You've seen their logo on t-shirts and heard your favourite bands talking about them, but who are Sea Shepherd? And why should you care?
“It feels like these days Sea Shep are probably the second or third thing people think about when they think about our band,” grins Architects’ Sam Carter “and I absolutely love that. I love that we are able to put the incredible work they do in front of whatever audience we have...”
Even the briefest of conversations with the flame-throated Sam will reveal just how deeply passionate the frontman is about the Washington-based ocean defence charity for whom he is now the UK ambassador.
Set up in 1977 by Captain Paul Watson with the mandate of defending marine wildlife worldwide, Sea Shepherd is a proudly direct action organisation, boarding the boats of whalers, dolphin-hunters and illegal fishermen in a bid to actively disrupt their activities.
In the time since their formation, the self-confessed eco-pirates have been taken to the hearts of the hardcore and metal community, with numerous high profile bands now flying their famous trident and shepherd’s crook skull and crossbones flag. But what is it about Sea Shepherd specifically that has inspired so many musicians keen to rally around?
“The punk rock and hardcore communities have always been proactive,” offers Stick To Your Guns vocalist Jesse Barnett, another staunch supporter, by way of explaination.
“It’s easy to talk, but our scene is about doing something to make the world a better place. Sea Shepherd absolutely do that, there’s something very punk about their tactics.”
Sadly, those tactics see the crews involved with Sea Shepherd frequently arrested by governments keen to protect fishing industries, no matter how dubious their practices. Captain Watson himself is currently banned from even approaching Japanese whalers.
Yet despite the hardships, Parkway Drive’s Winston McCall – who lives up the coast from the organisation’s second major HQ in Melbourne – backs a forthright methodology.
“Their activism involves going to some of the most dangerous places on the planet and putting themselves in the line of fire between endangered animals and large harpoons and ships, run by some very nasty people,” he says. “It’s life-threatening. Realising that the people who actually go on the ships are punk and hardcore kids, like the people you meet at shows, makes it it hit home even harder.”
Indeed, the kinship between those on stage and the volunteers manning Sea Shepherd’s fleet of interceptor boats is palpable.
“Truly, they are some of the bravest, most inspiring people I have ever met in my life,” offers Sam. “I feel privileged to call them friends. Sometimes I genuinely feel almost embarrassed by the fact that they are out there putting everything on the line for these creatures and I’m getting told I’m doing a brilliant thing just for talking about it on stage. The flip side is that I’ve seen more and more people coming to our gigs in Sea Shepherd T-shirts; more and more people making themselves aware of the disgusting stuff happening on our planet.”
“Every time I see someone wearing a T-shirt or repping a banner on stage, it warms my heart,” adds Winston, “knowing that the community is wanting to spread the message that there is support for these guys. It’s great to see kids starting to recognise the logo like they’d recognise a band logo.”
For Jesse though, there is something even greater to consider.
“Our scene is about compassion and care; it is about looking out for people and animals who can’t always look after themselves. If the strongest are happy to leave the weakest to suffer then that is no way to live.”
And in increasingly environmentally challenging times it seems that more and more rock musicians are using their influence to back their words with actions.
“After seeing the work they were doing first-hand, we made a conscious decision to always have Sea Shepherd stands selling T-shirts at Architects shows,” fires Sam. “The next thing for me is to get out on the boats for a campaign, when I get some free time from the band. I’m not going to stand by and let this fucked up stuff happen.
"Does anyone need to kill a shark and let it bleed to death just for its fin? Does anyone need to drive a pod of dolphins into a cove to slaughter every single one of them? No, they don’t, and we as a band are going to do everything in our power to help stop that.”
And with the groundswell of support now growing at the fastest rate it ever has, there’s a chance, just a chance, that a difference really can be made.
For more information, please visit the Sea Shepherd website.
This feature originally appeared in issue 210 of Rock Sound.