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Paul Watson: the whale shepherd.

G-Online

Eco-terrorist or whale saviour?

Paul Watson, captain of the Sea Shepherd's Steve Irwin

Paul Watson, captain of the Sea Shepherd'sSteve Irwin vessel, which is the only one on an anti-whaling mission this season.

Credit: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

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The Japanese government calls him an eco-terrorist, but Paul Watson looks more like the sea captain off The Simpsons - minus the wooden leg. He's not too thrilled about being labelled, either.

"What is an eco-terrorist? To me, it's someone who terrorises the environment, and in that respect the Japanese whalers are an eco-terrorist organisation."

Founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, most widely known for its harassment of Japanese whaling boats in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, Watson is also the captain of the SSCS flagship, the Steve Irwin, which is preparing to leave for its annual hunt at the beginning of December.

Of the Japanese whaling fleet, Watson focuses on the Nisshin Maru, the factory ship. "We just show up and they start running, so we keep chasing them. They're bigger, but they still run from us."

One of the reasons for running might be the rotten butter and methyl cellulose (a product which makes decks super-slippery) with which the Sea Shepherd crew pelts the factory ship. With a gleam in his eye, Watson describes it as "non-toxic, biodegradable, organic, pharmochemical warfare."

He's not there to hurt the whalers - at least, not physically. It's Watson's belief that the way to shut down whaling is to make it completely uneconomical as soon as possible. Targeting the whalers decreases their haul of whales, which decreases their profit margins.

"They're losing money every year and that's the one language that they understand. If we just keep the losses exceeding the profits then we'll have them on the ropes. This will be our fifth year [going after the whalers]. I think we can shut them down in two years, or hopefully within the next year."

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