Interview: Sea Shepherd's Deborah Bassett on 'Viking Shores'
“Whale Wars: Viking Shores”, the new spin-off series we’ve been talking about since last summer, is finally coming to Animal Planet this Friday at 9PM. The new series marks the first time viewers will see the Sea Shepherd in action outside the icy waters of the Antarctic; instead focusing on the picturesque Faroese Islands and its annual bloody pilot whale slaughter known as “the Grind.”
“Justice takes precedence over the law. No law that [the Faroese] can pass is going to justify what they’re doing to those whales,” SSCS founder Paul Watson says. “We have to constantly remind the Faroese that the outside world is watching them.”
Indeed, the spotlight has never been larger on the Faroese, which has a population of just under 50,000. We recently spoke with Deborah Bassett, who participated in last summer’s campaign, for some some insight on the new series, behind-the-scenes drama, and her role in future SSCS efforts.
Ecorazzi: How well did the new mobile acoustic “wall” work to deter the whales? I know it was tested first (I believe) in summer 2010, but were any upgrades made to the tech to enhance its effectiveness during this campaign?
DB: Well, I don’t want to give away too many details before the premiere of the show, but like every Sea Shepherd direct action campaign there are always unforeseen challenges and victories as well. You will have to tune in to Animal Planet on Friday nights In April and May to see what happens!
Ecorazzi: How large was the entire team (land, air, sea) that took part in “Ferocious”?
DB: Our combined crews of The Steve Irwin, The Brigitte Bardot and land team consisted of close to 50 international citizens. Many Sea Shepherd/Whale Wars veterans were on board for “Operation Ferocious Isles” including Peter “The Hammer” Hammerstedt, Laura Dakin, Chad Halstead, Fiona McQuaig, Pilot Chris Altman and Captain Locky Maclean as well as several new recruits. This was an all hands on deck effort and our entire crew worked tirelessly and seamlessly together to patrol the 23 hunting bays via land, air and sea patrol.
Ecorazzi: Can you tell us about about one or two more memorable experiences you had during this campaign?
DB: Successfully driving our Sea Shepherd van adorned with gruesome images of slaughtered pilot whales from past “grinds” into the heart of the national annual Faroese parade was certainly a highlight. Our objective was to bring about public awareness and discussion surrounding the outdated cultural tradition and this festival presented the perfect opportunity to engage many of the locals on the subject and hear their side of the story.
I was completely astounded by the lack of empathy for the whales who are barbarically slain during the grind and heartlessly viewed as a food source–even though local and international scientist collectively agree that pilot whale meat is highly toxic for human consumption and the hunt is no longer needed for survival. It was amazing to see the amount of confrontation coming from a culture who supposedly “pride” themselves on such a tradition and their defensive and aggressive reactions clearly spoke volumes about the grotesque and shameful reality of the grind.
Paul Watson’s arrival to the Faroe Islands was also a pivotal moment in the campaign as it clearly indicated to the Faroese that we meant serious business and that we were prepared to confront the issues head on and directly intervene against the grind if need be.
Ecorazzi: Does SSCS have “undercover” people in the Faroes monitoring events during pilot whale season?
DB: While I am not at liberty to discuss Sea Shepherd campaign tactics or strategies, for somewhat obvious reasons, I will say that the notion of “compromise” simply does not exist in Captain Paul Watson’s vocabulary. That being said, I can ensure you and also send a friendly reminder to the Faoroese that this is not the last that have seen or heard from The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
Ecorazzi: Will you participate on any upcoming campaigns with SSCS?
DB: Absolutely. Sea Shepherd is really a core philosophy and way of life for me. I was first inspired by Captain Paul Watson in 1998 when he spoke at my university and I have avidly followed his numerous and successful campaigns ever since. In my opinion, he can be directly credited for creating the largest direct action conservation movement on the planet and it is an absolute honor and privilege to serve alongside him.
I am always ready and willing to step up to the plate, but regardless if I am at sea or working from behind my desk in LA, I will continue to support and promote the critical marine conservation issues and Ocean “clients” that Sea Shepherd represents. I am grateful to have been given a voice and intend to use it for those who can not speak up to defend themselves–this is certainly not the last that you have seen or heard from The Debster!
Check out a trailer for “Viking Shores” below. Also look for Deborah Bassett on tonight’s “Last Call with Carson Daly” at 1:30AM.