Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Paul Watson and the sinking of the "Ady Gil"

There are a lot of conservation organizations out there, all looking to raise money for their causes. It's rare that you see a call to sign a petition etc. that is not automatically asking you for money, after you signed it. There is nothing inherently wrong with asking for money, because there are cost involved with saving the oceans. With some groups however, making money seems to be the main purpose, regardless of who, or what they hurt in the process. Take the following example.

In 2010 the "Ady Gil", a small vessel operated by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society  collided with the Japanese whaling ship "Shonan Maru 2" and sank some time later. "SSCS" has always claimed that the collision damage inflicted on the "Ady Gil" is what caused her to sink and maintained that the Japanese intentionally rammed their vessel.

There is video evidence that the collision itself was actually caused by the captain of the "Ady Gil", by accelerating into the path of the "Shonan Maru 2" at the last moment. In this video, you can see that the "Ady Gil" is stopped in the water and a little before the collision there is whitewater behind the vessel, a sign that it engaged the props and accelerated forward, right into the path of the Japanese ship. 

This video has led some people to accuse SCCS of intentionally causing this accident to create publicity for their "Whale Wars" TV show and to raise money from their supporters. I'm not accusing the captain of the "Ady Gil" of trying to intentionally ram the Japanese ship. While I think it's more likely that he wanted to cut right in front of it to get some dramatic TV footage and simply miscalculated, the claim that SSCS created this whole event gained some credibility, when in the aftermath of the sinking, Pete Bethune, the captain of the "Ady Gil" came out and stated that he deliberately sank the vessel on the orders of Paul Watson.

Sea Shepherd maintained that the "Ady Gil" sank because of the damage it sustained during the collision and that they made every effort to save it.  In reply to Bethune's admission, the SSCS released this statement by Watson. In part it read: "So why has Bethune decided to make such an accusation to the media and the public that I ordered him to sink the Ady Gil?

The answer is obvious. I fired him the day before for providing false statements to the Japanese police. He then threatened to make this allegation against me if I did not reinstate him. I refused. In fact, I sent Bethune’s threats to the media before he released them."

After hearing Bethune's confession, Ady Gil, a person who donated 1 Million $ to the SSCS and who the boat was named after, ended up suing them for the loss of the vessel. After years of back and forth, last September, the arbitrator in this case issued finally issued a ruling that now became public.

The ruling includes a scathing assessment of Paul Watson: "The Arbitrator found Mr. Watson’s testimony regarding certain events to be highly evasive, internally contradictory, or at odds with his own prior written statements, and in certain areas simply lacking the basic indicia of genuineness that instinctively inspires confidence and trust"

So now we know that Paul Watson ordered the deliberate sinking of the "Ady Gil"

A couple of days ago, Chuck Swift, former captain of the Sea Shepherd vessel "Bob Barker" also came out and admitted publicly that the "Ady Gil" was intentionally sunk and issued a public apology on Facebook, for his role in it. 

YES. I, along with Pete Bethune and Luke VanHorn, did board the vessel Ady Gil and intentionally scuttled it. We sank the vessel Ady Gil and lied to everyone inside and outside of SSCS to cover that truth. You can read his entire statement here

Why was it so important to Paul Watson to sink the "Ady Gil"? Before acceding to Mr. Watson’s demands, (to deliberately scuttle the vessel) Mr. Swift recalls that he asked Mr. Watson, “Why is this so important to you?”, and Mr. Watson responded, “Our audience needs closure.”  I guess this illustrates  where Paul Watson's priorities are. Entertaining his audience is more important than what he claims to care about. Of course Watson had no qualms about the fact that the "closure" he provided to his TV audience was a blatant lie and he didn't hesitate to use that lie to raise money.  

From the ruling: Of course, whatever the rationale for deceiving the viewing public (which might be presumed to understand that “reality shows” do not actually reflect reality)  

Here are some excerpts from the arbitrators ruling, that offer insight into the reasons the SSCS wanted to scuttle the "Ady Gil" and how "real" "whale wars" really is.

the evidence suggests that the Ady Gil was unlikely to sink for any appreciable period of time, notwithstanding the damage she incurred from the collision with the Japanese fleet  

the crew’s thinking
(to scuttle to Ady Gil) seems to have been directly influenced by the presence of the Animal Planet film crew, which gave SSCS unparalleled public exposure and greatly expanded its fundraising possibilities.  
Certainly, a plodding tow operation to deliver a damaged vessel to shore would not have made for interesting television viewing 

By contrast, the collision of the Shonan Maru #2 with the Ady Gil already had captured unparalleled media attention, with Mr. Watson giving interviews from the Steve Irwin and Pete Bethune taking non-stop media calls on board the Bob Barker. The crew was acutely aware that the sinking of the Ady Gil would create the occasion for more dramatic reality television  

Indeed, Mr. Swift testifies that “during our discussions/arguments leading up to my capitulation to Paul’s order to sink the Ady Gil, he was telling me ... ‘Oh, the media on this would be great.’” 

Paul’s a genius, and he’s a media genius especially. And sometimes he’s open-minded, and sometimes, he’s not. And, when he sets his mind on something he’s like a pit bull getting lock jaw, and I was unable to change his mind, which is why I eventually executed his orders 

As for the scene in "Whale Wars", where Bethune and Swift discussed abandoning the ship: The decision to stage this scene for the cameras was the result of discussions between Mr. Bethune and Mr. Swift, in the presence of the Animal Planet crew: they said we need to just create the scene that makes it look like you were making the decision to abandon the boat. And I knew from Whale War’s perspective, ... the decision to abandon a boat by the captain is a pretty powerful scene. I went along with it
The arbitrator offered this thought. Of course, whatever the rationale for deceiving the viewing public (which might be presumed to understand that “reality shows” do not actually reflect reality), there was no legal or moral justification for deceiving Claimants, the owners of the Ady Gil.

So we know that SSCS and Paul Watson have no problem deceiving their supporters and the viewers of "Whale Wars" who think that the series is an actual documentary. What is interesting to find out is that they equally have no problem with throwing their own employees, donors and volunteers under the bus, blaming them for their own actions.

There are many great organizations working to save the oceans and it's inhabitant and I encourage to support them. Just check them out carefully before you choose which one you want to support. 

Martin Graf
CEO Shark Diver 

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 staff@sharkdiver.com.

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