Hot water in the North Atlantic
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 1993:
HALIFAX, Nova Scotia, Canada––Paul
Watson’s homecoming to Atlantic Canada in July and early
August may have been the most bizarre event yet of his long
career in protest. Raised in a New Brunswick fishing vil-
lage, Watson has been reviled throughout the four Maritime
provinces since 1977, when as a Greenpeace representative
he sprayed green paint on baby harp seals to protect them
from hunters. Subsequent anti-sealing expeditions after
Watson founded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in
1980 have confirmed his bad reputation among those who
live by what they kill in the sea––but many Atlantic
Canadians are applauding Watson now for his July 28 attack
on a Cuban trawler, the Rio Las Casas.
Watson arrived in Nova Scotia as captain of a for-
mer Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker, the Thomas
Carleton, once used to escort sealers to the killing areas.
Now the flagship of Orcaforce, a sister group to Sea
Shepherd, it has been re-dubbed the Cleveland Amory,
after the founder of the Fund for Animals, who bankrolled
Sea Shepherd expeditions during the mid-1980s that sunk or
disabled nine whaling ships.
Watson and crew, en route to challenge
Norwegian whaling ships, intended to detour a little to
practice by harassing foreign fishing boats who drag nets
just beyond the 200-mile boundary of Canadian waters, and
are accused of severely depleting fish stocks. The action
was to coincide with three weeks of inconclusive talks at the
United Nations about fisheries conservation, involving
repesentatives of 70 fishing nations and
more than 50 private groups.
The Cleveland Amory, however,
developed engine trouble, running up a bill
of $80,900 during an unforseen stay at the
North East Dynamics boatyard in Halifax.
More than 150 fishing crews meanwhile
upstaged Watson with an eight-day blockade
of the Russian freezer ship Pioner
Murmana, to keep it from unloading frozen
cod at Shelburne, Nova Scotia.
The blockade was strictly symbol-
ic, as the fish aboard the Pioner Murmana
were caught in the Barents Sea, off Norway,
not near Canadian waters, and as the cod
were to be processed by a Canadian plant,
creating jobs for the wives of many of the
fishermen who set up the blockade.
Watson’s presence was also sym-
bolic, however, and was intended not only
to dramatize opposition to overfishing, but
also to help counter accusations that the
recovering Atlantic Canada seal population
is to blame for recent low catches––which
result mainly from the combination of over-
fishing with pollution, including the
destruction of spawning areas by acid rain.
The Cleveland Amory finally left
port late the evening of July 26, three days
after being detained on a warrant for
allegedly failing to pay $18,000 of the repair
bill. The release came after Orcaforce post-
ed a bond of $35,000, most of which appar-
ently came from a single benefactor, whose
name was not released.
Clash with reporter
Aboard the Cleveland Amory,
along with the 25-member crew, were four
journalists invited by Watson, including
Halifax Herald reporter Malcolm Dunlop, a
retired naval officer. On the first day out,
Dunlop said, he found a receipt in a book
he had been loaned by Orcaforce director
Lisa DiStefano. The receipt apparently
identified a major donor, perhaps the donor
who enabled the Cleveland Amory to sail.
Dunlop claims he returned the receipt to the
ship’s supply office the following day.
By then, however, Dunlop had
already noted and reported that, “The ship
has no gyroscope, no firefighting breathing
apparatus, no medium range radio, and no
damage control gear for flooding,” along
with serious electrical problems. A day
later, one of the Cleveland Amory’s two
engines failed again, while the other sput-
tered because the diesel fuel tanks weren’t
checked for sea water before being filled.
Zig-zagging, since the limping ship could
not be steered straight, Watson told those
who suggested a return to Halifax that,
“The ship goes forward or down.”
Dunlop reported that, too. On the
fifth day he reported accusations from crew
members that an unknown saboteur had
damaged the overburdened steering gear
with an easily dislodged loose bolt.
“I remember thinking even the
supposed saboteur aboard this ship is
incompetent,” Dunlop wrote later.
Irritated, Watson meanwhile
closed in on the Rio Las Casas, evading the
Canadian Coast Guard vessel Sir Wilfred
Grenfell. “There’s the story,” Watson told
Dunlop. “The Coast Guard protecting for-
eign boats raping Canada’s Grand Banks.”
After a series of risky maneuvers
that also drew Dunlop’s criticism, including
a light collision while crew members hurled
stink-bombs at the Cubans, Watson forced
the Rio Las Casas to pull up its nets and
flee. The captain of the Grenfell arrested
Watson by radio, ordering him to port in St.
John’s, Newfoundland; Watson briefly
made a run toward Iceland, then agreed to
surrender. The crew of the Cleveland
Amory celebrated their victory, of sorts,
and after producing and showing around the
receipt from the anonymous big donor dur-
ing the party, Dunlop pocketed it––intend-
ing, he says, to return it again the next day.
Instead, Watson accused Dunlop
of theft and placed him under arrest, con-
fined to his cabin. With the Grenfell still
nearby, Dunlop sneaked a life jacket and
was caught trying to jump overboard to
swim for it, an action Watson claimed
would be suicide. Countering that to stay
on the Cleveland Amory would be likewise
suicidal, Dunlop got his way, however, as
Watson then transferred him to the Grenfell.
After making a pass at a Spanish
trawler, Watson and the Cleveland Amory
were taken in tow by another Coast Guard
vessel, the Sir Humphrey Gilbert, and
forcibly brought to St. John’s, where
Watson was charged with mischief and dan-
gerous operation of a motor vessel. He was
released from jail three days later when Sea
of Slaughter author Farley Mowat posted
half of his $10,000 bond.
Unable to sail again, Watson
leased the Cleveland Amory for $1 and a
bottle of rum to a newly formed ad hoc
group headed by St. John’s attorney Owen
Myers––Fishers Organized for the
Revitalization of Communities and
Ecosystems, acronym FORCE. Myers at
last report was trying to persuade out-of-
work fishermen to help the group’s dozen
members to repair the Cleveland Amory and
return to sea. Just what they would do there
was unclear, since Myers ruled out any
law-breaking. Watson, who has been
accused of sailing with unseaworthy vessels
before, threatened to sue Dunlop for libel.
And the fishing went on.