Monday, November 10, 2008

Whales Wars-Wagging the Conservation Dog

“WHALE WARS is an epic adventure that looks at the consequences of taking a stand on an issue,” declares Marjorie Kaplan, president and general manager of Animal Planet. “It’s so important that WHALE WARS calls Animal Planet its home. It’s truly compelling television, and it’s entertainment with a conservation message infused to its core.”

Perhaps one of the most chilling departures from the entire 40 year global eco movement was this year when Sea Shepherd traded it's last shred of dignity and credibility for the cameras of Animal Planet and thus began Eco-Edutainment Television-where the message and outright fabrication of events have subsumed the horrors of actual whaling. Where dead whales and story lines are traded with advertisements for SUV's and laundry detergent. This is a meeting of eco media and horror that never should have happened and now that it has will change the landscape of the global eco movement for years to come.

Sea Shepherds anti whaling operation last season was one of unrelenting and breathless press release after press release. Sea Shepherd members were "taken hostage" by evil Japanese whalers. Sea Shepherd members were "harassed", titular head of the organization Paul Watson was "shot in the chest".

The fact is none of this actually happened the way it was portrayed and 90% of it was fabricated for Animal Planet's cameras creating for the first time a hybrid media organization that,truth be told, is becoming more horrific than actual whaling. Even Discovery Networks are backing away from Watsons "attempted assassination claim" realising their exposure to it might have a negative blow back for the network.

The question most credible NGO's are asking themselves these days, what is worse? Killing whales for bogus research, or exploiting the killing of whales for television ratings and eco donations from a well meaning and ill informed public?

Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd, like the Republican Party, are out of fresh ideas, and out of a true game plan to stop whaling in the Antarctic. One might even suggest this is not the real agenda here. It is well known that Watson hates, with a passion reserved only for the mentally unbalanced, his fellow anti whaling rivals Greenpeace. By allowing reality television crews and cameras aboard his vessel Watson creates his own reality and 20 million unwitting viewers go along for the ride not knowing events are not as they seem. Worldwide Sea Shepherd has all but painted itself into a corner, with fewer and fewer countries and ports allowing his brand of hysterical eco activism into their waters.

Sea Shepherd has chosen, in lieu of actual action, to Wag the Conservation Dog. Where this goes from here is any ones guess. What other NGO's should be doing right now is taking a hard stance against for profit reality television shows like Whale Wars. In the final summation will this stop whaling? No, sadly it will not.

Will it cause dollars to flow into Sea Shepherds coffers and away from other NGO's who are doing real conservation work? Sadly yes, it will, and that's the true horror of Wagging the Conservation Dog.


Anonymous said...

You're completely right.

Watson's tiresome cannibalizing of the environmental movement for the sin of not being him is one of the worst disservices to whale conservation ever.

His chest-thumping has ALWAYS been fabricated. He claims to be a founder of Greenpeace. He's not.

He claims to have disabled entire whaling fleets by sinking them. But every single whaling ship he has "sunk" has been refloated and refitted for whaling, saving exactly zero whales:

In one memorable episode, he described challenging the Oriental Bluebird "as it was bearing down on the helpless whales." The Oriental Bluebird is the refrigerator ship which transports whale meat -- it has no harpoons, and Watson was miles away from the actual hunt.

In the meantime, he trashes groups like WWF, IFAW, and Greenpeace who have done real work in the poltiical arenas and in Japan.

The man is a pathological liar and an egomaniac. There are dozens of people around the world who have sailed with him and sworn never to do so again.

Anonymous said...

Right on!!

Paul Watson has clearly damaged the entire environmental activist movement in return for boosting is already legendary ego.

Showing his well intentioned, but obviously incompetent, crew flipping and almost destroying an inflatable, using rocket lines because they have no rescue craft, smacking their own helicopter - this is exactly the image groups like RAN, Earth First, Greenpeace and others have worked so hard to avoid.

As far as Watson being shot. As a former soldier I pose this question: Two moving ships, on the one ship a moving target - three mobile factors, add to that wind and temperature, and a marksman hits Watson?? BS!! Notwithstanding that any rifle that could deliver anything close to accuracy at that distance would have left Watson with more than a scratch on his vest.

