2008 Aug 12
ST. STEPHEN Charlotte County residents shouldn’t put their faith in the Canadian government’s promise not to allow passage through internal waters to tankers heading to proposed liquefied natural gas terminals in Maine.
Instead, Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Greenpeace founder, said LNG opponents should be prepared to take their fight to the powerful American courts where they stand a better chance, under environmental protection laws, of stopping the tankers from travelling through Passamaquoddy Bay.
Watson, 57, was in St. Stephen last week to attend the Milltown Superior School reunion. He attended classes in Grades 3 through 7 there.His sister, Sharyn VanDerGulik, owner and operator of Allure Fashion on Milltown Boulevard in St. Stephen, was also a student there. While Watson was in town, he stayed with his sister and her husband, Peter, in Oak Bay.
Watson said the Canadian public’s confidence is misplaced when it comes to believing the government promises to protect Passamaquoddy Bay, its sea life, and the communities around it from the giant LNG tankers.
“Look at the history of corruption from Mulroney to Chretien,” said Watson. “Money talks in this country. I can’t see Canada not giving in.”
While he did state that the theory was “the boats aren’t coming through if the Canadian government says they’re not coming through,” Watson qualified that by adding, “but I don’t trust the Canadian government. They’re dealing out the back door half the time.”
He said the LNG proponents “know Canada will cave in.”
Watson said he has been in correspondence with people in Eastport and receives regular e-mails from Dr. Lesley Pinder, a local opponent of the proposals.
He said that while the LNG terminals in the area are something his organization is concerned about, Watson made something clear.
“We don’t protest,” he said.
But Watson did claim to have shut down an LNG terminal that was going to be built in Longbeach, Calif.
“I’ve been giving advice to the people in the U.S. about (the projects in Maine) and we’re watching it very closely.”
Watson said he wouldn’t be arriving with his ship in these waters unless he can figure out a way to tactically intervene.
“I haven’t made any decision yet,” he said.
It would depend on where he and his crew were and if they could dig up laws to support what they would do locally.
Watson, who is a resident now of Friday Harbour, Washington, suggested opponents of the projects wait until after the upcoming U.S.election. He said he thinks Reupublican John McCain will be elected president and describes him as more concerned than President Bush with environmental issues.
Citing the time he was arrested by the Canadian government in 1993 as one of the reasons for his distrust of Ottawa, Watson recalled how in that incident he chased Cuban and Spanish trawlers off the Grand Banks.
“Everybody was upset about it. Canada was upset about it. I chased the Cubans and Spanish off and it cost them $35 million in losses,” said Watson.
“And then Canada arrested me. Unbeknownst to anybody, Canada had, under the table, given licenses to the Cubans to go down there and fish. They were in court saying how well these people were licensed. That was news to the fishermen in Newfoundland.
“I don’t trust the Canadian government, especially the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. It is one of the most incompetent bureaucracies in this country,” stated Watson.
He said he has, for the last 30 years, seen the Canadian government lie to the Canadian people “until it’s opportune.”
He said Canada dropped out of the International Whaling Commission in 1982 because it couldn’t get its way. Watson said the Canadian people were against whaling, but the government wanted whaling and when they couldn’t get it, voted with the Japanese and the Norwegians.
“There was outrage in this country, so their response was to drop out of the IWC. They weren’t going to achieve anything there for what they wanted,” said Watson.
Watson left the Greenpeace movement in 1971 and founded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
“I set up Sea Shepherd not as a protest group but to intervene against illegal activities.That’s what we do.”
Sea Shepherd operates world wide against illegal whaling, illegal fishing in accordance with the United Nations World Charter for Nature which allows non-government organizations to directly intervene to uphold international conservation law, explained Watson.
The organization is registered in United States, Europe, Australia, South Africa, Brazil, Ecuador, and has a fleet of three ships the Steve Irwin, presently in Australia; the Farley Mowat, presently under arrest in Sydney,N.S.; and the Sirenianon full time patrol off the Galapagos Islands.
The organization partners with Ecuadorian National Police and the Galapagos National Park Rangers, in arresting shark poachers, responsible for the deaths of 300,000 sharks a year.
