ACTIVISTS CHANGE THE GUARD ON PUGET SOUND
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 1999:
SEATTLE, VANCOUVER––T h e
Sea Shepherds are coming, Bear Watch is
gone, and no one is saying yet what may
become of the Sea Defense Alliance [SeDnA].
Maintaining a vigil off Neah Bay
against Makah tribe whaling for much of the
past two years, and anticipating further confrontations
with the Makah, the Sea Shepherd
Conservation Society expects to soon open a
permanent headquarters at Friday Harbor, on
San Juan Island.
The Sea Shepherd fleet operated
from Friday Harbor throughout spring 1999,
but berthed at Seattle during the summer. Sea
Shepherd vessels have been continuously stationed
on Puget Sound since 1996, after many
years of frequent visits, and the Sea Shepherds
have had personnel continuously in the area
since 1995, when the Makah first announced
their intent to resume whaling.
Having killed one young female gray
whale in May, Makah whalers say they hope
to kill up to four more during the fall 1999
migration. They claim a quota of five, allocated
by the National Marine Fisheries Service
under a treaty with Siberian native whalers.
NMFS holds that the allocation is legal according
to the terms for “indigenous subsistence”
whaling approved by the International
Whaling Commission, but other parties to the
IWC, led by Australia, argue that the phrasing
of the IWC resolution was meant to prevent
Makah whaling, which is done ostensibly
for cultural reasons rather than for food.
Whatever the Makah do, SeDnA––if
it takes an active role––will not be the crew
led in 1998 and early 1999 by longtime direct
action advocate Jonathan Paul, 34.
The younger brother of B a y w a t c h
television series star Alexandra Paul, Jonathan
Paul was previously noted for helping to disrupt
bighorn sheep hunts in the Mojave desert
as a member of a southern California hunt
saboteurs group during the late 1980s.
In 1990 Jonathan Paul was indicted
along with Sacramento-area activists Bill
Keogh and Cres Velucci as alleged accessories
after the fact in connection with the 1986
Animal Liberation Front removal of about 200
animals from a University of Oregon laboratory.
Oregon circuit judge George Woodrich
threw out the charges in April 1991 because
the prosecution refused to identify a key
Paul was later imprisoned for five
months in 1992-1993 for refusing to testify to
a grand jury about the activities of a former
housemate, then-fugitive Rod Coronado.
Coronado recently finished a five-year prison
term for his role in burning several facilities
involved in research on behalf of the fur trade.
SeDnA, according to ex-crew member
Joshua Harper, 24, “was started by Paul
in Santa Cruz several years ago. At that time it
was called the Ocean Sanctuary Alliance, but
soon the group began work against Exxon and
shark hunting. They felt a name change was in
order, so they changed the name to SeDnA
after a Native American story about a witch
who pulls boats to the bottom of the ocean.”
The attempt to establish a clear identity
backfired when at about the same time the
mineral exploration firm Apollo Development
Inc., of Canada, chose the new name Sedna
Geotech Inc. and began trading on the
Vancouver Stock Exchange in January 1997.
The principle Sedna Geotech asset is Andes
Drilling Inc., of Peru. Web searches on either
“SeDnA” or “Sedna” have tended to pull up
the wrong one ever since.
Despite the confusion, Paul and
associates rallied enough support to put two
vessels on the water off Neah Bay for seven
weeks in spring 1999. Six days before the
Makah finally killed a whale, Harper and then
fellow SeDnA crew member Jacob Conroy,
23, were arrested after an alleged violent confrontation
with the Makah whalers. Four days
after that, the 42-foot SeDnA flagship was
seized, along with two Sea Shepherd small
craft and a Jet-Ski belonging to Oregon
schoolteacher Cheryl Rorabeck-Siler.
Jonathan Paul came aboard the Sea Shepherd
patrol boat Sirenian––but with the intervention
force depleted, the Makah were able to slip
out to kill the whale on the morning of May
17, as the Sirenan was en route back to Neah
Bay from overnight refueling at Friday Harbor.
A rift had already developed among
the SeDnA board when Harper and Conroy
accused board member Kenny Cryst of unethical
personal conduct. Cryst and two other
board members, longtime Seattle-area activist
Allison Frost and Microsoft engineer Joe
DiBee, 31, eventually voted Paul off the
board, according to Harper. Cryst and Frost
then left the board themselves, turning their
seats over to Animal Welfare Institute marine
mammal consultant Ben White and Ruckus
Society organizer John Sellers.
White, involved in activism of various
sorts since the late 1960s, claims to have
protested against the Vietnam War and to have
informed on the Ku Klux Klan for the FBI
while still in high school. He joined the 1973
American Indian Movement occupation of the
Bureau of Indian Affairs offices in Washington
D.C., and was eventually asked to leave, as
were other non-Native supporters.
White also traveled for a time with
the Rolling Thunder medicine show, which
popularized Native American causes and spirituality
during the 1970s and 1980s. He was
repeatedly accused of fomenting strife within
both AIM and the Rolling Thunder entourage,
but as Native American newspapers of the era
document, such accusations were common
among the intensely factionalized Native
movement, and were also often directed at
White shifted his focus to marine
mammals and old growth forests in the mid-
1980s. In 1990-1991 he reportedly led dissidents
who came within a vote of ousting Paul
Watson from the Sea Shepherd helm. Watson
detailed his conflicts with White in his 1995
book Ocean Warrior. White told A N I M A L
PEOPLE that the Watson accounts misrepresent
Employed for a time by In Defense
of Animals, White left that post and in May
1994 helped Friends of Animals lead a protest
against the Greenpeace position of not opposing
whaling “in principle,” if whale populations
are recovered. While an FoA staffer,
White was central––as a purported peacemaker––to
the breakup of the Sugar Loaf Dolphin
Sanctuary in the Florida Keys during 1994-
From 1994 through 1996, White
was especially closely associated with his predecessor
at AWI, one “Rick Spill,” whom
ANIMAL PEOPLE believes was actually
attorney Bill Wewer. Wewer, who reportedly
died earlier this year, had a long history of
association with both far-right and animalrelated
causes. His wife Kathleen Marquardt
founded the now defunct anti-animal rights
group Putting People First, which claimed in
1992 to represent Norwegian whalers and sealers.