Thanks for speaking truth to ego!

Horizon Charters Guadalupe Cage Diving said...

Hi Miles,

We read your expose on Sea Shepherds financial situation with great interest. It is as we suspected-they are not what they appear to be.

The real issue here with this television series (they have opted for another year) is the public "Remaking of Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd".

Obviously this is a last ditch gamble for credibility and if you read the first post from "Anonymous" it will work for Sea Shepherd.

Using a mass audience, at least 15 million US viewers, as their re-branding tool is going to have negative repercussions for the entire eco movement.

What Watson and Co are saying to the planet is "media and message is everything, facts mean nothing, do not look behind the Green Curtain".

Meanwhile whales continue to die. You cannot effect change throwing rancid butter at ships. Watson knows this he's a savvy media customer.

His new reality television show is a major departure and sadly many steps down the ladder for quality NGO work. We have gone from investigative exposes to hysterical fabrications and cheap stunts for film crews.

Where Watson and Co will stoop to this season?

Once you begin down the road they are on it gets harder and harder to top yourself.

Notme said...

Hi, I guess I am not as knowledgable as some of these people are. My question is that "Are Whales being saved?" If so, then who cares about the TV Edutainment. I thought it was a really good show. I was all about the fact that someone was actually taking a stand. Someone was doing something other than sitting on the couch watching the show. ( More than I can say about myself) I don't know much about Sea Shepard, Infact I had never heard of them prior to the show, but a small part of me was envious that things were being done while I stay at home being a mom. I don't live anywhere near an ocean, but it's my life. I wish I had the means to pursue my dreams. My dreams follow the sharks conservation more than the whales, but all sea creatures none the less. I am a suburban housewife, that's all, and I don't know much about conservation, but like I said, at least someone is doing something, which is better than nothing, ( IMO)

Thanks for the great blog! keep it up!

Horizon Charters Guadalupe Cage Diving said...

Thanks Holly,

Great post and well said. The issue here is credibility. Are the whales being saved? No, they are not-overall. At best they are part of an ongoing whale lottery, they may not get harvested this season but next season may just be the year.

Sea Shepherd "claims" they saved 500 whales last season, but as we have pointed out they fabricate most of what gets seen by the general public-so who's to know what the real numbers are, and this is not a lasting peace.

Additionally Sea Shepherd puts out press releases like last month, a bogus arrest warrant for the entire Japanese whaling fleet.

These press releases get lots of airtime but they are a side note to reality and another case of Wagging the Conservation Dog.

This is not about saving whales this is about eco media gone amok with little reality to the task at hand...actually saving whales.

Demand more from your NGO's. Results, not reality television, and put your money into eco orgs that have a proven track record not a media clip list.

Anyone can fabricate eco defense news, fabricating it on the backs of dead whales is a tragedy that is Sea Shepherds and Paul Watsons alone.

megan said...

I have to respectfully disagree with you on this on mate. I love Captain Watson and the rest of his staff from the people on the boat to the people in the office. They're wonderful folks. And whether or not you like what he's doing on the tv show, at least he's bringing attention to the whales plight. And that can't be a bad thing. They also helped raise money to fight shark finning which is a cause near and dear to my heart. So I think they're fighting the good fight, no matter how they choose to do it.
and i just found this blog! I'm adding it to my reader. yay sharks!

Horizon Charters Guadalupe Cage Diving said...

Megan thanks for the post. We're sure the folks you have been speaking with are nice folks.

As for shark fining, which is an issue we have been on before it became vogue to do so, we're also glad they are putting whatever pressure they can on the issue.

Let's be clear though.
Sea Shepherd's mandate is not "awareness" it's "action" and there's the distinction.

We're all about awareness here at UT. It costs almost nothing and it's effective:

We would like to see Sea Shepherd meet the mandate they have set for themselves, stop whaling or step aside. Currently their for profit television show is sucking dollars away from other NGO's who are gaining ground and doing great work for the cause.

This is not a one NGO deal, it requires pressure from many "credible sources" not one lone "hysterical source" that has no credibility within the halls of power where it is needed most.

At best S.S will see an influx in donations, at worst the people of Japan's resolve will be strengthened by this television show and the movement will be set back 15 years.

