Paul Franklin Watson (born December 2, 1950) is a Canadian animal rights and environmental activist, who founded and is president of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a direct action group devoted to marine conservation.
The Toronto native joined a Sierra Club protest against nuclear testing in 1969. He was an early and influential member of Greenpeace, crewed and skippered for it, and later was a board member. Watson argued for a strategy of direct action that conflicted with the Greenpeace interpretation of nonviolence, was ousted from the board in 1977, and subsequently left the organization. That same year, he formed Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The group is the subject of a reality show, Whale Wars.
He also promotes a veganism voluntary human population control, and a biocentric, rather than anthropocentric, worldview.
Paul Watson was born in Toronto to Anthony Joseph Watson and Annamarie Larsen, and grew up in St. Andrews, New Brunswick. After working as a tour guide at Expo 67' , the World's Fair that took place in Montreal in 1967, Watson "rode the rails" in boxcars west to Vancouver.
In 1968 and the early 1970s, he joined the Canadian Coast Guard, where he served aboard weatherships, search and rescue hovercraft, and buoy tenders. He signed up as a merchant seaman in 1969 with the Norwegian Consulate in Vancouver and shipped out on the 35,000 ton bulk carrier Bris as a deck hand. The Bris was registered in Oslo, Norway and manifested for the Indian Ocean and Pacific trade.
Watson has one child, Lilliolani (“Lani”) Paula Lum Watson (born 1980) with his first wife, Starlet Lum, who was a founding director of Greenpeace Quebec, Earthforce!, Project Wolf, and Sea Shepherd. His second wife, Lisa DiStefano, a former Playboy model, was Sea Shepherd's Director of Operations during the Makah anti-whaling campaigns in Friday Harbor. His third wife, Allison Lance, is an animal rights activist and a volunteer crew member of Sea Shepherd.
In October 1969, Watson joined a Sierra Club protest against nuclear testing at Amchitka Island. The group which formed as a result of that protest was the Don't Make a Wave Committee, which evolved into the group known today as Greenpeace. Watson sailed as a crewmember aboard the Greenpeace Too! ship in 1971 and skippered the Greenpeace boat Astral in 1972. Paul Watson continued as a crew member, skipper, and officer aboard several Greenpeace voyages throughout the mid-1970s. According to Watson, in June 1975 during a Greenpeace campaign to confront Soviet whaling, an incident occurred which changed his life.
Greenpeace states that Watson "...was an influential early member but not, as he sometimes claims, a founder." Paul Watson maintains he was indeed a founding member.
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
The first Sea Shepherd vessel, the Sea Shepherd, was purchased in December 1978 with assistance from Fund for Animals. Sea Shepherd soon established itself as one of the more controversial environmental groups, known for provocative direct action tactics. These tactics have included throwing objects onto the decks of whaling ships, the use of "prop foulers" in an attempt to sabotage the ships, boarding whaling vessels, and the scuttling of two ships in an Icelandic harbor. Watson remains the leader of Sea Shepherd today and uses the title "Captain" in reference to his role in the organization, although he has never been licensed as a ship's captain. The organization and its activities to halt whaling are the focus of a reality TV series, Whale Wars, airing on Animal Planet.