Written by Captain Paul Watson
In 1989 we were looking for somewhere to dock in the Florida Keys. A former crewmember Josephine Mussomeli said she had a friend named Ann Johnston whose husband owned a dock in Key West. Upon arriving in Key West, we moored the Sea Shepherd II at this dock, owned by a Pritam Singh.
Through the nineties, Pritam was a small financial donor, nothing big until 1997 when he donated a property in Alaska and a property in Florida. We accepted these donations seeing it as an opportunity to have a base in Alaska with a dock and a base in Florida. We gave Pritam a tax deduction for the surveyed value of the property. The problem was that the properties also came with substantial mortgages that we had to pay monthly.
Sea Shepherd sold off the Florida property and we struggled to maintain the Alaska property. In 2000 we had a substantial dry dock bill for the Sea Shepherd II in Jacksonville, Florida. Pritam bought back the Alaska property at a lower price than it was worth but enough to cover the drydock fees.
I suspected that this was working to the advantage of Pritam for tax purposes because he bought it back for far less than the deduction he received, but we were desperate to pay off the drydocking charge.
Anne Johnston also signed as a guarantor for a Sea Shepherd loan for a property to be used as our main headquarters in Friday Harbor, Washington.
In 2010 Pritam’s lawyers were helpful in providing the legal work for Sea Shepherd’s purchase of the Japanese research vessel we named the Sam Simon.
In 2012, I was forced into exile at sea because of the Japanese and Costa Rican requests for extradition. In December the 9th Circuit Court overturned a Seattle lower court and granted an injunction to the Japanese whalers. Because we were already in the Southern Ocean I resigned from the Board in order to protect the other Board members from becoming legally liable. When the case was resolved, the Board refused to allow me to re-join. Pritam assisted in helping to regain control of the Board and he also provided me with a house upon my return from the 8 months of exile at sea.
He assisted in helping me to return to the USA through his connections with John Kerry’s office
He offered to help with administration and legal issues and I welcomed his advice.
Throughout this period, he assured me that Sea Shepherd was mine and if he ever did anything I was against, all I had to do was ask him for his resignation.
He constantly reminded me that I was not expendable, that it was my organization and my legacy and he was helping me because according to him, that is what you do for friends.
In 2019 Pritam told me that the Board needed director’s insurance but that there was a problem getting it if I was on the board because of my past history. His explanation sounded convincing and he assured me that I would still be able to participate in Board meetings and discussions and could continue to organize campaigns.
A few months later in 2019 I expressed concerns about his removal of directors Anna Varn and Tambrey Vandergulik without any discussion, and the appointment of new directors without my approval. I also expressed concerns about the power he was giving to David Hance and I was concerned about the fact that David Hance was a disgraced LAPD officer who had pled no contest to assault and embezzlement charges in 2007 and I did not trust him. He said he had trusted David.
I was also concerned that crew were resigning because of David Hance and there were numerous reports of sexual harassment.
When Alex and I discovered that there was money missing, Pritam agreed it was a problem and said he would take care of it, but never said how.
Pritam fired one of my best captain Locky MacLean and then fired my personal assistant Omar Todd.
He then said if it would make me feel better the Board would hire Alex Cornelissen as CEO and Peter Hammarstedt to direct campaigns. It did make me feel better because I trusted both men and had personally mentored them for two decades. I was content to let Alex run Sea Shepherd USA and for Peter to direct the campaigns.
In early 2022, I became concerned when a meeting was called. When I arrived Peter Hammarstedt met me outside the door to say I could not enter the room because they were in the middle of Zoom conference with U.S. government officials and it would be a problem if they saw me and an obstacle to working with government partnerships.
At that same meeting Pritam Singh introduced some people he had hired including a former Marathon Key West City Manager named Chuck Lindsey. The same man he used to authorize his construction permits which struck me as a conflict of interest.
In April 2022, both Peter and Alex resigned stating their frustrations with working with Pritam who had begun to micromanage everything they were doing. Farrah Smith our development director also resigned because she could no longer work with Pritam.
