By 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish, how can we change this situation?
I think it comes back to climate change and everything else. We need to really hold our governments accountable. We want them to ban single-use plastics, there’s a lot that we can do everyday that does have an impact, use a keep cup, use your own water bottle. Take your tote bags, make sure you’re doing all those sorts of things. If you’re struggling in your local area maybe look at Boomerang bags, the local shop has an overflux of bags so that if people do go there and they’ve forgotten their bags there’s somewhere they can get bags from. It's about making it easy for people to change habits when you’re at the beach bring home 3 bit of plastic. The thing is 2 and 3-year-old kids can do it, why can’t adults? In Australia it used to be we very much grew up on the Keep Australia Beautiful campaign, you would never throw rubbish, whereas now it’s just become…. I’ve seen people have a cigarette and push it into the sand and cover it up. There’s so much we can do but there’s also that disconnect getting back to the importance of the natural world.
Do you think the government is doing enough?
Well no, the government is not doing enough on multiple areas. They try and keep things business, as usual, they don’t want to upset too many people but we need governments to show true leadership. Governments that aren’t thinking 3 year terms, that are thinking 50 years down the track and where our planets going to be and the changes that need to be made now. We also need people to give governments the ability to do that and people to understand that there may be some changes. We’re all in this together, what’s happening to our planet will affect us all. So we’re going to all need to make a change. We’re all going to have to give up something. Getting on a plane, maybe living with just one car. Not eating meat every day of the week. We’re all going to have to give up something but it’s for life and surely that worth giving up.
"We need governments to show true leadership. Governments that aren’t thinking 3 year terms, that are thinking 50 years down the track and where our planets going to be and the changes that need to be made now".
Do you go out on the missions?
My role is running Australia and running campaigns in Australia. I’m also one of the Global directors. I’ve always been passionate about the natural world, to me nature’s the greatest show on earth. As I got older I realised that it maintains the very life support systems that make it possible for us to live on the planet. I’ve always been passionate about being on the front line, this year I’ve been out to the Great Australian Bite. In March we took 8 government marine and terrestrial scientists where we facilitated their government science and research into the Bite. In August of this year we took the Steve Irwin up to the Great Barrier Reef to showcase the beauty of the Reef that’s still there. To bring all those communities together that are still fighting for the Reef in opposition to the Adani coal mine, I need to be hands-on because when I’m talking to audiences or donors, or politicians I need to be able to talk from the heart and from first-hand experience.
"That’s who I am, I couldn’t be sitting behind a desk all the time. I think there's an element where some organizations become too big, too corporate, too burocratic that nothing gets done".
Sea Shepherd only has 11 staff in Australia, 800 plus volunteers and 80-90% of each of our ships is unpaid. We’re very much about remaining lean, remaining effective and dynamic because the planet is running out of time. We need to jump in and get quick outcomes and we have proven that our model is working because we’ve had some huge victories. We’re all in this together because we’re going to need to all come together and fight this. The enemy is there and this tsunami of what's coming is going to wipe out millions of people, it’s coming so we need to all stand together and fight.
I very much have always felt that like when our football team wins on the weekend, we take ownership in that victory and when people donate or support Sea Shepherd, for example I drop off a load of fresh fruit and vegetables for our ships. I want them and everyone down the line to feel that the victories are as much theirs as our crew on the front line. My team is out on the weekend defending the oceans. The thing I always try and tell people is that Paul Watson started Sea Shepherd in 1977, he talked about this analogy, he made this statement in America “worms are more important than people” and everyone was like how can you say something so outrageous? He said, I said it because it’s true. Worms can live on the planet, they’re fine without us but we can’t live on the planet without them. Ecologically they’re more important than us. He says we’re on a spaceship hurtling through space and like any space ship there are the passengers and the crew. The crew run this ship and they regulate our climate, they take care of our waste, they provide us with the food that we eat and the air that we breathe.
"Who are we? We’re just the passengers, we’re killing off the crew, the insects, the worms, the turtles, the sharks, the trees, the plankton, they maintain the life support systems of our planet and we’re killing them. We need them, how stupid are we? If everyone understood that Sea Shepherd's ultimate goal is to one day not need to exist."
I think that’s what coming down the line will have a massive impact on our planet, our life support systems, humanity and nature. We’re in the sixth extinction right now, hopefully we’ll come out of it and it will not be very pretty. There will be fewer people living on the planet and living more sustainably, living more communicably not just jumping on a plane and flying all over the place. But people will be happier. If a kid has a room full of toys they just go where do I even start. But if you take the kid outside and you might have one toy a skipping rope or a frisbee everyone is much happier.
To end, tell us the most beautiful stories you’ve experienced with Sea Shepherd Global
As I mentioned up to 40% of the worlds seafood is caught illegally, in the last just over 2 years we’ve facilitated the arrest (in working with governments) of 50 illegal fishing vessels. One vessel last September left Fremantle in WA and went to Timor Leste they uncovered up to 18 Chinese vessels illegally approaching sharks and with our one vessel those 18 vessels were shut down for 9 months.
We’ve removed over 2 million pieces of plastic and marine debris from our coasts in the last year. One of our chasers of the thunder vessel in the Southern ocean retrieved 72km long of illegal gill nets. Our work, in terms of fighting and protecting the Great Australian Bite and against fossil fuelers. As part of an alliance we’ve knocked out BP and Chevron from drilling in the Great Australian Bite, some of the biggest oil and gas companies on the planet and most people would go well you can’t beat them, you can’t win against this massive opposition but the reality is we don’t have a choice. You don’t go in to these fights arrogantly thinking you’re going to win, the alternative is just sticking your head in the sand and that’s suicide. I think as a father in today's world you need to go well okay when our kids and our grandkids and kids down the line are screaming at us in our sleep and saying what are you doing about this?
You don’t have a choice but to fight, somehow people come together and we’re stopping this stuff. The fact we have 13 councils now along the South Australian coast that represent over half a million people that have come out and said we do not want oil and gas in the Bite (Great Australian Bite) it shows that this movement is building and the governments are completely out of touch with the will of the people.