By Lamya Essemlali, with Paul Watson. Firefly Books, 264 pp, softcover
Sea Shepherd Society founder Paul Watson has been on the receiving end of countless epithets since he burst into public prominence as a Vancouver-based Greenpeace activist more than 40 years ago.
He’s been branded a terrorist and misanthrope, been accused of arrogance, and even been saddled with the label of cult leader.
This is what Watson has come to expect after a career of disrupting the killing of whales, dolphins, bluefin tuna, seals, and other marine life.
According to Lamya Essemlali, executive director of Sea Shepherd France, Watson is unfazed by the condemnations, which are as likely to come from high-ranking officials in environmental groups as from whaling-industry profiteers.
“What can be perceived as arrogance is rooted in his extraordinary determination and the distance he puts between himself and any criticism or flattery,” Essemlali writes in Captain Paul Watson, a new book that profiles the eco-activist and outlines his views on a broad range of topics, including overpopulation, environmental tactics, veganism, myths about sharks, and the media.
“It is very difficult to upset Paul,” Essemlali adds. “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.”
Most of the chapters in Captain Paul Watson are arranged in a question-and-answer format, with each dealing with a specific subject, such as human beings’ war against nature. Throughout the book, Watson comes across as an extraordinarily thoughtful and uncompromising man who’s been far ahead of his time in understanding the consequences of unbridled poaching of the oceans.
“We protect the interests of our clients,” Watson says at one point. “Our clients are not people; they are whales and other marine species that are exploited and exterminated to serve the cultural and economic interests of humans.”
He claims that 90 percent of the fish in the oceans have been “exterminated”. In one chilling section, he declares that more species of plants and animals will disappear between 2000 and 2065 than were lost in the previous 65 million years. And the death of the oceans, he predicts, will lead to the death of life on Earth.
This is just one reason why he’s adamantly opposed to eating seafood and why all the crew on Sea Shepherd Society vessels must eat vegan diets.
“Nobody can legitimately claim to be a marine ecologist and conservationist while continuing to eat fish,” he declares. “It is the ultimate form of hypocrisy.”
He’s particularly proud of the Sea Shepherd Society’s role in sinking half the docked Icelandic whaling fleet in 1986. He also gleefully recalls how he and two crew members, Peter Wolf and Jerry Dornan, used their boat in 1979 to ram the Sierra, which Watson accuses of illegally killing almost 25,000 whales. Explosives set by persons unknown later sent the Sierra to the bottom of Lisbon’s harbour. Less than three months later, two Spanish whaling ships met a similar fate.
The upside of the question-and-answer approach is that it provides a completely unfiltered view into Watson’s mindset. The downside is that Essemlali mostly lobs softballs at the eco-pirate. But it still makes for compelling reading.
And Watson certainly doesn’t hold back. He skewers Greenpeace as a “fraudulent organization” for collecting millions of dollars to save whales while not sending any ships to stop the Japanese hunt in Antarctica. He dismisses most politicians as “parasites”, claims that the Green party is “corrupted by anthropocentric values”, and maintains that Americans are governed by the oil companies.
In his core, Watson believes there are too many humans on the planet. And there need to be a lot fewer of them for marine life to thrive. Hence, he’s called a misanthrope.
An apt title might well have been The World According to Paul Watson. If nothing else, this book will force readers to reexamine how human beings are annihilating other species, particularly those that live in the sea.