Wewer himself boasted to A N I M A L
P E O P L E in a 1997 fax of having infiltrated
the animal rights movement under deep cover.
White was fired by FoA in January
1997, according to FoA memos received by
ANIMAL PEOPLE, for unauthorized acts
including leaving a message on the Sea
Shepherd answering machine in which he
threatened that FoA would destroy the Sea
Shepherds over ideological differences.
Sellers, according to Associated
Press writer Will Lester, led the Ruckus
Society “activist training camps” annually in
rural Virginia from 1995 through 1998. He is
now reportedly organizing demonstrations to
greet the World Trade Organization summit
scheduled to open in Seattle on November 30.
DiBee, the only holdover SeDnA
board member, has associated himself in
Internet discussion with support for Native
American land claims, and was among seven
Greenpeace activists who hung from a bridge
in Seattle for two days in August 1997 to
protest alleged overfishing.
Bear Watch formed circa 1988 as
one of several grassroots coalitions emerging
from protests against old growth logging on
Clayquot Sound, Vancouver Island. Other
organizations had protested for years against
British Columbia bear hunting quotas that
were and are allegedly set so high as to put
regional bear populations in peril, but Bear
Watch particularly raised the profile of the
issue, especially from 1992 on, by directly
Beginning in late 1994, Bear Watch
also teamed with another grassroots coalition,
the Grizzly Project, to publish sporadic editions
of a newsprint magazine.
Until 1995, the Bear Watch core
group had no particular public personna. The
many different Bear Watch writers and
spokespersons remained personally obscure––
and news coverage accordingly remained
focused on bears instead of personalities. That
changed when in 1995-1996 Bear Watch
added convicted Animal Liberation Front vandals
Darren Thurston and David Barbarash to
the staff, reportedly on salary while other key
personnel were still volunteers.
Thurston and Barbarash had recently
completed sentences for allegedly committing
a June 1992 break-in at the University of
Alberta. Thurston was earlier convicted of
firebombing three trucks belonging to a fish
dealer. Barbarash was earlier convicted of
vandalizing a fried chicken restaurant in 1987.
That charge was plea-bargained down from
initial charges alleging that he had possessed
explosives, carried illegal weapons, and vandalized
the University of Toronto veterinary
school in 1986.
At least a dozen Bear Watch members
were arrested after clashes with hunters,
some of them prominently featuring Thurston
and Barbarash, in 1995. The charges were
dropped in early 1997, a year after Thurston
and Barbarash left Bear Watch.
After their departure, the British
Columbia Wildlife Federation accused Bear
Watch itself of “criminal actions of terrorism,”
but apologized when Bear Watch objected. By
way of making amends, the B.C. Wildlife
Federation donated $2,000 to a bear sanctuary
designated by Bear Watch.
But the brief Bear Watch association
with Thurston, 29, and Barbarash, 36, surfaced
in media again in March 1998, when
Thurston and Barbarash were jointly charged
with allegedly mailing razor blade devices to
furriers, hunting guides, and hunting columnists.
Thurston and Barbarash were also
accused of having sent pipe bombs to
Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel, of Toronto,
and white supremacist Charles Scott, of B.C.,
who both escaped injury.
The day before Scott received a
bomb, however, a mail bomb severely injured
animal researcher Terry Mitenko, of
Cochrane, Alberta, in a case authorities and
media believed was related. Thurston and
Barbarash were not charged with that offense.
The March 1998 charges have apparently
not yet been resolved.
Having employed Barbarash and
Thurston may have handicapped Bear Watch as the
core group returned to near-anonymity and tried in
1996, working with the Western Canada
Wilderness Coalition and other organizations, to
put an anti-bear hunting referendum measure on
the B.C. ballot. Needing to gather 220,000 signatures
in 90 days to qualify for the ballot, the petitioners
actually obtained only 89,000.
Despite that setback, Bear Watch built
momentum for another attempt in 1997 by publishing
an officially suppressed report by B.C.
Ministry of Environment, Lands, and Parks habitat
biologist Dionys de Leeuws, which argued that,
“There is no ecological, ethical, or social justification
for continuing to hunt grizzly bears.”
The Environmental Investigation
Agency, of London, reinforced the de Leeuws
report with a 1998 critique of B.C. bear hunting
entitled Trigger Happy. Forty-four organizations,
including ANIMAL PEOPLE, asked B.C. to stop
grizzly bear hunting. Polls showed the request had
the support of up to 78% of B.C. voters.
On February 2, 1999, in a first concession
to bear hunting opponents, B.C. environment
minister Cathy McGregor closed eight portions of
the province to spring grizzly bear hunting.
But, as other activist groups emerged to
work on the issue and compete for media attention
and funding, Bear Watch in early 1999 closed its
Vancouver office, and on August 30 told members
that, “Due to lack of resources, both human and
financial, we can no longer continue operating.”