SEA SHEPHERD

SEA SHEPHERD
9 August 2017 Carlo Timmerman

Artiesten: Oscar B Jansen Art (Containers),  Jay Minimal (Romney) & Paradigm Painters Collective   We have invited a number of organizations at our festival to provide them the opportunity to show everyone what they are doing and where they stand for. One of these organizations is Sea Shepherd. We had a fun interesting Q&A session with the Dutch Director of Sea Shepherd Geert Vons. We talked about their Antartica campaigns, issues in international waters and our festival cups. Geert (G): It’s so nice that so many artistic minds are participating in your project. I’m an artist myself, college graduate at the Art Academy. Did you know that I actually designed the Sea Shepherd logo? I’m very interested in the psychological influence a design can have, such as when campaigning. I was recently invited to a German TV program called SkyMixUpArt, where I build artistic objects from washed up debris with other participants. This is very similar to what you guys do here: creating something beautiful from recycled materials, which is great to see!   Paradigm (P): Sea Shepherd has been playing an active role since 1977 in protecting and retaining numerous animal species and eco-systems in the oceans. Which campaign made the biggest impact on you? (G): The Antartica-campaigns have probably been the most impactful. The first one took place in 2002, when I was present as well. The Farley Mowat set sail that same year to begin tracing the Japanese whaling fleet. Unfortunately, the Japanese fleet wasn’t found. The Japanese whale poachers are still killing whales, despite the commercial whaling ban that was introducted in 1986. They presently pretend they are conducting scientifical research, but this is false. The International Court in The Hague has judged that Japanese whaling serves no scientific purpose. That’s why we try to thwart them wherever possible. (G): The other campaign that made an impact on me is Operation Icefish. The Bob Barker left port from Hobart, Australia on December 3, 2014. Leaving the port meant the start of the operation. Illegal Japanese whaling was shut down in the Southern Ocean earlier that year. That’s why we focused on the illegal Antarctic and Patagonian sea bass fishery during Operation Icefish.   (P): What do you think is the biggest problem? (G): There is international legislation with regards to fishing, but no one enforces this. Agreements and treaties aren’t complied with. Everything outside of the EEZ zones is like the wild west. Everything comes down to good will and intentions. And this is usually non-existent. You can give poachers a stern speech, but they’ll say: ‘So what?’ There aren’t any sanctions for breaking the rules anyway. There are thousands of ships fishing at the various African coastlines who are paying no attention whatsoever to the rules. They change their flags and their registration numbers. They don’t know a thing they’re doing and what they’re catching! These countries are so poor that they don’t have the actual capacities to reach their fishing targets. That’s why they sell these quotas to foreign fishing companies. There is some legislation, but that goes hand in hand with a lot of corruption. There is no enforcement because there is no money to support it. This makes the consumption of fish almost unaccountable. In short, these foreign fishing companies have a blank cheque with regards to what they want to do. There is also a modern variant of slavery to be found on these ships. The fishermen are being recruited in poor countries and their treatment on these ships is atrocious. It’s one big money-grubbing syndicate. International treaties and legislation are based on “gentleman agreements”, but there is no enforcement. We pretend to be proper in the western world, but that’s only on paper.   (P): How do you solve a problem that plays out on such a large scale? (G): Choose your battles wisely. They’re with many and we are the few. That’s why we focus on the ships that are more easy to catch or the ones that leave a lasting impact when caught. Or we choose to cooperate with a country that wants to do something about these problems. That’s how a partnership starts with a nation and the IUU. We’re working together with Interpol and a lot of other authorities and are making steady progress. We’re currently operating a lot in Africa. Most of the countries there don’t have the funds to patrol whilst these waters are being emptied. What we can do is lend them our aid through ship patrol. We’re actively battling illegal fishery there with local volunteers and the authorities. Among the crew of the patrol ships are also armed coastguards, who have the authority to make arrests and maritime experts who offer trainee ships to the local authorities. We’ve been given authorization from the ministries. We acknowledge the problems and are aiding the benevolent countries. It’s different from the usual development with a big bag of money and no plan. That doesn’t work. You have to work together to make it work.   (P) Do you think that people see Sea Shepherd in a different light than before? (G): Our actions in the Antarctic have paid off by shining a light on the poachers and changing public opinion for the better.  At first, people saw us as pirates and a bunch of bad guys. Today, this is different. Our methods are controversial but if we don’t do something about it, no one will. We’re definitely feeling the legislative support, but there are always several interested parties we have to take into account. Some time ago, I read this somewhere: ‘If Sea Shepherd gets involved with something, it’s serious.’ That’s because of the public image we have. We ran into all kinds of organizational problems the last 15-20 years. These days, people approach us differently. One of our captains, Pter Hammarstedt, has attended a large convention with several established organizations and authorities. This was completely unthinkable 5 to 10 years ago. Sea Shephard has taught me that you can make a large impact with a small number of people. Equals who know each other through and through. There aren’t any egos that can get in the way of our goals and cooperation between members works very well.   (P): In what way are you being supported? (G): We had a tough time finding sponsors and reaching out to the media in our early days. Currently, we reach many more relevant parties. A prime example is the broadcast of Whale Wars on Animal Planet. Unfortunately, we see that the motivation of these interested parties aren’t always honest on the other end. They want to help but expect something in return. We aren’t a commercial organization. The Postcode Loterij is the only commercial organization logo that will be placed on the new website. Half of their money is going to charities and have meant a lot to us. We’re not getting subsidized. Everything is based on donations. And let’s be honest: we need funds to exist.   (P): Anything else you want to add? (G): Everything revolves around being and staying aware. There’s a lot of ignorance. It doesn’t matter if it’s about the mass slaughter of dogs, illegal whaling or illegal dumping of waste; there’s always something to do in the world. We’re all responsible for our planet in the end. Just one person can make a difference. You can’t always count on the authorities. Sometimes I get the question: ‘is it all worth it, what you guys do?’ Well, we have to do it! And I want to know something. What do you do with festival cups? People usually just throw them on the ground on the ones I’ve been to. We have created a system where we use less cups and reduce waste. Visitors will pay a little extra the first time get a drink. They will receive a special coin with said drink. After that, they can hand in their cup at the bar and receive a new drink in a fresh cup. You can also hand in multiple cups if you have them and can even get coins back for each of these cups.   Want to know more about Sea Shepherd or make a donation? Check out www.seasheperd.nl/nl/ or check out our chill out awareness area!

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