Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sea Shepherd Fiji and Conservation Carpetbagging?

The conservation world became alerted to "something odd" in the shark conservation space a few weeks ago when the island nation of Fiji posted this warning about Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

What was particularly interesting about this open letter to the world was Fiji's recognition that Sea Shepherd as an organization had become more of a conservation parody of itself over the past decade with it's homespun reality tv shows and media stunts, and less an actual force for real and lasting conservation change.

Fiji's open letter was the first look behind the Green Curtain for Sea Shepherd, revealing for the first time by a sovereign nation a bloated conservation media machine run by kool aid drinking drones who seek fame in the conservation space as the new Conservation Kardashians.

We wrote a satirical post about this last week.

Case in point Sea Shepherds abject failures to stop sealing in Canada after 30 years of media circus, whaling in Antarctica, Bluefin Tuna harvests, or even propose and foster any manner of metrics based conservation efforts that leave behind lasting change for wildlife.

In fact metrics based conservation, the kind of lasting hard work in one area to see that conservation is done right is not in Sea Shepherds DNA. They are spectacle makers first and foremost choosing the easy conservation route of shifting conservation baselines, and "awareness for conservation."

By now, and thanks to the hard work of tens of thousands of people the world over who have never sought the limelight, people are fully "aware" that sharks are in trouble.

For the past decade and lead by some true innovators in the region Fiji has created several admirable boots on the ground programs that have made real and lasting differences to the lives of sharks and these amazing programs continue to this day.

What's a stake in Fiji is a new Sea Shepherd reality tv show that looks very much like Sea Shepherds other reality tv shows that offer hype, broken vessels, and a particularly nauseating brand of "personality cult for species" that is looking to carpetbag its way into Fiji for a quick media pump and dump.

Conservation Carpetbagging is not new, but it has been perfected by Sea Shepherd.

The Academy Award winning movie The Cove was subsumed by Sea Shepherd in an orgy of bad taste and poor media judgement. It was Conservation Carpetbagging at its finest and a clear indication of Sea Shepherds willingness to take any effort done by others and make it their own for the clear purpose of draining conservation dollars into Sea Shepherd coffers.

Hence the grave concern being directed at the new Fijian shark effort by Sea Shepherd and it's clones.

The shark world does not need another personality cult and sharks could care less if these hackneyed media seekers would "die for sharks."

In fact to even publicly state this, to put yourself in a media situation that you know is completely false from the get go is to let down the animals you profess to care so deeply about. It is the poorest choice of words for animals that need change, not hype and more "awareness."

Sadly the issue of this new programs involvement in Fijian waters has not been resolved even with the recent letter by the Fijian Government to the rest of the world. As it turns out instead of moving on to other Pacific islands could in fact use help for sharks Sea Shepherd is trying to back channel their way back into the region and into work done by others.

For readers of this blog you'll note we broke with Sea Shepherd the year Paul Watson faked his own assassination for season one of Whale Wars. It was an eye opening moment that should have shocked others in the conservation space to their core.

It did for some.

For others it opened their eyes and desires to become Conservation Rock Stars. The reality that you could bald face lie to millions on television and then be invited to swanky Hollywood cocktail parties to feast on $75.00 sustainable appetizers served to you by out of work actors whilst being feted by big dollar donors who admired your latest brush with death for wildlife.

Sharks don't need this. Sharks need actual help.

Reality tv shows that are designed to callously suck up conservation dollars in return for media spectacle and personality cult offering "awareness" are as damaging to sharks as the fishing fleets that target them, because those on the actual front lines with real solutions need those dollars more than ever.

Food for thought.


About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at sharkcrew@gmail.com.

12 comments:

Felix Leander said...

Good post - letter from Fiji is short and sweet, right to the point. Could not be any clearer.

Anonymous said...

Good piece. My only quibble is that you seem to think Sea Shepherd has fallen from some sort of honourable position to its current bloated state. This is untrue. Sea She[herd ahs never been more than it is now. The tactics Watson uses now he perfected on the backs of Canadian sealers nearly four decades ago. He's just been getting more media savvy as his career has matured.