Watson and Sea Shepherd, in a blind rush for t.v ratings and dollars, never consider the broader implications of their actions. For them any ends justify any means and that's just not the world we live in anymore.

dolphin said...

I don't pretend to know the inside workings of the Sea Shepherd group. All I know is what I read and what their results are.

What I care about is whether or not whales are being killed or saved. And whether or not the world is aware of this unncessary killing of these beautiful sentient beings.

I agree that Paul Watson is controversial and I don't agree with many of his tactics. But if the Japanese fleets run from him, when they see him, it, to me anyway, means they know he'll disrupt their killing. And that, IMO, is the ultimate goal.

I write a lot about these things on my own blog too. And like anything, I know there are several sides to a story or situation. But unless we have seen the incidents first hand and in person, all we can do is speculate and formulate our own opinions, right or wrong.

In the end, I support Sea Shepherd and I also support Greenpeace. Two sides of the same coin in which both organizations seemingly have the same goal in mind - saving the whales.



Horizon Charters Guadalupe Cage Diving said...

Thanks Dolphin,

Good point:

"But if the Japanese fleets run from him, when they see him, it, to me anyway, means they know he'll disrupt their killing."

The fact is we do not even know if this is the "whole truth". We're dealing with an org that see fit absolutely fabricate on site situations for it's own ends. The "shot that never happened" for example.

That line you posted came right from a recent Sea Shepherd press release. We do not believe anything they say anymore and that's the sad point. Millions of well meaning dollars are keeping Sea Shepherd in place, for what? More made up news and events?

Once again-demand more from your NGO.If they lie about even the basics they have not earned the public's trust and no amount of time on site "saving the whales" will change that for the better.

dolphin said...

LOL I hadn't even realized I used a direct quote from them. Goes to show I read so much out there it gets blurry sometimes if I'm saying something out of my mouth or someone else's. Thanks for pointing that out :)

I agree that the result of the whalers fleeing from SS could mean a lot of things and not necessarily what SS claims.

But the result "appears" to be that the whaling halts when the SS ship is nearby.

I agree with much of what you said. Well written and excellent points.


Anonymous said...

You are a fool.

You don't know what you're talking about and did not follow the day to day events of the campaign that you so. chastise as though you actually had a fact to go on which you don't.

Paul Watson is a brilliant, compassionate hero. He puts his life on the line every time he goes out to save the whales. He's saved more than you would even be able to count.

What have you ever done to save whales?

Paul Watson has more dignity in his little finger than you could acquire in a thousand lifetimes. You criticize and claim moral superiority over something you know NOTHING about. How dare you.

It was brilliant of Paul to let the cameras film the campaign. Nothing was staged, if you think it was, where is your proof? If you actually had any you would have presented it.

Now millions of people who do not know that Japan is working to exterminate The Great Whales will discover the reprehensible actions of Japan. They will learn what they could never learn in any other way or form. The information is simply not available. Paul has made it available. How wonderful that he is in charge and not you.

This 7 hours are the real deal, as it happened, and people need to see it and learn, and when they get angry enough maybe they will help make it stop.

Furthermore, he can and does stop whaling when his ship is present. He simply keeps the Cetacean Death Star (the Nisshin Maru, factory ship) moving. He tails her and they move away. When they are moving NO WHALES CAN BE BRUTALLY AND HORRIFICALLY SLAUGHTERED.

Why don't you go to the Shepherd web site and start reading the articles from last December when campaign Migaloo began.

Educate yourself before you open your mouth and put your foot in. Before you try to make a mockery of something meaningful, something compassionate and an organization that actually SAVES WHALES AND IS TRYING TO STOP THE KILLING.

Once again I ask, what have YOU done to help stop the Japanese from whaling?

You jerk.

Anonymous said...

Sea Shepherd are not helping whales, they are exacerbating the problem. Every time they clash with the whaling ships in the Antarctic, the Japanese look like the victims, and they spin this for all it's worth at the IWC - "irresponsible NGOs, terrorist organisations" etc. SSCS are gifting the Japanese whalers a bargaining chip to use within the international diplomatic community. Whilst their hearts might be in the right place, and their passion evident, SSCS are sadly out of touch with reality.