Pritam then added more directors, not one of whom was a Sea Shepherd veteran or even an existing member. I was troubled by the fact that one of the new directors was George Nugent, a Florida Keys County Commissioner, a person that Pritam had given campaign contributions to and to me that appeared he may be beholden to Pritam.
In May when I questioned Pritam about this on the phone he flew into a rage and literally screamed at me. What I remember was something like this:
“Don’t fuck with me, I can have my lawyers put you through so much shit it will make your head spin. Don’t you fucking question my authority or my motives.”
That was the final straw for me. I called up Alex Cornelissen and told him I wanted to quit Sea Shepherd and Alex told me that I would have his back and his support.
Unknown to me then, Pritam without Board authority or discussion had spent Sea Shepherd money to register trademarks around the world.
In early June I attended a Board meeting where I questioned the direction that Pritam was taking Sea Shepherd. I said I could not participate or support this change in objectives and strategies.
Pritam went into a 40-minute rant about all the things he did for Sea Shepherd myself and then asked me if I was paid by Sea Shepherd? When I replied “yes” he said, “then you’re an employee and you do what you’re told.”
I reminded him of a promise he made to me that if he ever did anything I disagreed with all I had to do was ask for his resignation. I said “ok I’m asking for your resignation.”
He smiled and said with a laugh, “that’s not going to happen.”
He then said in front of the Board that I had no rights. I could not use the logo I designed in 1990 or the name I established in 1977.
I was then dismissed from the meeting. He then asked what directors supported me? When Mike Galesi and Clementine Pallanca said they supported me, he immediately had them dismissed by a secret ballot and two of his friends were added.
Alex Cornelissen and Peter Hammarstedt are now saying the fault is mine for giving Pritam such power, yet they also worked with him to isolate me.
They are right however. I did allow myself to be manipulated because of gratitude. Gratitude for his help getting me back from exile in the South Seas, gratitude for helping to dismiss the charges against me in Costa Rica, gratitude for helping me when I returned from exile. Because I was grateful I trusted him more than I should have until I came to the self-realization that gratitude cannot be repaid with submission.
– Captain Paul Watson
Rob Read is Sea Shepherd UK’s Chief Operating Officer managing the development of the UK charity and managing SSUK’s campaigns since 2013.
“When I first volunteered with Sea Shepherd UK in 2007, I never thought that one day I would head up the UK entity of the marine conservation organisation.
I remember being impressed by the determination of Captain Paul Watson, who I first saw in the ‘Ocean Warrior’ episode of the TV series ‘Defenders of Wildlife’ back in 1993.
Not long after ‘Ocean Warrior’, I managed to watch the earlier BBC program ‘Black Harvest’, which followed one of Sea Shepherd’s campaigns in 1986, opposing the Faroese pilot whale hunts.
Paul was a charismatic and unashamedly uncompromising modern-day marine conservation ‘pirate’, with a black painted ship and a passionate volunteer crew that confronted illegal fishing and whaling at sea. Sea Shepherd was not the typical banner waving environmental group, and Paul’s unique, non-violent direct action tactics were truly inspirational.
Sea Shepherd stuck in my memory while I studied environmental science and worked in research and education for 13 years, during which time I joined Sea Shepherd UK as a volunteer later in 2007.”
As a volunteer, Rob attended over 150 events and gave talks on Our campaigns as well as joining the protest at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting on the islands of Madeira in 2009 and coordinated the Sea Shepherd protest at the IWC meeting on the island of Jersey in 2011. He was commended as ‘Sea Shepherd Coordinator of the year 2011’ and in November 2011 joined the Board of Trustees of the Sea Shepherd UK Charity becoming vice-chairman.