Shark Diver said...

Has it been almost 40 years?

I guess it has and China recently bought the entire 2012 and 13 Canadian seal harvest.

After losing almost 5 million in donor money and with seals still being harvested I assume "The Watson" is going for the fresher conservation fields of sharks because it's a ripe donor flow ready to be harvested.

God help the sharks.

Ski said...

I would like to see all of your evidence on what you call "His Assisation attempt"....

Shark Diver said...

Well Ski there's the half assed video Sea Shepherd put out to start with, have you seen it?.

I hear tell it's used as a source of great amusement in places like Afghanistan by actual vets who have seen what real live bullets do to a person even as portly as Paul Watson.

Suffice to say when even the production company who film these great adventures on the high seas back so far away from that clip as to seem like the aggrieved wife standing next to the Republican whose explaining to the media why he was in an airport bathroom making "hand gestures" in the first place.

You kinda just intuit that entire clip was Grade A Bullshit.

Oh, and I do a lot of film and tv, the industry buzz backs me up 100%

Watson and his cronies make that whole thing up in a desperate gamble to secure season two of Whale Wars.

It worked, pathetic as it was.

It also rewrote the book on just how much BS the average public like you SKI will merrily swallow before you begin to even suspect you have been had.

But don;t take my word for it, dig a bit deeper into life.

DaShark said...

Bull's eye!

But, let this not detract from the role of Ms Andersen!

To cite Larry King in the South Park episode: may this be nothing more than one more Media Whore trying to make a splash on TV?

Honi soit qui pal y pense!

Shark Diver said...

Yeah Juile Anderson, my god I had high hopes there with the SA Shark Nets.

Another Sea Shepherd moment, raise hopes with grand pronouncements and then slink away in the dark of night for greener fields.

After the pizza box w lipstick and the flashy psa's I had hoped at least one net might have been taken down.

Oh well she's out saving Fijis sharks now mate, excited yet?

OfficetoOcean said...

Gonna be a tidal wave of "fins down" for all you heretics you know...

No Sea Shepherd No Shark Angels No Awareness No Fins No Sharks No Ocean No Oxygen No Future >---l-v)>

Shark Diver said...

Who are you calling a Heretic?

Oh yeah...

Proud to be the small boy calling out that the Fat Emperor has, in fact, been walking around for the past 40 years with no clothes.

Seriously w/o push back this is the future of shark conservation.

Julies new show, if it ever airs, will just create legions of others who want their own 2 seconds of fame in lieu of actually helping animals over the long haul.

How she or any other SSCS member can honestly look in the mirror with a 25 year rack record of NOT saving seals in Canada and think for a second that what they are doing is anything but high handed fluff is beyond me.

Honesty. That's what's missing.

If you really cared for the environment and you were really ready to "die for sharks," then get dirty and go plant a coastal mangrove forest for sharks.

It's hot, dirty, miserable work but it actually helps sharks and entire eco systems.

No, much easier to flounce around in designer wetsuits with side marketing deals and wag imperialist fingers at street vendors selling shark meat for 15 cents a kilo while the cameras are running.

Then it's off to another place to raise awareness. Leaving that fishermen to resume the killing of sharks and the selling of fins and shark meat.

I said it before and will say it again - god help the sharks from this latest wave of media hounds.

OfficetoOcean said...

By the way, a magnificent post again, I couldn't agree more :)

El-Gee said...

I actually, for one, dont agree with you all. I think you make valid points in most of what you say, but I believe you express too much anger and use the failures (canadian sealing) and the mistakes (the ridiculous fake assassination attempt) to one-way-ify your criticism.

