Recently former Sea Shepherd ship’s doctor Scott Bell from Tasmanian
was interviewed on an Australian radio station where he was critical of
the safety and medical conditions onboard the Sea Shepherd ship Steve
Irwin. Dr. Bell had other motivations for being disgruntled, one of
which he disagreed with Sea Shepherd’s modus operandi and tactics which
prompted our first officer Peter Brown to reply to him that he should
have known what to expect if he had read the crew application or even a
Sea Shepherd membership brochure.
Dr. Bell said on the radio that he was opposed to the boarding of the
Yushin Maru No. 2 because it was unsafe.
Of course it was unsafe. It is no secret that Sea Shepherd ships sail
into harm’s way and the crew take risks to defend and protect marine
wildlife. That is what we do.
In fact many of our confrontations and maneuvers are decidedly
unsafe. Our up close and personal confrontations with the whaling have
been close encounters of the dangerous kind.
When volunteer Sean Willmore complained that our tactics were unsafe,
we suggested that he take off his crew shirt and read the list of
vessels we have sunk and rammed.
Yes we confess – what we do is unsafe, it is reckless, it is
dangerous and it may even be called fool hardy but what we do saves the
lives of countless numbers of marine animals.
When our critics tell us that it is foolish to risk our lives and
health to protect animals, I can only respond that it a far more noble
thing to take these risks to protect living sentient creatures than to
fight for real estate or some oil companies interests in Iraq.
This does not mean that we are unprepared, and it does not mean that
we have not studied the situations clearly for tactical, strategical and
Our activities and comments from a few former crewmembers has led to
some concerned inquiries from the media about safety and our abilities
to address emergencies onboard our ships. Most of this was initiated
recently by former crewmember Sean Willmore who was overly paranoid
about every aspect of shipboard life that he actually held meetings with
crewmembers to convince them that they were in an unsafe environment.
Of course they were! A ship at sea is by its very nature an insecure
environment. Anything can happen at anytime. I should know. I was a
rescue officer with the Canadian Coast Guard where I saw plenty of
accidents, recovered numerous bodies and I personally witnessed three
deaths onboard Norwegian merchant ships I once worked on.
I told Mr. Willmore and two other crew who were constantly
complaining that the situation was easily resolved. If they did not feel
secure then they should not come back to sea with us.
Although we deliberately put our ships into harms way the Sea
Shepherd Conservation Society has never had a crewmember experience a
serious injury since we first put to sea in 1979.
This does not mean we are not adequately prepared to deal with
emergencies. In fact we are overly equipped and overly qualified for
dealing with emergencies especially for a ship of the size and class of
the Steve Irwin.
During Operation Migaloo we always had a medical doctor on board and
in the second part we also had two qualified paramedics in addition to
the doctor. We have the equipment, supplies and drugs to deal with most
life threatening situations ranging from hypothermia to emergency
Onboard the Farley Mowat which is now at sea we have a medical
doctor on the crew.
During Operation Migaloo we had a dedicated safety officer and two
scheduled safety drills each week. We have lifeboat capacity for four
times our numbers. We have a surplus of life-jackets, survival suits,
immersion suits, drysuits and wetsuits. We have a fully equipped rescue
boat. We have first aid kits deployed at stations around the ship. We
have four times the number of fire extinguishers, adequate fire hoses
and breathing gear. We also have fireproof fire fighting suits and our
engine room has a CO2 extinguishing system.
In our small boats we have VHF radios, a Sat Phone, GPS and emergency
flares and rations.
The Steve Irwin has a fully equipped dive locker which enables
us to do underwater repairs to the hull.
In addition to a medical doctor and two paramedics, our crew included
a professional fire-fighter, a master welder, an electrician, mechanics
and a number of trained seamen.
As master, I have taken Sea Shepherd vessels on more than 250 ocean
going voyages without mishap. I have navigated my ships through
ice-packs, around icebergs, through hurricanes, through heavy traffic in
shipping lanes, passages through reefs, through canals and up rivers. In
my professional judgment the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin is as
safe as a ship can be and I would be hard pressed to make it any more
secure than it is.
A couple of the crew have decided to take their complaints to the
media. I find it amazing that people willingly sign onto a voyage after
being fully briefed as to the dangers of going to sea, especially into
remote and hostile waters, then they act surprised that they find
themselves in a dangerous situation.
I guess its one thing to pose as a hero and another thing to actually
be a hero.
All I can say in response to complaints that what we do is dangerous is
to say – yes it is dangerous, we know it’s dangerous and unless you’re
willing to take the risks required of you for participating in a
dangerous mission then you should stay safe and sound on land and watch
what we do on television
The first high risk event in anyone's life is to be born. The last is
to die. Anything in between is far less so, regardless of how risky it
may seem. Getting out of bed is risky, because you have to raise your
center of gravity and be more prone to falling harder than just falling
out of bed. Crossing a busy street to get to a McDonalds or KFC is
obviously risky, and what you can find at the destination is even
riskier. Obviously, sports like skiing, rock climbing, skydiving,
hang-gliding, suba-diving... are all risky, and millions flock to strap
their bodies in. Sitting at a high stakes poker table in Las Vegas is
risky, because you might end up committing suicide. All those not
wanting to taken any risk stay in the couch watching TV, but he runs the
risk of dying of a heart attack during the climax of some Diehard
sequel. Speaking of climaxes, having sex is probably one of the riskiest
activists of all, yet billions not only permit, but indulge. All the
above risks are freely taken, not for any cause but ones own personal
enjoyment. The key word in the previous sentence that makes all the
difference is "cause". For a high enough cause, no risky is too great,
and Sea Shepherd's cause is high indeed.
Anthony Marr, founder and president
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)