Since December 2013, Rob has been the Chief Operating Officer of Sea Shepherd UK managing the day to day running and development of the charity, building thd UK fleet of small boats, and has launched or coordinated the following Sea Shepherd campaigns:
– Operation GrindStop in the Faroe Islands 2014
– Seal Defence Campaign in Scotland (2014-2015)
– Operation Bloody Fjords in the Faroe Islands (2016-2022) including launching the #StopTheGrind coalition (2021-present), a partnership between Shared Planet and SSUK
– Cove Guardians / Operation Infinite Patience in Japan (2016-2017)
– Operation 404 (2017-2018)
– Sea Shepherd UK’s Ghostnet campaign (2018-present)
– Various reconnaissance work by boat and land around Scotland, Orkney, Shetland, and the Faroe Islands since 2016
– Operation Mjolnir in Iceland (2018)
– Sea Shepherd UK’s Education Project (2020-present)
– Operation Northern Exposure, Iceland (2022)
Rob maintains and drives the Sea Shepherd UK’s RHIBs ‘Siren’ and ‘Phantom’, as well as the Ex-MOD landing craft ‘Selkie’ based in Scotland, and is also a drone pilot, BSAC Ocean Diver, Marine Mammal Medic with BDMLR, RYA/ICC powerboat licensed, WISE trained, and with RYA Marine Radio SRC certified.
In November 2022, Rob became one of the co-founders of ‘Sea Shepherd Origins’ – a new entity dedicated to defending the core values of Sea Shepherd as a frontline, direct action marine conservation movement as SSCS was founded by Captain Paul Watson in 1977.
“Sea Shepherd has made many enemies over the years because our campaigns have been so effective under Paul Watson’s vision leadership and vision.
Now we have a new fight to reclaim Sea Shepherd US from a rogue board who have taken control with the aim of eradicating our founder’s legacy and changing Sea Shepherd into (yet another) generic research based marine conservation organisation.
Sea Shepherd’s unique style of independent, uncompromising, and ethical campaigning can not be destroyed while ocean wildlife and ecosystems are under such severe threats.
Unless we can preserve the DNA of Sea Shepherd and stay true to our principles which have saved so many lives – the void in enforcement and investigation caused by governments, their agencies and naval patrols which Sea Shepherd have filled for over 4 decades will be once again be open to illegal and destructive exploiters of marine wildlife”.
Support Captain Paul Watson
Help Defend Sea Shepherd
Join ‘SEA SHEPHERD ORIGINS’
Nathalie Gil is currently President at Sea Shepherd Brazil. She joined Sea Shepherd in 2019 after dropping out of a career of 18 years’ experience working as strategic partner to many large companies around the world, as it made her disappointed by working with the status quo, but motivated to make a difference with the skills she developed from it. Deciding to follow her heart and to dedicate her talents for the planet, she took the decision to become a deckhand and eventually bosun’s mate at one of Sea Shepherd ships, the White Holly. She helped to set up the Holly for missions, and worked as Media Coordinator on a campaign. In parallel to crewing onboard, Nathalie has started the development of the Expedition Boto da Amazônia, which was launched in 2021 by Sea Shepherd Brazil.
When leaving the ship in 2020, Nathalie worked as a Director of Development at Sea Shepherd Brazil, structuring the organization to operate in five local campaigns. In 2021 Nathalie became Executive Director in Brazil, and from 2022, she became President of the Board of Directors.
“I have very little historical experience at Sea Shepherd. However, I feel honored and proud to work side by side with Paul Watson and others who built what Sea Shepherd truly is about. I can see my role as a representation of the new blood which reinforces the mission and values of Sea Shepherd, that keep them alive and well, proving Sea Shepherd is a movement which is timeless: it is necessary today, just as it was back in 1977.
Every great step and achievement at Sea Shepherd nowadays is never done by any person in isolation: it was only made possible because of the beliefs and ethics which were set up by Paul Watson back then. Doors are opened to us because of his inspiring vision, people listen to us because of his impressive achievements. Our own achievements as leaders are always standing on the shoulders of every other achievement made through all these decades.
An organization which goes against what Paul believes in and what he built is one which goes against our origins. My motivation as a founding member at Sea Shepherd Origins is to help Sea Shepherd to continue to fight for what the ocean needs most right now: Sea Shepherd’s original boldness, its passion, its relentless mission.