Whereas I do subscribe to your criticism, I think SSCS has been able to raise awareness to conversation issues in a way that no one else can. By this, I mean they were able to reach the masses, thereby influencing the masses. And it is also the masses (NOT only the professional conservationists such as yourselves) that move the World, because the masses and the public opinion vote, and by voting matter to Governments, and by mattering influence. I am therefore fully convinced that SSCS mediatization has a positive effect in at the very least raising awareness. IF, as you say, they do it for profit, or if, as I believe, they do it because they believe their cause, is - frankly - less important.

Furthermore, it is falacious to assume that the "big dollars" earned with reality shows are to enrich SSCS' owners. So what if a conservation society makes big bucks? Is it not how they grow? How could they buy more ships without the money? I wish all conservationists were rich, aside from being morally sound and committed! Can you imagine how much we could do with more money??

The almost socialistic view that conservation needs to be led by poor-thing sandalled old-bread-munching activists is falacious in that it stereotypes the "what should we be like" instead of focusing the discussion on "what is our goal"; we have a common goal, and whoever has more money to achieve stands, all else equal, higher chances, so bring on the money to SSCS or whoever else flies the wildlife conservation flag.

Secondly, I'd like to add that, in my view, SSCS has been a fearless, fierce, and vanguardistic fighter of whaling. I totally and entirely understand that sustainable anti-whaling and frameworks are done at political and academic level, sustained by solid research and sustained lobbying at the appropriate instances (Governments, IWC, etc), BUT the fact is that SSCS's radical approach of sending boats out to actually physically stop whaling, is, in my view, a welcome ADDITION (not replacement) not the blue-collar measures currently being exercised by anti-whaling nations in the IWC and the UN. It is quite hypocritical, if one is "a friend of wildlife" as you are and I am, to oppose someone who actually physically opposes illegal whaling cynically disguised as "research" (!). One may, at this point, rightly question the legality of SSCS's methods, but is there anyhting really morally shocking with fighting criminals with equally illegal practices? Food for thought.

Finally, I'd like to add that SSCS's insuccess with whaling in Canada may be a failure for them, but I fail to see why that puts them in question as an organizations. Organizations fail here and succeed there, and SSCS have had some successes as well.

SSCS is not the best in the World, and has its faults. As an organization, it clashes deeply with the current stereotype of the Conservationist figure. But such anger is, in my opinion, underserved.

Luis Guimaraes
Lisbon, Portugal

Shark Diver said...

Hi Luis,

Actually one of the better responses from the SSCS fan base.

Thanks for the post it resonates to a point and was far more interesting than the somewhat wild garbage can tin hat rantings others attempted here.

We agree to disagree.

I think if you reel back this conversation to the fundamentals you come to this.

1. When SSCS as an org fakes an assassination and no one calls them on it internally or on the conservation donor side something is wrong.

2. When SSCS then exports this lie as "gospel fact" to millions of viewers and to the mainstream media something is wrong.

3. To fund this internal deceit and global mismanagement of conservation sanctifies this egregious behavior.

In short while you say Paul Watson is raising awareness and makes mistakes, I say Paul Watson and his org is raising media spectacles and false hopes for real and lasting change.

Luis, people are "aware" that whales are being killed, people are "aware" that seals are being culled, people are "aware" that bluefin tuna is being harvested.

What SSCS does is to package their particular brand of "awareness" in a Cirque du Soleil of lies, fabrications, media distortions and fantasy...when the actual facts and the real conservation issues are already quite horrific enough.

What kind of self absorbed emotionally deficient human being(s) in the middle of a gory blood soaked whaling scene would direct attention to themselves with a faked assassination attempt?

Let that thought marinate for a moment.

At the exact time and space Japan was targeting whales with explosive tipped harpoons Paul Watson and his team were dreaming up a way to gain attention to themselves.

For me it blew open the doors to what has become status quo for SSCS and those who emulate them.

It was a rude awakening.

If you are OK with that then god bless you.

But let's speak again in another 20 years when we're all watching Whale Wars Season 1225 and perhaps then you have lifted your own veil on the deceit and begun your own journey into what constitutes real and lasting conservation change.