Commentary by Paul Watson:
People often ask what our flag stands for and why do we fly what looks to be the Jolly Roger – the flag of piracy.
It goes back a few years when our critics accused us of being pirates. At first I was amused. Sea Shepherd primarily opposes illegal operations like outlaw whaling and unlawful fishing operations. I established Sea Shepherd as an anti-poaching organization, essentially an anti-piracy organization.
So we had illegal activities which were essentially pirate operations denouncing Sea Shepherd for being pirates.
As a student of Aikido I learned many years ago that it is wise to take what is directed against you and to make it work for you.
So if they wanted to call us pirates, well, ok, we would became pirates.
Instead of going on the defensive and saying we were not pirates, we decided to go on the offensive and responded with, ‘yea, we be pirates so what are you going to do about it.”
I asked Sea Shepherd director and tattoo artist Geert Vons in the Netherlands to design a flag with the Jolly Roger as the template for our flag.
The original traditional pirate flag in the Caribbean was actually white on red, not white on black. It was a French flag and it was called the “Jolie Rouge” or the “Pretty Red.”
I believe it was Captain Bartholomew Roberts who first designed the black and white version of the flag in the year 1700, but every pirate had their own design. It was Captain Jack Rackham who designed the crossed cutlasses beneath the skull.
For what we had in mind the Jolly Roger was an excellent template.
First of all – the black background. It represents extinction, the end of life, the death of the Ocean.
Lay over top the human skull – it represents humanity, the cause of diminishment and species extinction in the Ocean.
In the forehead of the skull is the Yin and the Yang using a dolphin and a whale to form the symbol. The passive and the active. The feminine and the masculine. The dolphin represents the yin and the whale represents the Yang. Both working to restore balance and harmony in the Ocean. It is the harmony in the Ocean that is the foundation for all life on the planet. In other words, if the Ocean dies. We all die.
Below the skull we cross a shepherd’s staff symbolizing protection with a trident symbolizing aggression and together this represents our philosophy of “aggressive nonviolence.”
The dolphin set in the trident symbolizes that we focus our energies non-violently towards the protection of life in the Ocean.
The flag perfectly represents Sea Shepherd. It is also easily recognized and possesses an energy that conveys passion, determination, resolve, romance and courage.
And best of all, children love this flag.
Not all pirates were bad. Blackbeard attacked slavers and freed the slaves and offered positions on his ships to freed slaves where they were equals. It was the pirate John Paul Jones who founded both the American and the Russian Navies. It was the pirate Henry Morgan who shut down piracy in the Caribbean. Pirates Francis Drake, Henry Morgan and Walter Raleigh were knighted and the pirate Robert Surcouf was awarded the French Legion of Honour by Napoleon and the legendary pirates of the Caribbean were merely stealing gold from the Spanish pirates who had stolen the gold from the Aztecs the Incas.
Sea Shepherd pirates are good pirates defending life against vicious pirates that snuff out life for profit. We are proud pirates of compassion opposing the pirates of greed.
And that is the story of why Sea Shepherd has the flag that we do.