Captain Paul Watson is a marine wildlife conservation and environmental activist and the founder of the Capital Paul Watson Foundation. He was also one of the founding members and directors of Greenpeace, one of the most recognized conservation organizations in the world. In 1977, he left Greenpeace and founded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
Captain Watson has spent over 50 years at sea fighting illegal operations intent upon destruction and death, impacting all species in the sea from phytoplankton to Great Whales. He has shut down hundreds of illegal activities around the planet, saving hundreds of thousands of lives.
Captain Watson has never changed his outlook, dedication, courage, and imaginative thinking toward grinding effective solutions for the seemingly impossible problem of how we defend and protect life in the sea.
He is arguably the most prolific and successful marine life conservationist of our time. Listen in for some great takeaways about Captain Waton’s journey as a marine wildlife and environmental activist and his mission to make the world a better place.
You will want to hear this episode if you are interested in…
- Learn more about Captain Paul Watson and his mission [4:02]
- Why Captain Watson was motivated to co-found Greenpeace [4:39]
- Why Captain Watson founded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society [6:01]
- Sea Shepherd has become a decentralized global movement [8:54]
- Captain Watson’s experience looking into the eyes of a whale [10:31]
- How the TV show “Whale Wars” is cultivating awareness [15:15]
- Using aggressive non-violence to save countless endangered species [16:55]
- Why Captain Watson prefers not to work with governments [21:00]
- The mission of the Captain Paul Watson Foundation [25:25]
- Why is a healthy ocean so critical for the survival of this planet? [26:54]
- The companies that actually support ESG and climate initiatives [30:42]
- What Captain Watson has learned from decades in conservation [32:19]
- How you can get involved in Captain Watson’s mission to save the planet [33:53]
- What Captain Watson did today that put him in the mindset for success [35:52]
Why Captain Watson was motivated to co-found Greenpeace
Greenpeace began with the detonation of a five-megaton nuclear device under Amchitka island in Alaska. Captain Watson was concerned that it would cause more earthquakes and tsunamis in Alaska. He joined forces with multiple groups to create the “Don’t Make a Wave” committee. They decided to get a ship and sail to Amchitka island to protest what was happening. They named the ship, “Greenpeace.”
The approach was to focus the media on these events to bring attention to what was happening to spur change. Though they weren’t able to stop the nuclear testing in 1971, there were no further tests after that because of the negative publicity that was generated.
Why Captain Watson founded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
Captain Watson was the first officer on all of the voyages to protect whales. He confronted the Soviet Whaling Fleet in the North Pacific. They were hanging banners, taking pictures, etc. but were unable to stop them.
Captain Watson founded Sea Shepherd to directly intervene and stop the atrocities they were facing. He founded it on the philosophy of “Aggressive non-violence.” Ultimately, they would never hurt anyone. But they needed to take action. He didn’t think it would be improper to damage equipment being used to illegally kill whales and seals.
He was the leader of the Seal Campaign in 1977. A sailor was about to kill a seal with a club and Captain Watson took it from his hand and threw it in the water. He was reprimanded by the Greenpeace board for “theft and vandalism.” But he saved the life of a seal. If he had to do it again, he would. So they parted ways.
Listen to hear some of the incredible feats this organization has accomplished since its inception.
Captain Watson’s experience looking into the eyes of a whale
In June 1975, Captain Watson was chasing the Soviet Whaling Fleet in the Pacific. Captain Watson and Bob Hunter were in a small inflatable boat in between a harpoon vessel and eight sperm whales. Every time the harpooner tried to shoot, Captain Watson would maneuver his boat to block the shot.
Sadly, the harpooner eventually hit a whale and Captain Watson heard her scream in pain. That’s when the largest whale in the pod rose out of the water, dove under his boat, and rammed the Soviet Vessel to protect his pod. But the harpooner was prepared and hit the whale point-blank in the head.
The whale looked at Captain Watson and their eyes met. He dove into the water and swam toward the Captain. When he came up out of the water, the Captain looked into his eye and knew that the whale understood that he was trying to protect them. Captain Watson also saw a feeling of pity that we could take life so thoughtlessly, and for what? The Soviets killed whales to create missiles.
What Captain Watson has learned from decades in conservation
For thousands of years, we’ve cultivated the view that humans are the only species that matter. Captain Watson believes that will be our undoing. He points out that everything is connected. We have to learn to live in harmony with other species or we will go extinct.
For example, since the 1950s, phytoplankton in the oceans has decreased by 40%. Phytoplankton produces up to 70% of the world’s oxygen. It’s being diminished because whales, dolphins, and seabirds are being killed.
How you can get involved in Captain Watson’s mission to save the planet
How can you use your skills and abilities to address a problem? One individual can make an incredible difference. Because of Diane Fossey, Mountain Gorillas still exist in Rwanda. Because of David Wingate, the Bermuda Petrel didn’t go extinct.
Captain Watson emphasizes that one person focusing on a particular species can make all the difference in the world. You just need to have the passion, the courage, and the imagination to challenge it. Captain Watsons likes to say, “The solution to an impossible problem is to find the impossible answer.”
The Captain Paul Watson Foundation seeks to continue enforcing international law on the high seas against illegal operations. The goal is to be an effective small group that targets specific issues and sees them through. His foundation is always looking for volunteers on ships and land. Learn more about his mission in this episode of Mitlin Money Mindset™!
Resources & People Mentioned
Connect with Captain Paul Watson
Captain Paul Watson is a marine wildlife conservation and environmental activist. Watson was one of the founding members and directors of Greenpeace. In 1977, he left Greenpeace and founded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
A renowned speaker, accomplished author, master mariner, and lifelong environmentalist, Captain Watson has been awarded many honors for his dedication to the oceans and to the planet.
Among many commendations for his work, he received the Genesis Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1998, was named as one of the Top 20 Environmental Heroes of the 20th Century by Time Magazine in 2000 and was inducted into the U.S. Animal Rights Hall of Fame in Washington D.C. in 2002. He was also awarded the Amazon Peace Prize by the president of Ecuador in 2007.
In 2012, Captain Watson became only the second person, after Captain Jacques Cousteau, to be awarded the Jules Verne Award, dedicated to environmentalists and adventurers. In 2022, Captain Paul Watson continues his fight for marine wildlife conservation with the new Captain Paul Watson Foundation.
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