2011-08-20 / Front Page

MARINE MISSION

CCHS graduate gets ‘dream job’ working with world famous Sea Shepherd Conservation Society


Cameron County High School graduate Tim Pierce has landed his ‘dream job’ as the head of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s aviation department. His first mission with the group that has gained worldwide recogniion for its efforts to save marine life on the Animal Planet series ‘Whale Wars’ was to the Faeroe Islands. There, the group defended pilot whales which are killed by the hundreds every year as part of ‘the grind,’ a mass killing in which pods of the mammals are herded into shallow waters and slaughtered. 
Photo courtesy of the Sea Shepherd’s Peter Hammarstedt Cameron County High School graduate Tim Pierce has landed his ‘dream job’ as the head of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s aviation department. His first mission with the group that has gained worldwide recogniion for its efforts to save marine life on the Animal Planet series ‘Whale Wars’ was to the Faeroe Islands. There, the group defended pilot whales which are killed by the hundreds every year as part of ‘the grind,’ a mass killing in which pods of the mammals are herded into shallow waters and slaughtered. Photo courtesy of the Sea Shepherd’s Peter Hammarstedt Cameron County High School graduate Timothy Pierce recalls sitting in his apartment watching the television show “Whale Wars,” the reality program that highlights the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s (SSCS) efforts to stop the slaughtering of whales on the high seas of the Antarctic Ocean.

“I was fascinated with the people,” he said. “I was in awe of the fact that they, as volunteers, were willing to risk their lives to protect marine wildlife.” That was three years ago.


Tim Pierce aboard the world famous USS Steve Irwin. Tim Pierce aboard the world famous USS Steve Irwin. Last week, (Aug. 11),

Pierce was aboard the famous marine vessel “The

Steve Irwin” having lunch with Captain Paul Watson, perhaps the world’s most wellknown sea captain.

Pierce, a 35-year-old veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, was hired three months ago to head the organization’s fledgling aviation department and be its head mechanic.

His is a story of a small-town boy who is now making a bigtime difference in the world.

For those who aren’t familiar with “Whale Wars” and Captain Watson’s organization, here’s the story in short.

Wherever there is illegal slaughter of marine animals taking place on planet Earth, Watson’s groups are there to defend them. Captain Watson has been defending marine wildlife for the better part of four decades, but his fleet and his mission gained world wide recognition when the cable network Animal Planet began to air a series on the organization’s mission to stop Japanese whalers in the frigid waters of the Antarctic.


Even children get involved in the massacre of pilot whales on the Faeroe Islands. Whales are not the only marine wildlife that are defended by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS). Sharks, dolphins, blue fin tuna and other marine species are being spared of illegal killing every day, thanks to the work of the SSCS. Even children get involved in the massacre of pilot whales on the Faeroe Islands. Whales are not the only marine wildlife that are defended by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS). Sharks, dolphins, blue fin tuna and other marine species are being spared of illegal killing every day, thanks to the work of the SSCS. At that time, donors were difficult to come by and the nonprofi t organization’s resources were extremely limited. Since the debut of the show three years ago, however, the senseless slaughter of marine wildlife has attracted the attention of conservationists the world around and support for the mission has grown exponentially.

“The show has really given the mission an edge,” Pierce said. “It has focused the eyes of the world on the slaughter of these innocent animals... it has made people realize that this is real.”

That publicity has drawn in wealthy donors who are helping fund the SSCS’s defense efforts.

In the past couple years, new “weapons” in the SSCS’s arsenal have included additional large ships, speed boats and reconnaissance helicopters. The addition of the aerial edge is what led to Pierce being added to the team.

In the Marine Corps, Pierce was a flight engineer, stationed most in Hawaii. That’s where his love for, and expertise in, aircraft maintenance was born.

After being discharged, Pierce continued along the same career path. He took the necessary schooling and passed the tests needed to upgrade his license so he could work on airplanes, in addition to helicopters.

For the past decade, he has been living in Butler (Pa.), maintaining helicopters in the Allegheny General Hospital’s Life Flight fleet. He still keeps his apartment there for the downtime when the SSCS isn’t on missions around the globe.

“It’s been quite a journey getting here,” Pierce said. “I’m just so grateful to be given this opportunity to not only do what I love professionally, but also to be a part of something so meaningful on a global scale.”

Pierce was perusing the web one day earlier this year when he came across an advertisement for an aviation department developer/dedicated maintenance mechanic for the SSCS.

He applied and a few weeks later, got a call. Several phone interviews later, Pierce was their man.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I am still in awe that I am traveling the world, doing something so meaningful and it’s my job! Well, actually, it’s my life now and I absolutely love it.”

Pierce’s first mission ended just a month ago when the Sea Shepherd crew was in the Faeroe Islands stopping what is known locally as the “grind,” an all-out slaughter of pilot whales (although other whales and dolphins are often caught in the cross fire and killed as well).

In the “grind” pods of pilot whales are herded into the shallows and killed by the hundreds.

“It’s a travesty beyond what most people could even imagine,” Pierce said. “Our mission is to try and save them and to let the world know the reality of the situation.”

In the SSCS’s efforts to protect marine wildlife from illegal slaughter, finding the bad guys in such expansive bodies of water can be the most difficult part of their mission. That’s where the helicopters come in.

Pierce rarely flies with the crew “unless they feel like they could use another set of eyes on the water,” but he has the massively important job of keeping the group’s two helicopters flight ready.

In a typical day, said Pierce, the team flies three missions, searching for whalers and others who are illegally harvesting marine wildlife. Their biggest stage, and perhaps their biggest battle, is on the numbing cold high seas of the Antarctic Ocean, where Japanese vessels, under the auspices of research, hunt and kill entire pods of minke whales.

Finding the Japanese whaling fleet has always been a struggle for the Sea Shepherd crew.

“The helicopters enable us to cover so much more territory,” Pierce said. “And that has given the mission a significant advantage.”

Whaling commences in early January, but there are rumblings that the Japanese are throwing in the towel after being sent home early last year, thanks to the pressure put on by the SSCS.

“We can only hope that... but if they are out there, you can bet we will be, too,” Pierce said of the Japanese.

Anyone who is familiar with the show “Whale Wars” knows that, in addition to sailing on some of the world’s most treacherous seas, the crew is in harm’s way when they confront the Japanese who have capsized and destroyed SSCS vessels in the past.

“These are some of the bravest people I’ve ever met,” Pierce said. “To be around people who, as volunteers, are willing to give up their lives for the mission, is something that is very difficult to even explain... The camaraderie is overwhelming. I am so fortunate to be a part of it.”

Pierce, a 1994 graduate of Cameron County High School, has many friends and family back home who are waiting patiently for the new series of “Whale Wars” to begin, hoping to catch a glimpse of the hometown boy on television.

“It’s kind of strange to think about that part of it,” he said of the television show. “Really, we don’t think about it. We focus on the mission. That’s why we’re all here. It’s great if the television show helps the mission, but it’s not why any of us are here. We’re here to save the marine life.”

For more on the SSCS, visit their website at seashepherd.org.

Return to top