Seal Wars: Twenty-Five Years on the Front Lines with the Harp Seals


248 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55263-510-4
DDC 333.95'9792916'091634






Reviewed by Patrick Colgan

Dr. Patrick W. Colgan is Director of Research and Natural Lands at the
Royal Botanical Gardens.


Last heard from in his 1994 Ocean Warrior, Paul Watson, (in)famous
protector of seals, returns with another book involving a new ship, a
new partner, and a foreword by Martin Sheen. Only three of 17 chapters
report events after 1994, but much of the earlier history is told with
different emphases.

Watson’s Atlantic childhood, youthful travels, and the founding of
Greenpeace are all prologue to the seal wars. The bulk of the material
deals with the brutality of the hunt, physical altercations, power
struggles within Greenpeace, confrontation with federal and local
authorities both on the ice and in the courtroom, and hunt-related
activities designed to capture the attention of the public. It is made
clear how egos play as large a role in conservation organizations as
anywhere else. Watson’s own pugilistic approach is obvious in his
choice of language, and calling

the inhabitants of the Magdalen Islands “Maganderthals” will not
improve French–English relations. The steadfast support of Cleveland
Amory and the involvement of celebrities are well told.

The stupidity with which officials, from local to the Federal Minister
of Fisheries, kept fishing cod over decades while blaming its demise on
seals is astonishing. Watson is not bashful about comparing his actions
to Churchill, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, or extolling his moral
superiority (e.g., “I have risen above this cult of violence and
disrespect for nature and other life forms”). Still, this candid
account from a key instigator of the seal wars is a great read.


Watson, Paul., “Seal Wars: Twenty-Five Years on the Front Lines with the Harp Seals,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 19, 2024,