“Last year we seized 45,000 shark fins,” said Watson.
The shark fins are used in shark fin soup, an industry which is responsible for the deaths of 70 million sharks per year.
Why does he do what he does?
“Well, somebody’s got to do it,” Watson said with a laugh.
“The oceans are being diminished of life, every single commercial fishery is in a state of collapse,” said Watson, adding how shocked he was in the change in St. Andrews. He attended school there in Grades 1 and 2 before moving with his family to St. Stephen. The family moved back to Toronto where he was born, after his mother died at the age of 32. They had moved to Charlotte County because his father, Tony, was from here.
“The St. Andrews of the 1950s and 1960s is completely different than the St. Andrews today. I remember so many lobster traps it was ridiculous back then. There’s no lobster industry there now.
"I was in St. Andrews last weekand saw on the menu mussels. Nobody even ate those in the ’50s and ’60s. It’s an adaptation to diminishment.
“Turbot. They sell turbot in restaurants in Paris now. It was garbage fish 20 years ago. It’s a constant adaptation to diminishment," said Watson.
One thing he did approve of were all the "no LNG" signs posted in the area.
But he describes the St. Andrews of today, compared to that of years ago,as much like a “twilight zone.”
“I remember sitting on dock in St. Andrews seeing whales, and all the lobsters and hundreds if not thousands of seagulls. Where have they gone?” he asked.
He said he didn’t even see one seagull on a recent visit there.
Watson said he often uses St. Andrews as his measure of how things have diminished.
The only thing Watson said he feels has improved in the area is the St. Croix River.
“I remember that as being plugged with toilet paper. It was a filthy mess and it’s cleaned up, been greatly improved,” said Watson, adding, “I was really impressed with that. The river is much better than it was.
“It’s a good example of how things can be turned around.”
Watson says the world’s fishing industry is dying according to the Smithsonian Institute and the Environmental Protection Agency.
“By 2048 there will be no fishing industry anywhere in the world. The industry is in a state of collapse. There’s simply too many people (demanding the product) and not enough fish.”
Watson blames the decline on the misuse of fish saying not many people realize that almost 50 per cent of the fish caught in the ocean are not eaten by people, but by livestock.
“The pig is now the number one aquatic predator on the planet,” said Watson. “Pigs eat more fish than all the world’s sharks put together.”
And domestic cats, he said, eat more tuna and other fish than all the seals of the world together.
Watson doesn’t care what people think of him or what they might say about him.
“Our clients are whales, our clients are sharks, our clients are seals, that’s who we represent. We speak for them. What people say doesn’t matter,” said Watson.
He said in 1986 he sank half of Iceland’s whaling fleet and destroyed a whale processing plant. People called that a criminal act, he said, so he went to Iceland and told its people to put him on trial.
“But to put me on trial would have been to put themselves on trial,” he said.
Watson boasts that in 31 years, after sinking nine whaling ships and destroying $50 million worth of fishing equipment, he’s been arrested, but “never been convicted of a felony, never been sued, and never injured anybody. I have an unblemished record.”
Is he ever afraid on the high seas?
“Afraid. Oh yeah,” replies Watson. “We’ve been rammed, we’ve been depth charged. But we look on what we do as policing work.”
While not married, Watson does have a 28-year-old daughter Lilliolani who is being married in September in Seattle. He says she doesn’t worry.
Watson was asked by one of his school mates during this visit home if he ever thinks about retirement.
“Who would do the job,” he asks.
“I can’t conceive of retirement. I don’t believe in retirement. It’s bad for your health,” Watson said with a laugh.
His grandfather was an artist and worked until the day he died at 96 years of age.
“I always said from the early 70s never work a job for money. You have to take a job you would do forever, even if they didn’t pay you.”
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is supported by 45,000 members worldwide, and boasts a very distinguished board of directors and advisors.
On the society’s United States advisory board are actors Richard Dean Anderson, of MacGyver fame; William Shatner; Pierce Brosnan; and Christian Bale who played Batman in the recently released The Dark Knight movie.
“I always joke if we have James Bond, Captain Kirk, MacGyver, and Batman, how can we lose?” said Watson with a chuckle.
© 2008 Advocate Media
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.
The Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB