Except Where Mentioned, All Photographs Courtesy of www.seashepherd.org
WHAT: How To Volunteer For Sea Shepherd
Nowadays, Sea Shepherd ships operate as part of a multinational organization in oceans around the globe. Likewise, Sea Shepherd volunteers hail from all over the world. However, what’s less well known is that Sea Shepherd began in a Canadian river.
In the early 1960s, a young Canadian boy returned to his favorite swimming spot. He arrived to find trappers had taken his beloved beavers for their fur. Outraged, the young Paul Watson spent the season locating trap lines, destroying traps, and freeing captured animals. And he never stopped. In the 60 years since becoming a junior environmental activist, the Sea Shepherd founder has devoted himself to protecting all manner of marine creatures. Often at significant personal risk and rarely without controversy.
While the landlubber activists were hanging banners, Paul Watson learned to sail and acquired a boat. While others were submitting petitions, Watson was positioning his inflatable motorboat between explosive-tipped Soviet Whaling harpoons and pods of Sperm whales. Or halting sealing boats by standing on the ice directly in their path. Other tactics included throwing butyric acid stink bombs on deck, destruction of drift nets, and even using limpet mines to blast holes in the hulls of whaling vessels. Unsurprisingly, his campaign left countless numbers of infuriated whaling crews in its foamy wake.
Responses to Sea Shepherd’s guerilla intervention gambits have ranged from applause to outrage. Critics have denounced them as interfering, reckless eco-terrorists whose actions violate international law, even going as far as having Watson placed on an Interpol watch-list. In contrast, Sea Shepherd argues they operate within the boundaries of maritime law. Their work is to document, and if necessary take direct action to prevent illegal exploitation of marine wildlife. Nowadays, countless marine creatures, particularly whales, owe their continued existence to Sea Shepherd.
If you’re willing to go to bat for these gentle oceanic giants and don’t mind zero pay for long, hard work in hazardous conditions, then ‘Neptune’s Navy’ is constantly looking for volunteers.
Sea Shepherd runs on tight resources. In addition to donations, they owe their success to dedicated volunteers, male and female, of all ages, from dozens of different countries.
Crew positions include captains, marine engineers, navigators, radio operators, cooks, medics, photographers, media people, and more. Beyond that, keeping everything ship-shape requires deckhands. So, if you are unskilled but dedicated and willing to learn, your application will be welcomed.
To be eligible, you must:
- Be a minimum of 18 years old.
- No felony convictions in the past ten years.
- Know how to swim.
- Comply with Sea Shepherd’s “zero tolerance” for smoking and drug use.
- Be financially responsible for travel to and from port.
- Agree to be filmed or photographed during campaigns.
Applications to volunteer on Sea Shepherd ships far outnumber available positions. Consequently, the selection process is tight. The mission you’re signing up for is no pleasure cruise. If you make it through, prepare to spend nights in cramped accommodations, and days on rough seas, performing serious, tough work for a few months at a time.
New crew members with specialized skills can often join sea campaigns directly. For those coming aboard with no specialized skills, Sea Shepherd requests a minimum commitment of three months, some of which may be spent in port working on ship preparation and planning prior to hoisting sail.
Taking “direct action” has included damaging equipment and destroying whaling vessels. As a result Sea Shepherd has made various enemies along the way. Sea Shepherd crews have been arrested, imprisoned, rammed, firebombed, and even had to dodge the occasional bullet. Organizers point out that volunteers risk arrest, fines, and other consequences. Sea Shepherd volunteers often justify these risks by arguing if the ocean dies then we die and that the biggest risk of all is to do nothing.
You’re essentially a noble pirate; a Batman of the seas performing hard, meaningful, fulfilling work in the company of outrageous characters. As well as room and board, you’ll receive training from veteran crew members. You’ll also come away with a resume insert which leaves other candidates looking like wimps. In addition to protecting the planet’s coolest creatures, this experience will return you with tales and anecdotes to last ten lifetimes.