Chapter 3

Conservation with Muscle

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Paul Watson isn’t your average conservationist with lofty ideals. He’s a master of the follow-through, putting his own life at risk to defend what he believes in. Paul’s bold approach to saving the whales was inspired by a single, seminal event in his life.

In 1930, the world’s population was estimated at just 2 billion people. Today, that number has ballooned to over 7 billion. As the human population climbs to nearly 10 billion by 2050, the demand for food will increase 70%, while energy needs will grow 60%. This will put a major squeeze on Earth’s natural resources.

It’s still too soon to predict how dire the situation will become…or if we’re doing enough to prevent a catastrophe.

Milestones in Wildlife Conservation

Milestones in Wildlife Conservation

  • Conservation Milestone

    Landmark and milestone achievements of the conservation movement.

    Paul Watson Milestone

    How one man’s life evolves into his life’s work.

  • 1866


    American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is founded.

  • 1900

    Lacey Act. Law bans illegal trafficking of wildlife.

  • 1903

    Pelican Wildlife Refuge. President Theodore Roosevelt establishes first federal bird sanctuary. By the end of 1904, 51 wildlife refuges had been established.

  • 1911

    Fur Seal Treaty. First international treaty to address the issue of wildlife conservation. Designed to manage commercial harvest of seals and other fur-bearing mammals. Signees included the United States, Great Britain, Japan and Russia.

  • 1946

    International Whaling Commission is established.

  • 1961

    Nine-year-old Paul confiscated and destroyed a leg-hold trap that killed one of his beaver friends.

  • 1964

    The Wilderness Act created legal definition for wilderness and protected 9.1 million acres of federal land.

  • 1966

    Endangered Species Acts provided a means for listing native animal species.

  • 1969

    Greenpeace logo

    Paul organized protest on U.S./Canadian border against nuclear testing on Amchtika Island for the “Don’t Make a Wave” committee. This committee eventually becomes Greenpeace.

  • 1972

    Marine Mammal Protection Act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon and protects all marine mammals and prevents their removal from their habitats.

  • 1973

    Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species was an international agreement to regulate worldwide commercial trade in wild animals and plant species.

  • 1974

    Paul was part of the first Greenpeace effort to oppose whaling.

  • 1975

    Paul risked his life to protect whales by placing his inflatable Zodiac between a Russian harpoon vessel and a pod of sperm whales.

  • 1977

    Paul led two Greenpeace campaigns to oppose the seal hunt off the coast of Canada.

    Paul and Greenpeace part ways; Paul starts the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

  • 1979

    Paul led Sea Shepherd’s first campaign to save seal pups by publicizing Canada’s seal operation.

    In July, a Sea Shepherd vessel chased down the whaling vessel, Sierra, into Port of Leixoes in Portugal then rammed it twice causing major damage.

  • 1980

    February, Sea Shepherd operatives sank Sierra in Lisbon harbor, Portugal. This first sinking marked a change in tactics that Sea Shepherd still uses against whalers today.

  • 1982

    Moratorium on Commercial Whaling. Member nations of the International Whaling Commission voted to end commercial whaling by vote of 25-7 with 5 abstentions.

  • 2002

    Sea Shepherd first journeyed to the Southern Ocean to observe the Japanese Whaling Fleet as part of their Antarctic Whale Defense. This marked the beginning of a decade-long conflict with the Japanese that continues to this day.

The planet’s health is in grave danger. That’s why activists like Paul and the Sea Shepherds believe it’s so important to take quick and impactful action. It’s why they live and breathe a sense of urgency.

Every time a new super storm emerges or a near extinction event lands in the news, the conservation movement’s voice becomes a deafening roar, and the activist ranks grow. But can the movement grow quickly enough to save the whales and planet?

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