The Rogue Voice


October 01, 2006

Rogue of the month: Mandy Davis

Hunting whalers
Morro Bay activist Mandy Davis returns to sea

Mandy Davis makes Morro Bay fishermen and hunters cringe. They call her an “eco-terrorist,” but she fires right back and says the real eco-terrorists are destroying the environment. Mandy Davis is a warrior who poses a threat to livelihoods drawn from limited resources, like Japanese whalers who cull threatened species from protected waters.
Davis, who has challenged the rights of hunters to take kills from Morro Bay’s already stressed national estuary, an area designated as a bird sanctuary, loves to tip the scales in favor of species and “game” that stand little chance of survival.
Davis confronts her opponents with the same readiness and fearlessness for battle as Samurai who put their lives on the line to protect the defenseless.
Last year, she joined the crew of the Sea Shepherd captained by Paul Watson to aggressively pursue Japanese whalers flagrantly violating international law. The crew, drawn from countries around the world, dogged the violators by dispatching boats, and nets and propeller-destroying obstacles.
The Sea Shepherd’s efforts, whose mandate “is to assume a law enforcement role as provided by the United Nations World Charter for Nature,” have been recognized throughout the world, including a recent article in National Geographic, for its daring and harrowing runs in the dangerous, bone-chilling waters near Antarctica. After nearly a year of traveling the world, Davis returned to Morro Bay more ready than ever to take up her cause against hunting, renewing afresh her defense of the estuary. After frustrating attempts to deliver some sense to Morro Bay’s “good ol’ boys” network, as she calls it, Davis finally decided to “close up shop” and return to sea.
She left Morro Bay last month to begin another journey with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, where, she says, she can have more of an impact through her activism, protecting endangered and internationally protected whales.

— Stacey Warde

Rogue Voice: It seems like you just got here, just got back from your voyage with the Sea Shepherd. And, already, you’re going back?
Mandy Davis: I’m closing up shop here. I’ve had enough. I’m just spinning my wheels trying to get anything done here, so I decided to pack everything I own and spend another season at sea where my actions will actually have an impact on protecting the environment.
RV: How were you spinning your wheels?
MD: Well, for example, I was voted unanimously to the Morro Bay Harbor Advisory Board with hopes of turning the board towards a more environmental stance. I couldn’t do anything, couldn’t get anything accomplished. I felt like I was fighting, spinning my wheels, against the good ol’ boys, who really don’t care at all about the environment. Eventually, I quit in protest to the board’s position on the Marine Life Protection Act, and decided to go back to protecting whales.
I’m really ready to get on the ship. I’m serious. I’m really ready to be proactive.
RV: What do you hope to accomplish?
MD: One of the reasons I’m doing this is to get the word out, to let people know what’s really going on with our oceans, with the horrible things that are being done to the whales, whales that are internationally protected. The Japanese are running these huge ships—floating factories, really—that process the whales, on board the ship. There’s an international moratorium on some whales but the Japanese whalers still go after them and try to destroy them. And the majority of the whaling there is in protected waters, sanctuaries for the whales. But not many people really know about it, there’s so little media coverage. We usually have people on board who write stories about what we’re doing. [Mandy offers a copy of an article, “The Whale Warriors,” written by National Geographic’s Peter Heller who voyaged with the Sea Shepherd.] We’re definitely getting the word out, but a lot of people still don’t know what’s going on down there.
RV: What did you do when you were at sea?
MD: I was on the deck crew. And I was a navigator on one of the zodiacs, which we used to chase down the whalers. They ran from us every time they saw us. They know that if we can stop the mother ship, we can stop them from whaling. We’d throw nets and beams out and try to foul their props, which is an ideal way of disabling the mother ship.
When we weren’t in the zodiacs, I liked being on deck where the action is. There are a lot of jobs on the ship, some of which are below deck and I just don’t think I could do that. I tried the bridge, but the bridge is too sedentary. I’m more active. I need to be out where the action is. I’d rather be busy doing something than sitting by helplessly waiting for things to happen.
Once, the Japanese tried to run us down, a huge ship that dwarfed us, in high seas and frigid waters. The whole crew was ordered below deck and all we could do was sit there on pins and needles and wait and watch them headed for our midships—we stayed our course, a dangerous game of chicken, as it were, is what the Japanese seemed to be playing. It was terrible. If they’d rammed us, cut us in half, we wouldn’t have lasted but a few minutes, if that, in those waters.
RV: Why did you choose this work?
MD: I’ve been aware of Paul Watson for a long time, and I’ve known that this organization is very much about conservation and keeping animals from being killed. It’s an organization that gets things done, and I’d had just about enough of not getting anything done while trying to stop, or even regulate, hunting in the estuary. I learned that “compromise” in Morro Bay had about a snowball’s chance in hell. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society succeeds because it’s all about enforcing international law. There’s no compromise.
I totally believe that one person can make a big difference; it’s better than complaining about how bad things are and not doing anything about it. If you’re going to complain and wring your hands, you’d better be willing to do something, to come up with a solution.
I’m doing this, really, for very definite, spiritual reasons, which is hard for some people to understand. I believe in the sacredness of all creatures, and I think that our connection to them is really important. We need to get back to more “biocentric” ways of thinking, rather than the “anthropocentric” mindset, which thinks we can excavate and dominate the earth at will, without any consequences. It’s not just about us dominating the earth. Unfortunately, most hunters think that way; most extracting industries are that way, too. They think you can just take whatever you want.
RV: What else did you experience while sailing with the Sea Shepherd?
MD: I got to witness first-hand the horrible environmental devastation that we’re causing to the oceans. It’s one thing to read about it in the newspaper but quite another to see the terrible depletion of once-thriving ecosystems, which we’re now beginning to pay for. It’s a truly disturbing picture of an inconvenient truth, as [Al] Gore pointed out, and the inconvenient truth is that the marine and coastal ecosystems are in terrible condition. I want to do something about it. §

For more information on the mission and mandate of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, visit their web site:

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