013, a whale was worth about 2.7 million yen (around $25,000).

According to the Institute for Cetacean Research, the Japanese body in charge of organizing whale “research”, and the reported “scientific” whale catches, the meat sold each year seems to bring in about $50,000 per whale.

44. Why do the Japanese eat whales?

Contrary to popular belief, eating whale meat is not a centuries-old tradition and widespread consumption of whale meat was first introduced to Japan as a protein supplement by Gen. Douglas MacArthur after the end of World War II.

According to a 2014 survey, only 4 percent said they occasionally ate whale meat and half of all Japanese in their 20s and 30s said they do not eat it at all.

45. Which countries kill whales?

Japan, Norway, United States (Alaska), Faroe Islands and Iceland are still killing whales. Although, there are reports from Iceland that their ships stopped whaling because there’s no financial viability for them.

46. Is whale meat illegal in the UK?

Import of whale meat into Britain and other EU countries is illegal under the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (Cites) and carries penalty of imprisonment or fines up to £5,000.

47. Is whale meat illegal in the USA?

It is illegal in the US and could bring you a hefty fine. Only Native American communities of Alaska are allowed to eat and hunt for whale meat. The meat is harvested from legal, non-commercial hunts that occur twice a year in the spring and autumn.

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Adrian Volenik

I've lived around animals my whole life and I hold a Diploma in Animal Physiology. When I'm not reading or writing about wild animals, health and fitness, and technology, you can find me playing with my son and two cats. My pastimes include running, playing video games, and solving the NY Times crossword.