What are your current actions against whaling?
We are concentrating on sending our ships to the Southern Ocean, where we blocked Japanese whaling activities over the year – this year it took 26% of the quota, last year 17% of the quota – so we’are able to effectively stop them killing a lot of whales. It’s been very successful and it costs them tens of millions of dollars. The aim in the beginning was to sink Japanese whaling economically. We have achieved that; they are heavily bankrupt. But now they are carrying on just because they don’t want to surrender. As the Prime Minister of Japan said, he is not going to surrender to Sea Shepherd. So now it is just upon pride and political purposes. The question is for how long they are going to subsidize it, because every year we go down stronger.
How do you feel about being in Germany and having no opportunity to take part in Sea Shepherd actions?
It is very inconvenient and it doesn’t make any sense, because Costa Rica issued a warrant demand for my extradition. It was something that happened ten years ago where nobody was injured, no property was damaged, and all we did is stopped the illegal shark fin operation in Guatemala’s waters at the request of the Guatemalan government. But suddenly it just appeared ten years later and conveniently after the meeting between the Costa Rican president and the Japanese Prime Minister. And just two weeks ago Japan gave Costa Rica nine million dollars for the national park. Interpol dismissed this warrant was politically motivated. Now the mystery is why Germany has picked it up, because Germany has no extradition treaty with Costa Rica. I think it is highly political and we just have to ride it out and see what the German courts say. If Germany rules not to extradite me, then I’m free. If it rules to extradite me, it can’t be overwritten by the Ministry of Justice here in Germany, and it has to be appealed in the European Court.
In the film “Sharkwater” it was said that the shark mafia has influence on the government. It is really that serious?
I think they have a lot of influence on the Costa Rican government. Last year they exported about 30 tons of shark fins. That’s a lot of sharks and that’s a lot of money, which buys quite a lot of influence. The Shark Fin mafia – as we call them – had a $25,000 reward on my head ten years ago, which is probably bigger now. And I am very concerned about that. I met the Costa Rican Foreign Minister in Germany. I said: “Look, this is very simple to resolve. Simply drop the extradition charge and set a trial day. You set a trial day, I’ll come to Costa Rica with my film and my witnesses, and we’ll come to court. We have the evidence for the case and we’re not concerned about that. But when you extradite me, you bring me there in handcuffs; you can hold me for a year in your prison until you have a trial. And what is a better place to collect their reward and then kill me in prison?” But he refused. So I don’t think they want a trial. I think they want an execution. And the interesting thing in that conversation with the Costa Rican Foreign Minister is this: he said, “You don’t have to worry, we don’t have any corruption in our country, prisons are very safe and the proof for that is we have two foreign presidents in the prisons, who everybody hated, and they’re safe.” And I said, “Well, you said there is no corruption in your country, so what are those two former presidents doing in prison?”
Do they influence the government with money?
The government doesn’t do much of the stuff; the shark finners are more concerned with us. You know, ten years ago we were supplying a lot of equipment to the Cocos Island rangers. Over the last ten years our efforts in the Galapagos Islands helped seize numerous Costa Rican poachers in the Galapagos Islands, so it cost millions of dollars. Last year, the celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey was in Costa Rica doing a program on shark finning. He was actually doused with gasoline and they threatened to light him on fire at gun point. When the police came, they just told that Ramsey should leave the country, and there was no action taken. Last year a biologist was assaulted by shark finners and again police did nothing against the fishermen. So the laws are very one sided when it comes to protecting fishermen in Costa Rica. It likes to present itself as a green country, an environmentally-aware country. But there are Chinese fishing vessels fishing illegally that they allowed in their waters; there are shark finning operations where they are killing dolphins in tuna nets; and they are using heavy pesticides in their banana and coffee fields. There are so many problems there. This “greenness” in the tourist brochures is certainly not in practice.
You said it would be enough to change the world if just 5-7 % of the population were as radical an activist as you are.
Actually, I never really look at myself as a real radical activist, I am more the conservative. I mean, the conservatives are trying to conserve, the radicals are destroying the planet. Any social movement throughout history has always been carried out by only 7% of population being passionately active in that. So all we really need is 7% of the population being passionate about this and we can change things. Unfortunately, there are more subscribers to the videogame World of Warcraft than there are environmentalists in the world, so we haven’t reached that 7% mark yet.
How is it possible to change the world with such a small number?
Well, just like any other social revolution, it is to keep the ball rolling. And what we really need to do is simply make sure that all of the world’s conservation laws, regulations, and treaties are enforced. We have them, so we don’t need to make up any new laws; we just have to get politicians or governments to stop cozying up with the corporations that destroy our planet and start representing the fact that we need a life support system on this planet. And our life support system is being eroded. We can compare the Earth to a spaceship, that’s what it is. We are traveling through space at 500 kilometers an hour. And like any spaceship it has a life support system, it’s a biosphere – it provides us with the air we breathe, the food we eat, and regulates the temperature and climate. And that biosphere is run by a crew of earthlings: bacteria, insects, fish, trees, flowers, bees – all of those creatures make it possible for us to live. We humans are not the crew, we are passengers. We have great time entertaining ourselves, but the crew is running the ship. And unfortunately we are killing off the crew. And there are only so many crew members we can kill off before the life support system begins to fall apart. And when that happens, we are in serious trouble. The oceans are the main engine of that life support system. If the oceans die – we die. It is as simple as that. We can’t live on a planet with a dead ocean.
The satirist George Carlin had a monologue called “The Earth is fine”. His point was that humanity isn’t able to hurt the planet, but it’s able to harm itself. And all the actions we take are not for saving the planet, but ourselves.
We can’t kill the planet, but we can certainly make it uncomfortable for quite a few species. You know, we had five major extinctions in the past of the planet – the last one 65.2 millions years ago. It usually takes eighteen to twenty millions years for the planet to recover after a major extinction event. So do we really want to be responsible as the species for putting the planet into the sixth major extinction event and bringing about another fifteen-twenty million-year recovery period? So yes, it’s not just the extinction of all the creatures, but it’s also the extinction of ourselves. We can’t live on this planet with a dead ocean, as I said. So, when you look at conservation and environmentalism, it is about protecting humanity – those creatures are the ones making it possible for us to be here.