Paul Watson became active with Greenpeace in 1971 as a member of
our second expedition against nuclear weapons testing in Amchitka,
and went on to participate in actions against whaling and the
killing of harp seals. He was an influential early member but not,
as he sometimes claims, a founder.
He was expelled from the leadership of Greenpeace in 1977 by a
vote of 11 to one (only Watson himself voted against it).
Bob Hunter (one of Greenpeace's early leaders, after whom a Sea
Shepherd vessel was named) described the event in his book, the
'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."
Confusion: Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd
Watson founded his own group, Sea Shepherd, in 1977.
- in 1986, Sea Shepherd carried out an action against the
Icelandic whaling station in Hvalfjoerdur and sank two Icelandic
whaling vessels in Reykjavik harbor by opening their sea
- in December 1992, Sea Shepherd sank the vessel Nybroena
- Sea Shepherd claimed to have sank the Taiwanese drift net ship
Jiang Hai in port in Taiwan and to have rammed and disabled
four other Asian drift net ships;
- a Canadian court ordered Watson and his former ship, the
Cleveland Armory, to pay a total of $35,000 for ramming a
Cuban fishing vessel off the coast of Newfoundland in June
- in January 1994 the group severely damaged the whaling ship
Senet in the Norwegian port of Gressvik.
Each of the whaling ships noted above was refloated and refitted
for continued whaling.
In a 2008 article in the New Yorker, Watson claims
that Sea Shepherd has sunk ten ships since its founding, but the
author of the article notes, with some skepticism, that she was
unable to verify that number.
Paul Watson's and Sea Shepherd's actions have sometimes been
wrongly attributed to Greenpeace, often in an attempt by others to
damage Greenpeace's reputation for non-violence.
Greenpeace has never sunk a whaling
Some anti-environmentalists try to use the fact that an extreme
minority in the environmental movement resorts to force and
sabotage to brand the movement as a whole as "terrorist." One such
attempt has been specifically condemned by a Norwegian court. 
In 1991, we had an agreement with Sea Shepherd that we would
refrain from public criticism of one another. Today, many of Sea
Shepherd's fundraising communications and Paul Watson's public
communications are filled with attacks on Greenpeace, our methods,
our activists, and our supporters. They are often peppered with
inaccuracies and outright untruths. Paul Watson is still fighting a
one-sided battle that was over for Greenpeace in 1977.
In most cases, we simply don't respond to Paul Watson's
criticism. While we don't agree with Sea Shepherd's methods, we
also know that stories of divisiveness within the ranks of
environmental groups distract from the real issues which unite us,
and we prefer that when the media writes about whaling, they write
about the real issues. Although Paul Watson is a vehement
anti-whaling activist, he regularly lends his support to attacks on
Greenpeace -- some of them organized by the whalers themselves.
Our committment to non-violence: why we don't cooperate
Paul Watson has made many public requests for Greenpeace to
reveal the location of the whaling fleet or otherwise cooperate
with Sea Shepherd in the Southern Ocean when the ships of both
organizations have been there simultaneously.
We passionately want to stop whaling, and will do so peacefully.
That's why we won't help Sea Shepherd. Greenpeace is committed to
non-violence and we'll never, ever, change that; not for anything.
If we helped Sea Shepherd to find the whaling fleet we'd be
responsible for anything they did having got that information, and
history shows that they've used violence in the past, in the most
dangerous seas on Earth. For us, non-violence is a non-negotiable,
precious principle. Greenpeace will continue to act to defend the
whales, but will never attack or endanger the whalers.
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
butryic 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
In addition to being morally wrong, we believe the use of
violence in protection of whales to be a tactical error. If there's
one way to harden Japanese public opinion and ensure whaling
continues, it's to use violent tactics against their fleet. It's
wrong because it puts human lives at risk, and it's wrong because
it makes the whalers stronger in Japan.
We work with many other groups whose methods differ from ours,
and we know the power of cooperation among groups with a common
objective but diverse ways of working. For decades, we have had
productive working relationships with the Worldwide Fund for
Nature, Friends of the Earth, International Fund for Animal
Welfare, Sierra Club, Environmental Investigative Agency, and a
host of other groups dedicated to whale conservation. We would
only be willing to cooperate with Sea Shepherd under the condition
that it would not facilitate endangering human life.
