Credit: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
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Vigilante on the high seas?
Although this is promising for the future, Watson argues that these efforts don't help whales in the here and now. "Convincing the Japanese people could take decades - and the whales don't have that kind of time. The oceans are dying. Everything in the oceans is dying. If we can't save something like the whales, how are we going to save anything else? If the oceans die, then we die. It's as simple as that."
Watson's approach appears to be a popular one. There's no shortage of people willing to sign on. The Steve Irwin takes about 40 people per trip, and Watson says there's never any trouble getting people willing to work in the galley, bridge, engine-room or deck.
"Our most difficult thing right now is saying "no" to so many people who want to go… we're trying to give as many people as possible the opportunity but it's becoming more and more difficult. There simply isn't enough room!"
It's not all fun and games, however. Watson admits he has been shot at many times, with a bulletproof vest protecting him from a lethal shot earlier this year. Sea Shepherd operations have also been in conflict with the Soviet and Norwegian navies, and depth charges have been dropped beneath their ship.
Watson isn't surprised by it all. "We're going up against butchers. They're all criminals, so we're used to people being aggressive and violent. You just have to take the proper precautions."
But nor is he too worried. In over three decades of operations, he claims that no one has been seriously injured on any of the Sea Shepherd boats. He sees it as an acceptable risk, for a worthy cause. "In our society people take risks to go fishing, and they take risks to go fight in wars. I think it's a far more noble cause to take these risks to protect an endangered species or habitat."