The world’s environment is rapidly changing. And for those who follow conservation issues know that the ocean’s ecosystem is forever endanger due to human footprint. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is most popularly known through the Animal Planet’s Whale Wars television series. But there is much more than meets the eye behind this organization’s efforts. Scott West, Director of Intelligence and Investigations, passes forth a powerful message about the organization and the ocean.
Elizabeth Kovar: How long have you been involved with Sea Shepherd?
Scott West: My involvement started in the late 1980’s as a donor and supporter of the organization. My involvement eventually led to my current position as a full-time employee.
EK: Could you further explain your history and current role with the Sea Shepherd?
SW: I met Paul Watson back in 1990 as I was working for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigating clean water act violations. My background with Environmental law enforcement led to a phone conversation in May 2008 when Paul Watson called me and asked me to retire from the EPA and join the Sea Shepherd. My time started with a combination of contract and volunteer work, which led to my full-time position. My legal background, combined with my environmental experience, has allowed me to manage various legal cases. I work with international laws and make sure that entities located in various countries meet the current laws and standards.
EK: Anyone can look at the Sea Shepherd’s website to get an idea of what they are about, but in your own words, What is the Sea Shepherd?
SW: The Sea Shepherd is more of a global movement versus an organization. Our movement has evolved to operations in various countries from Australia to the Netherlands. We are a marine conservation organization that is concerned for the ocean’s habitat, active in defending the ocean and informs the public. Whales and seals play a large role in our involvement, but we are concerned about the smaller guys including sea cucumbers and other invertebrates. They all have a part to play in our ocean’s habitat. The oceans are in peril and even science has proven that a vibrant aquatic life is essential and the Sea Shepherd is here to protect the world’s ocean and habitat.
EK: I see you spent 9 months in Taiji, Japan defending dolphins, how would you sum up that experience?
SW: It was extremely grim to see how the daily processes operated and the horror of how this 40-year act is legal is Japan. In ancient Greece it was illegal to kill a dolphin and in the states ocean operators must abide by various rules and regulations. We were able to bring attention about this issue to people, and with the involvement of Rick O’Berry and Louis Psihoyos they were able to create the movie, “The Cove.” This was great exposure, and they exposed the problem, but people thought the issue was resolved when it was not.
One day Paul Watson asked me, “What would happen if we never left?” And with that question I created, Operation Infinite Patience. The name was created because this was not an issue that would get resolved quickly. It would be a long arduous process that requires patience.
As a proud father, I took my 16-year old daughter with me who blogged and photographed the experience to enhance awareness. She reached 100,000 followers and her blog address is http://eloramalama.com.
EK: Wow what a journey! What do you tell volunteers who are about to venture to Japan?
SW: I tell them that this will be a very emotional challenge. You will see dolphins die, unlike on the ships in the southern waters where viewing a harpooned whale is rare. I tell volunteers that a piece of their soul will be left in Taiji and they will spend a lifetime trying to find that missing piece.
EK: How does one go about volunteering for the Sea Shepherd?
SW: They can visit the website, www.seashepherd.org, or email email@example.com to get a volunteer application. The season runs September 1 through the end of February each year. There is no minimum time length requirement but volunteers pay their own flight and living expenses. The Whale Wars show brought us much attention toward passionate individuals who want to volunteer for this cause. We cannot accept everyone on ship-based campaigns because there is limited space; however, there is no limit to the number of Cove Guardians. The more we have the better for the campaign. The Cove Guardian campaign is the easiest Sea Shepherd campaign to join, but the most difficult to endure.
EK: Do you find that Whale Wars has a positive impact on the Sea Shepherd?
SW: Absolutely. This was an Animal Planet show idea and it was very successful at bringing awareness to the masses. We were very well known in Australia and Europe, and that show brought familiarity to the United States.
EK: If one cannot volunteer, what can the public do to help the Sea Shepherd?
SW: The most important thing is to stay informed and keep updated with important ocean issues. Second, educate and spread word to family, friends and co-workers. They can follow our Twitter and other social media handles as well as donate to the organization. Our operations function thanks to donations.