To give one example, in 2005/2006, Sea Shepherd attempted to
snarl the propeller of the Nisshin Maru with a rope and
cable, as reported on their own website:
Two of our three zodiacs were equipped
with devices we had made to foul their propeller; basically two
buoys connected with steel cable and rope that we would place in
front of their ship in hopes that the Maru would run it over, it
would pass underneath their hull and into their propeller at the
stern of their ship causing their ship to slow down dramatically or
be stopped completely. The Maru was running at full speed away from
the Farley. Both zodiacs deployed their devices repeatedly. None
seemed to work against the goliath Nisshin Maru ship...
Running out of options and having lost both of our propeller
fouling devices, all hope seemed lost of slowing the Maru...
Disabling a ship at sea in the Antarctic, regardless of how much
one may object to its activities, is not only a callous act of
disregard for human life -- it's courting an environmental disaster
in one of the most fragile environments in the world.
Such tactics are not only dangerous to the whalers, they are
dangerous to the cause of stopping Japanese whaling. Our political
analysis is unequivocal: if Japanese whaling is to be stopped, it
will be stopped by a domestic decision within the Japanese
government to do so. That's why we have invested heavily in a
Greenpeace office in Japan and efforts to speak directly to the
Japanese public -- 70 percent of whom are unaware that whaling
takes place in the Southern Ocean at all. A majority of those who
are aware of the whaling program, oppose it. Support for whaling
in Japan has been steadily falling for the last decade. Consumption
of whale meat is in decline, the cost of the program to taxpayers
is being questioned by the business community, and the political
costs of the program have created opposition in the Foreign Affairs
department in Japan. All of this progress could be undone by a
nationalist backlash. By making it easy to paint anti-whaling
forces as dangerous, piratical terrorists, Sea Shepherd could
undermine the forces within Japan which could actually bring
whaling to an end.
A few facts
We've got fairly thick skins here at Greenpeace. When you
challenge powerful forces, you need to be ready to put up with
accusations of ulterior motives and hidden agendas. What's
unfortunate is when we have to spend time countering friendly fire
-- attacks by an organization that shares the same goals as we do.
We don't mind robust disagreements, but we do object to
As the New Yorker article on Paul Watson noted, in
his book "Earthforce!":
Watson advises readers to make up facts and figures
when they need to, and to deliver them to reporters confidently,
"as Ronald Reagan did."
Paul Watson has claimed that Greenpeace goes to the Antarctic
merely to film whales being killed, to wave banners and to bear
witness to their deaths -- but does nothing to save them.
This is untrue.
Greenpeace saves whales
Greenpeace has directly saved the lives of countless whales over
more than three decades by maneuvering our boats between the
harpoon and the whale. Many of us have risked our lives in those
actions from Iceland to the Antarctic. But, while we consider it
acceptable to risk our own lives for the whales, we don't believe
in risking anyone else's.
In 2006, a harpoon was fired over one of our inflatables and the
line fell on the boat, pulling one crew member into the freezing
waters of the Antarctic. According to records kept by the whalers
(we were too busy to keep records), we interfered with them 26
times in 2006. Shortly after sighting us, the whalers departed at
high speed -- their own records show they lost nine days of hunting
due to interference with their operations. The whalers rammed our
ships twice, hit one of our crew members with a metal pole, and
used a high-powered water cannon against us. Despite this, they
came in 82 whales short of their quota. In 2008, the whalers ran
from us for 14 consecutive days, days that were lost to them for
hunting. Since they need to catch an average of around 9-10 whales
a day to make their self-appointed quota, this action alone saved
the lives of over 100 whales.
Greenpeace works to save whales around the world, all year
round, and with a variety of tactics.
Along with the Worldwide Fund for Nature, we were the primary
advocates that created public pressure for the moratorium on
commercial whaling which was agreed in 1982. That single piece of
work has saved the lives of tens of thousands of whales and ended
the whaling programs of the Soviet Union, Brazil, Peru, Chile, and
We have undertaken political work to maintain support for the
moratorium on commercial whaling and counter Japanese vote-buying
schemes. There have been years in which the conservation majority
in the International Whaling Commission has hung by a thread, in
one case by a single vote. By lobbying conservation-minded
countries to join the International Whaling Commission and
successfully pressuring countries like Denmark to change their
policies toward conservation, our millions of supporters and
activists have worked quietly behind the scenes to save whales.
