The behind-the-scenes true story of Paul Watson, the world's most famous eco-pirate and marine animal rights activist.
Paul Watson became an animal rights activist at the young age of eleven, in 1962. When trappers killed a beaver that Paul had befriended, he systematically and efficiently located and destroyed their traps. This was the beginning of fifty years of animal rights activism. Among the international awards and recognition he has earned in that time, Time Magazine named Watson one of the top twenty environmental heroes of the 20th century.
In 1969, when just eighteen, Watson co-founded Greenpeace. He was also the first man to intervene between a whale and a harpoon. Watson left Greenpeace to establish the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which uses more aggressive direct-action strategies to combat threats to the world's ocean creatures. With a goal of protection and conservation of marine mammals, their first priority is ending the illegal hunting of seals and whales. In Antarctica, Japanese whalers kill hundreds of whales each year. To circumvent the moratorium on commercial whaling, Tokyo disguises their whaling under the cover of scientific programs. Yet the environmental movement got results: Japanese whalers, who intended to kill 850 minke whales, returned with only 507 whales in 2010. The International Court of Justice was asked to require Japan to end this whaling program, and the campaigns have included sinking ten illegal whaling ships, ramming more at sea, confiscating hundreds of long lines and drift nets and making more than 250 expeditions worldwide to save hundreds of thousands of marine animals.
Captain Watson, though fighting for a good cause, is labeled by some as a "pirate" and an "eco-terrorist," including those running Greenpeace today. But for those who think that petitions and banners will not be enough to save the ocean, he is a hero. To all his detractors, Paul Watson responds, "Find us a whale that disapproves of our actions and we promise to give it up!"
In this book, Paul Watson reveals to shipmate Lamya Essemlali his motivations, campaigns, dangers and successes. Watson was recently arrested in Germany on a Costa Rican warrant that claimed he endangered the crew of a fishing vessel a decade ago. The Sea Shepherd feels the arrest is politically motivated and that he may be extradited to answer charges related to obstructing Japanese whaling activities. Watson skipped bail in Germany for an unknown destination, and is currently on the open seas.
Paul Watson is the founder and leader of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
Lamya Essemlali joined the Sea Shepherd crew in 2005 after meeting Paul Watson in Paris. She participated in seven campaigns at sea, four of which she coordinated alongside Captain Watson.
Excerpt from the Introduction
In January 2005 my friend, whose brother was working with Jacques Perrin on the movie Oceans, which at the outset was supposed to tell the story of Paul's life, told me that Paul Watson would be coming to Paris. At that time, Sea Shepherd did not have a branch in France, and so Paul was not very well known there. But I found him intriguing; I wanted to know more about this guy who was going around sinking whaling ships. So I was really looking forward to attending the talk he would be giving that Sunday afternoon. It took place in a small room provided for the occasion by WWF France.
What I heard that afternoon marked a turning point in my life: "So, there is someone out there who thinks like me, who dares to say it and, even better, dares to do it. It is possible." Prior to that, I had been involved with big ecology groups, without ever feeling I belonged there and with a level of enthusiasm that was declining with every passing day. But on that Sunday afternoon, I met Captain Paul Watson and learned about the Sea Shepherd organization: the UFO of the ecology movement. When the talk was over, I went to see Paul and I was very straightforward with him. I said: "I want to help you. What can I do to help?" He answered: "If you are ready to work hard, and if you have the time, apply for a campaign at sea. But before you do, ask yourself if you are really ready to risk your life for a whale, because that is a non-negotiable condition of working with us."
The following summer, I went to Florida to meet with the Farley Mowat, the flagship at that time, to take part in my first campaign in the Galapagos archipelago.
In the interim, I had eagerly researched anything and everything that had been said or written about this unusual character. I read a lot of positive things about Paul -- he clearly had a lot of fans -- but I wasn't looking only for positive comments. I was interested in finding out who his enemies were. And I didn't have any problem finding some: "Misanthrope," "pirate," "terrorist," "guru." When I dug a little deeper into their arguments, none held up to an analysis of the real facts. All of Paul's detractors had private interests that had been more or less negatively affected by his activities. They all contributed, at least as much as Paul himself, to my decision to take the leap and join Sea Shepherd.
While my opinion about Paul's public persona was forged quickly, the same cannot be said of my opinion about the man. Some say he is arrogant, egocentric, cold, calculating, distrustful, disruptive, opportunistic, etc., and that his strongest opponents seem to be part of the "eco-intelligentsia," or the "eco-diplomatic corps." It was difficult at that time to formulate an opinion without knowing him personally.
