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South Park puts spotlight on Paul Watson and his "Whale Wars"

Paul Watson, a self-described "Earth Warrior," is set for another round of Whale Wars against the Japanese fleet as South Park takes aim.

By Staff writer / October 29, 2009

South Park's Stan Marsh joined a cartoonized Paul Watson last night in a parodied version of "Whale Wars."

SOUTH PARK STUDIOS screengrab

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If mockery is more damaging than direct criticism, Paul Watson is in big trouble.

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For 30 years, Watson and his Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have been the most feared eco-vigilantes on the high seas, steaming out in their black ships, jolly rogers hoisted, to ram and sometimes successfully sink Japanese and Norwegian whaling ships. The Law of the Sea? That's for sissies, Mr. Watson sneers, claiming he and his companions have the right to disrupt what they consider to be illegal and unethical whale hunts.

He's persona non-grata in Iceland, spent 80 days in a Norwegian prison in the 1990s and is even too extreme for Greenpeace, which shuns him, notwithstanding that he helped found that organization. One of his ships carries a tally of whalers sunk – including one ship disabled while in Lisbon port by a limpet mine in 1980 – on its side, the way fighter aces used to tally their kills on their fuselages.

Whale Wars

But since Watson and his merry band became the stars of Whale Wars, their own reality show on Animal Planet, their profile has gone through the roof. Movie star Daryl Hannah briefly crewed on the organization's Steve Irwin (named for Australian entertainer/conservationist who was killed by a stingray in 2006) last December as it hunted Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean. Their roster of celebrity supporters also include Uma Thurman, Mick Jagger, and Sean Penn.

The wave of attention has left Sea Shepherd's coffers more flush and on Oct. 17 the organization formally unveiled it's new weapon: The Ady Gil. The $2.5 million space-age trimaran is all speed; under the moniker Earthrace, it set the world circumnavigation record in just over 60 days (crushing the old record by nearly two weeks) in 2008. It's been renamed for the Hollywood benefactor who paid for its acquisition and given Sea Shepherds' characteristic black paint job. Watson has told reporters that it will be deployed in this year's anti-whaling (and TV shooting) mission in frigid waters south of Australia.

Amy Baird, Sea Shepherd's media director, says the group's other ships don't have the speed to keep up with Japanese harpoon boats and says the Gil will be used as an "interceptor vessel" to speed along with the harpooners as they seek minke and fin whales, and then dart in between them and their prey as they get set to take their shot. She says the group will depart Australia in early December and hopes to shadow the Japanese whaling fleet until it returns home.

But more money, more problems, as The Notorious B.I.G. once said.

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