No person or small team can destroy a movement which is so much bigger than them. We at Origins want to prove this: to fight for our origins is to fight for what the ocean needs the most, for today and for tomorrow.”
Lamya Essemlali was born in France in 1979. After completing an associate degree in advertising and marketing in Paris, she realized the only way she could ever be happy was to work in her field of passion, defending the environment and the animals. She decided to start over and went back to University at 24. She got her Master degree in Environmental Sciences with a specialization in conservation of Biodiversity at the University Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris.
In 2005, she meets the captain Paul Watson in Paris and she co-founds Sea Shepherd France in 2006 after her first campaign in Antarctica. She has been President of Sea Shepherd France since 2008 and has lead several international and national campaigns. The campaign she lead in 2010 for the Blue Fin tuna in the Mediterranean sea ended up with the release of 800 illegally caught tunas in the Libyan waters. She also has been very much involved in the campaigns in the Faroes island, she lead the 2010 expedition where the underwater graveyard was discovered and also lead the off shore team of Grind Stop in 2014, that has driven away from the hunting bays many pods of pilot whales. Although 33 whales died on a grind under Sea Shepherd’s watch that year, over 1333 whales had been killed the previous year on the same period, in the absence of Sea Shepherd.
Lamya launched the Mare Nostrum campaign in the Mediterranean sea since 2015, a campaign focused on the retrieval of ghost nets, during which kilometers and several tons of waste have been removed from the sea and many trapped animals released. She has also built sea turtles anti poaching campaign on the French island of Mayotte that goes on each year since 2017, the « Operation Dolphin Bycatch » in the bay of Biscay since 2018 and « Operation Ocean Killers » started in 2021, that focuses on the impact of supertrawlers in French waters.
Asides from campaigns, her work in France involves legal action, fundraising, media and communication, and meetings with govermental officials . She gives many public talks each year and she has written a book with Paul Watson in 2012 “Interview with a Pirate” in which she compiled several years of discussions she had with the Founder of Sea Shepherd on many topics including, politics, animal welfare, media, philosophy. An updated version of the book has been released in 2017 for the 40th anniversary of Sea Shepherd.
Lamya has always considered all forms of life deserve respect. She believes mankind won’t ever be at peace unless it is at peace with the rest of the animal kingdom and finally realizes that it is not outside of Nature but part of it and any harm he does to Nature, he actually does to himself. Therefore she truly recognizes herself in the biocentric approach of Sea Shepherd.
« I have been involved with Sea Shepherd for 18 years and I intend to keep doing so as long as it remains in my eyes, one of the most effective tool to defend and protect the ocean. I believe that the co-founders of Sea Shepherd Origins have in common the essential values carried on by Paul Watson, which we have made their own. We are loyal to this legacy, we’ll work to ensure that the battle started 45 years ago to save our ocean keep inspiring millions of people to become part of the solution » – Lamya Essemlali
Co-founder of the Greenpeace Foundation in 1972. Founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in 1977. Founder of the Captain Paul Watson Foundation in 2022. Star of the Whale Wars and Ocean Warrior series on Animal Planet and featured in the Academy award winning film The Cove and in the documentaries Chasing the Thunder, Sharkwater, Pirate for the Sea, The Edge of the World and Eco Pirate. Captain Paul Watson is also the author of the books Ocean Warrior, Seal Wars, Earthforce!, The War to Save the Whales. And We Are The Ocean.
Captain Watson has led hundreds of marine conservation campaigns and today has begun to assemble a new fleet to carry on the work with the Captain Paul Watson Foundation to tracking down and shut down poaching operations to defend endangered species and threatened habitats.
Captain Watson was an instructor on deep ecology at Art Center in Pasadena and in the Honors program at UCLA.
Captain Watson has received the Amazon Peace Prize (2007), the Jules Verne Medal for Conservation (2012) and was named one of the 100 Environmental Heroes of the 20th Century by Time Magazine in 1999.
Captain Paul Watson is a citizen of both the United States and Canada. He was born in Toronto in 1950.
He is married to Yanina Rusinovich and is the father of daughter Lilliolani and sons Tiger and Murtagh.