Seven years later, after seven campaigns at sea and after accompanying him on dozens of conferences and interviews, and after about just as many days and informal evenings in his company, I am now in a position to express an opinion.
When I went aboard the Farley Mowat with him for my first campaign at sea, I expected him to talk about whales. But he spoke mostly about history, religion, films, poetry and music, and he would organize onboard poker tournaments. He told jokes and posed funny riddles, of which he knows hundreds. His knowledge of general culture is impressive and his uncommon ability to recall facts shows that he has vast knowledge of a lot of different topics. My friend and I gave him the nickname "WikiWatson." But Paul didn't talk about his achievements as an activist unless people brought the subject up, and even then he didn't talk about it at length. I asked him what he thought of the documentaries that had been made about Sea Shepherd, and he had the same criticism of all of them: "They focus too much on me." Paul never really wanted to be a hero, but he became one in spite of himself, and I think that he could easily have done without it. That's what makes all the difference, and what makes his commitment truly heroic.
Through spending time with Paul, I learned to love the human being behind the public persona. I cannot say with any degree of certainty whether it is the hero that I met or the friend that he became that has inspired me the most.
Paul is far from being the character described by his opponents. He does not even match up with the self-image that he projects.
However, it does not surprise me that those who have confronted him in the media or at sea (whether they be participants at camps for well-intentioned ecologists or poachers) find him arrogant. What can be perceived as arrogance is rooted in his extraordinary determination and the distance he puts between himself and any criticism or flattery. It is very difficult to upset Paul. In fact, I would say that it is almost impossible. Indeed, he excels at interacting with groups of non-supporters, and such encounters highlight his debating skills.
Paul's irreverence is relevant; he is a forthright rebel. He is not afraid of calling into question the assumptions that pass for absolute truths in our anthropocentric societies. He upsets the status quo, even if it means shocking people and even if it means being the odd man out. "I never set out to win any popularity contests," he has said. "Nothing that I do is done to please people; I work exclusively for the oceans."
Add to that the fact that he makes no concessions for human overpopulation, and he is labeled a misanthropist--which, by the way, does not bother him in the least. In my opinion, Paul is indeed a misanthropist, but one who is especially kind to those who are dear to him and who is fair to all.
He is a complex character and a formidable enemy. But he never crushes or neglects the weakest and most vulnerable. I remember one occasion when he was taking a strip off a well-known artist who had painted a gigantic fresco in support of Sea Shepherd. Many anonymous volunteers had participated in the group project, but the artist had claimed sole credit for the work. In Paul's eyes, the artist lost stature because of his lack of gratitude to the volunteers. Paul doesn't necessarily respect those who are famous or powerful, but he has the utmost respect for those who do not walk all over those who are not.
Shannon Mann, a friend and Sea Shepherd veteran, told me a story that is a good example of how Paul treats the underdog: "I was working late one night at the Friday Harbor office when Paul came in. He said: 'It's very odd, but I just found a little mouse outside. It didn't appear to be injured or anything, it was just sitting there, not moving a muscle. So I picked it up and put it into a shoe box. I hope it is doing okay.' It was a shoe box with all the comforts including food, water and a litter box. Unfortunately, when Paul came back the following day, the mouse was dead. I got the feeling that Paul was saddened by it. He spends his days fighting to defend the largest creatures on the planet, but the little ones also have a place in his heart."
Chapter 1 The End of the Sierra
Chapter 2 Meeting Paul Watson
Chapter 3 A Passionate Lifelong Activist
Chapter 4 Human Versus Nature
Chapter 5 Humans in Harmony with Nature
Chapter 6 Paul and the Baby Seals
Chapter 7 Greenpeace, My Love
Chapter 8 The Charity Business
Chapter 9 A World of Appearances
Chapter 10 Sea Shepherd, UFO Association
Chapter 11 A Question of Strategy
Chapter 12 An Overpopulated World
Chapter 13 The Media Dictatorship
Chapter 14 Ecoterrorists
Chapter 15 The Art of Educating Poachers
Chapter 16 The Biggest Pirates of Them All
Chapter 17 A Few Words About Governments
Chapter 18 You Are What You Eat
Chapter 19 Sustainable Development Is a Business Like Any Other
Chapter 20 The Tragedy of the Commons
Chapter 21 Too Precious to Be Saved
Chapter 22 Tradition, Or the Art of Justifying the Unjustifiable
Chapter 23 The Gulag: Too Close for Comfort
Chapter 24 The Killer Shark Myth
Epilogue Notes Index