Working in Japan to stop whaling
Greenpeace has had an office in Japan since 1989. As a result
of hard, steady work over the years we have succeeded in making
whaling a subject of domestic debate in Japan where none has
existed before. We've brought Japanese celebrities, musicians, and
artists to speak out against whaling, exposed taxpayer-sponsored
promotional efforts by the Japanese government -- by exposing waste
and corruption in the bureaucracy that supports whaling, we've
generated criticism of whaling in some of Japan's largest
newspapers, and articles in the business press asking whether Japan
should end its whaling program.
On May 15, 2008, Greenpeace Japan used undercover investigators
and the testimony of informers to expose that large amounts of
prime cut whale meat were being smuggled from the whaling ship
Nisshin Maru disguised as personal baggage, labeled
"cardboard" or "salted stuff" and addressed to the private homes of
crewmembers. Greenpeace activists Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki
intercepted one box out of four sent to one address, discovered it
contained whale meat valued at up to US$3,000, and took it to the
Tokyo public prosecutor.
Their public press conference drew national attention in Japan,
and a promise by the public prosecutor to "fully investigate" the
Instead, Junichi and Toru were arrested for stealing the box of
whale meat, and the scandal investigation was dropped by the Tokyo
public prosecutor's office the same day; it was clear that the two
events were connected, just as it is clear that both were
politically motivated. Although Junichi and Toru had provided full
cooperation to the police, it took some five weeks to make the
arrests, and when they did, more than 40 officers raided the
Greenpeace Japan office, with the media tipped off by police
beforehand. The Greenpeace activists learned of their imminent
arrest from the TV news the same day the embezzlement case was
The two activists now face up to ten years imprisonment. We
consider them political prisoners, and believe that powerful forces
have instrumented a crackdown aimed at discrediting Greenpeace in
Japanese society. This means we've hit a nerve. We intend to put
all our efforts into turning the tables, and putting the whaling
interests on trial in the court of public opinion in Japan. We see
the reaction of whaling interests as conforming perfectly to the
way the most successful Greenpeace campaigns play out: "First they
ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you. Then you
Greenpeace has too much money?
Watson likes to paint a picture of Greenpeace as enjoying vast
riches, but in fact Greenpeace accepts no money from governments or
corporations, and our resources are minuscule compared to the task
before us. We rely almost entirely on the donations of nearly 3
million people worldwide, and we spend those hard-earned donations
in ways that win campaigns for the environment.
To put our budget in perspective, in 2007 Exxon-Mobil generated
more revenue in less than six hours than Greenpeace raised
worldwide from its supporters for the entire year. Our annual
donations are less than the value of seven days of the global value
of the illegal forest industry, or three days of the subsidies to
the global fisheries industry. The nuclear industry spends more
money in advertising than Greenpeace International's entire
The full breakdown of what we raise, what we spend, and what we
spend it on is released every year in our Annual
Most importantly, Greenpeace gets results. In the three decades
since our founding, we have combined our unique brand of
non-violent direct action with political lobbying, scientific
research, and public mobilization to bring an end to nuclear
weapons testing, stop the dumping of hazardous waste at sea, secure
the moratorium on commercial whaling, and win dozens
of other significant steps toward our ultimate goal of a green and
peaceful future for our planet.
Paul Watson is welcome to express his opinions about Greenpeace
-- as a more progressive environmental organization, we have a wide
spectrum of detractors, and we welcome fair criticism. But, we
expect fair debate to be based in fact, not falsehoods.
 New York Times, November 10, 1986:
Militants sink two of Iceland's Whaling Vessels
 Reuters, 3 June 1994: Norway
Sentences Anti-Whaling Activists
 Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
fact sheet, Econet, spring 1994
 Sea Shepherd Media Release, April 12,
 Sea Shepherd Media Release, January
 Examples: Sea Shepherd Media Release,
April 25, 1994; Sea Shepherd Log, Second Quarter 1993
 Greenpeace Norge v. Magnus
Gudmundsson and Anor, Oslo, March 17-March 21, 1992
 In "The Man in the Rainbow" Watson
appeared alongside representatives of the pro-whaling High North
Alliance and the anti-environmental Wise Use movement to condemn
Greenpeace and cast aspersions on the entire environmental
community. The film was deemed libellous by a German court.