Conservation doesn't happen by putting yourself between a harpoon and a whale - although admittedly that is a great way to get publicity. Real conservation happens in international fora - at the IWC, at CITES, within CMS, ACCOBAMS and ASCOBAMS. It's only though negotiation and diplomacy that NGOs can persuade governments and decision-making bodies to lay down new laws that protect wildlife . A £10,000 donation to an NGO that does this kind of work will secure the future of thousands or perhaps millions of whales and dolphins - SSCS would burn through it in a couple of days chasing the Japanese whalers around icebergs, giving just a handful of whales a temporary reprieve.

SSCS are attracting a lot of attention for their antics, and this is diverting funds from the organisations that can really make the difference. The environmental NGO community has come a long, long way in the past 20 years, and we've got inside governments and international fora to a point where we affect REAL change. By tackling the economics of whaling and trade, creating legal frameworks, working with industry and governance - we are making a huge difference to the conservation and welfare of these animals worldwide.

SSCS are alienating and undermining the conservation movement, not helping it. Funders should think long and hard before giving money to SSCS, and question the true value of what they get in return.

Horizon Charters Guadalupe Cage Diving said...

To "Anonymous",

Thanks for posting because you stand as Exhibit A for us and anyone who's curious about Sea Shepherd.

Targeting the "passionate and ill informed consumer" remains a hallmark of Sea Shepherd marketing campaign.

Meanwhile they produce images like the one above, the now infamous "Watson Bullet and Shield". The problem with that image is the bullet he is holding happens to be a bullet from a "pistol" not a "rifle".

Unless the Japanese shot him on his own vessel he made the whole event up and that's where we break company with Sea Shepherd and cast a dim eye towards Discovery Networks for perpetrating this fabrication to millions.

We were once supporters of this org, then bit by bit we realized our hard earned money we were donating to S.S was being misspent on fabricated news and fake or staged events.

You may be passionate about ending the whale hunt as we are, but ask yourself how do want your money spent?

We would rather ours be spent effecting change not "creating news" or "Wagging the Conservation Dog".

Whaling is horrific enough without attempting to use that bloody stage to make yourself into a Whale Jesus by faking gunshots and your own self importance to the cause.

Sadly, Discovery Networks chosen the wrong horse to back in this, and have stepped into an arena that, "for profit", will mis-inform millions to Paul Watson and Sea Shepherds actual effectiveness.

You,"Anonymous" are their target audience to a "T".

Demand more from your NGO. Results first, not media sound bites and "primetime reality television"

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. Honestly, I first saw whale wars after coming back from the bar, and I found it hysterical. I couldn't get enough of these people. Its pure amateur hour watching what these people do on a daily basis...I thought maybe I was still a little buzzed from the bar and was missing something, but after watching it sober it was somehow more hilarious. The part that got me was that these people think they are the cocks of the walk, but they aren't actually DOING anything practical. If they actually wanted to make any progress with saving the whales, they should lobby to change the laws pertaining to whaling in Australia, Japan, wherever applicable. This running around the ocean playing eco-pirates is just nonsense, though makes for great entertainment.

I really hope no one takes these people seriously...If you really care about whales and want to fight the good fight, don't be taken in by this ego-maniac and his delusions. Whale Wars is a joke of a show and shouldn't be taken seriously by anyone.

sigmund said...

I was intrigued and fascinated by the Whale Wars previews on Planet Green, but when I saw the episodes it was easy to see that his antics are staged for dramatic effect. I abhor whale hunting in its entirety, but these episodes make the Japanese whalers seem like the rational party in the confrontations.

Watson is the ringleader to the Sea Shepherds' three ring circus: They capsize their own boat in a practice deployment, they forget to pack radios or even maintain contact with each other when they send out detachments, they risk their lives in sophomoric attacks launching packs of rancid butter, they intentionally ram Japanese whaling boats in international waters then accuse the whalers of agression, and they forcefully board a sovereign vessel in international waters and claim the Japanese whalers are holding hostages when the unauthorized intruders are briefly detained.

Watson is a media whore egomaniac bordering on eco terrorist. His curious use of the word "Japanese" when he should say "Japanese whalers" is also indicative of serious character flaw which is counterproductive to any anti-whaling cause.

