World Oceans Day 2018: Sea Shepherd

World Oceans Day is on June 8th. It is a day of celebrating our oceans and working towards a better future for our underwater ecosystems. This year the focus is on preventing plastic pollution (bags, bottles, and straws) which particularly affect ocean wildlife. World Oceans Day even has its own youth council, made up of young people from all around the world. They come up with new ideas to help develop World Oceans Day.

One charity that fights all year round to protect our oceans is Sea Shepherd, a marine conservation charity. They’re mission is to end the destruction of habitats and illegal killing of wildlife around the UK’s coastline and across the world’s oceans.

Sea Shepherd was set up in 1977 by Paul Watson, a former member of Greenpeace, who left because he felt Greenpeace was not doing enough active work.

Direct-action tactics

Sea Shepherd is one of the only environmental charities to use direct-action tactics as part of their campaign. But what are direct-action tactics? It requires getting out there and exposing illegal activities in our seas and oceans. Examples include:

  • Spraying seals with dye to make their skin worthless for Canadian sea hunters
  • Pulling nets out the ocean to protect porpoises from illegal fishermen

Lights, camera, action

In 2008, Animal Planet filmed a series called Whale Wars about Sea Shepherd’s direct-action tactics when it came to a Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean. The Japanese whaling fleet claimed that killing whales was part of a research effort. Sea Shepherd believed they were illegally fishing.

This series was an example of Sea Shepherd’s direct-action tactics. They sabotaged Japanese fleets by:

  • Ramming the ships
  • Boarding the ships
  • Throwing stink bombs on-board
  • Dragging a spiked rope through the water to tangle in the propeller of the Japanese ships

Sea Shepherd’s campaign started a battle out at sea. The Japanese reacted by firing flares and setting up loud speakers to warn off Sea Shepherd. The Japanese fleet even brought alone another boat just to protect their fleet.

In March 2014 the International Court of Justice decided that the whaling program was not for research purposes and ordered Japan to shut down the operation.

Closer to home

Sea Shepherd doesn’t just do its work out in faraway countries. Their UK campaigns include:

  • Beach cleaning activities around the UK coastline. Over 30 happened in March and April alone! There are loads of beach cleaning days happening right now and Sea Shepherd need your help, so have a look online and see if there is one near you
  • Protecting common and grey seals from wild salmon netting companies and fish farms
  • Sending drones out to the Faroe Islands to film the killing of whales and dolphins
  • Patrolling the sea and coastline around Shetland to research issues affecting ocean wildlife

Volunteering

As with all charities, Sea Shepherd wouldn’t be able to make such an impact without its volunteers. And their volunteering scheme is probably the most unusual out there. They are looking for a crew of volunteers to board their ships to work as:

  • Deckhands
  • Helicopter pilots
  • Photographers
  • Engineers
  • Navigators
  • Radio operators
  • Cooks
  • Medics
  • Captains

There’s only vegan food onboard; cigarettes and alcohol are completely banned. Volunteers are involved in a Sea Shepherd campaign for at least a month and could sail to any oceans around the world. Volunteers must be prepared though – they will face hard work, long hours, dangerous conditions and extreme weather, so must be totally motivated to protect the world’s oceans!

If you don’t fancy a being out at sea for months, then there are plenty of UK-based events, campaigns, projects, and activities, so check out Sea Shepherd’s UK website https://www.seashepherd.org.uk/. Or, to find out more about their global work, https://www.seashepherdglobal.org/.


Written by Florianne H.

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