After watching a few episodes, I almost feel sorry for the whalers for having to put up with this media pandering zealot. The saddest thing here is that his showboating will divert much needed resources away from more effective efforts. If we want to do away with commercial whaling once and for all, stricter anti-whaling legislation must be sought. Pelting whaling industry employees with butyric acid and launching "non-violent" acts of piracy on the high seas will only shift focus away from the efforts towards more permanent solutions to the travesty of whaling.

Horizon Charters Guadalupe Cage Diving said...

Amen Sigmund.

Anonymous said...

I just wantted to point out one key fact that makes these sea shepards completely moronic.....The way they save whales is basically poison/taint all the whale meat...But if u think about it...thats just gonna make the japanese have to fish TWICE AS MUCH WHALE....Im just saying, if the whale is already dead, why ruin all the meat for no reason..STARVING PEOPLE WORLD WIDE...and they are destroying how many pounds of meat?

Anonymous said...

I have seen the show. I at times think they are a bit confused about what they want to do. Do they want to launch peaceful protest? To they want to increase awareness? Do they want to stop the whaling boats at any cost?

If your aim is to increase awareness, you follow, film, and use PR. You then take any aggressive action by the whalers to spin your tale. If your aim is to harass (which essentially accomplishes nothing) then launch your stink bombs, but don't risk lives by ramming. If your goal is to stop them at any cost then you need to do MORE than ramming. Accept the fact that you are willing to risk lives and put yourselves at risk and on the wrong side of the law, and bring out some serious tools to do the job, taking and scuttling the whaling vessels.

It comes down to how badly you want to stop them and what steps you are willing to take. Sometimes in life the correct moral thing to do is break and injust law to protect that which you desire. Is this one of those cases? I have no idea, as I don't know many of the facts surrounding the issue, and neither side seems to be telling the whole truth. I think the SS is caught between wanting to engage in various levels of what to do, and can't make up their minds. They would be MUCH more effective if they picked one goal and went about it as professionally as possible. Collecting data and increasing awareness COULD be very effective. Scuttling their ships is illegal and very dangerous, but would perhaps cost them more than they can afford, and might force them to stop, but you would risk death or lengthy incarcerations in a foreign prison. I wouldn't do it!

James said...

One of the things Paul Watson does well is bring awareness. Hey, look! Whales are being slaughter! Bad Japanese, bad!

His way about going about it... Not so helpful.

Now I applaud the man for being willing to do what he does and go as far as he does, but in the end it hurts more than it helps.

The best way, I feel, to stop the whalers is to make it unprofitable to go whaling and get goverments to enforce and create laws, espially the UN, to stop whaling. More importantly you have to reach out to the Japanese public at large. Appeal to them, get them informed and willing to support you and you'll grind the industry to a halt.

Watson instead goes out and throws rotten butter and soap at the whaling ships. Then when they pull out LRADs and Flashbangs acts offened that the whalers are actally DEFENDING themselves from a terrorist organization.

Yes, a TERRORIST organization; they actally try to make the whalers fear them. They activly act as if they'll ram ships, and have rammed ships. You may agree with they're motivations. You may even agree with they're actions. But you cannot deny they activly try to terrorize the whalers.

Even IF they cause one ship to run in fear all it does is slow down the hunt (Save if they find the Nisshan Maru, that'll pause them) that's all they do; slow things down. They can't stop them, they can't really hurt them without looking like the bad guys (Or more like bad guys, depending on your point of view) and all this does is make the Japanese public less likely to consider opposing whaling.

Just my two cents, is all.

Anonymous said...

if you only knew the half of it, everything Watson does is for publicity and donations, donations which fund his lavish fillet mingon eating life style. He is a liar and his ego is so inflated he has resorted to a quick fix controversial weight loss programme as he hates being called 'fat', this fat loss involves injections of pregant women's urine. I hear his Aussie girl dumped him also for his egotistical controlling behaviour. The scenes for Whale Whores is contrived. Hes a fake.

Horizon Charters Guadalupe Cage Diving said...

Good lord injections? Urine?

Not from a guy who was shot by whalers!?


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