Interview with a sea pirate

Captain Paul Watson by Lamya Essemlali with Paul Watson, Firefly Books, 264 pages, $24.95

As a central figure in the ongoing fight to protect the oceans, Paul Watson has been an activist for most of his life.

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He was just 18 when he helped co-found Greenpeace, and in his mid-twenties when he left that organization he created the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Lamya Essemlali first met Paul Watson in Paris in 2005, the following summer she joined Watson on the Farley Mowat to take part in her first campaign in the Galapagos archipelago. Seven years later, many other campaigns, conferences, fund raising events and more have led her to the position of executive director of Sea Shepherd France.

Drawing from conversations and interviews over the years, Essemlali has produced this look at the man Time Magazine named as one of the 20 greatest 20th-century ecologists.

Presented as an extended interview, the book delves into a variety of topics revolving around Watson's philosophy and his actions.

Watson describes experiences that shaped his attitude and activities, such as a chance encounter and a swim with a massive number of leatherback turtles. If Watson hadn't found those turtles, the illegal whaling ship, the Sierra, might not have been found and eventually destroyed. He has witnessed horrible slaughters of whales and other marine life, including Canada's own seal pup massacre, but manages to convey this without resorting to overly graphic descriptions.

Throughout the interviews Watson points out that the Sea Shepherd has never been found guilty of breaking any laws and no member has sustained any significant injury. He also states that there are already sufficient laws and agreements in place to protect the oceans, but what is missing is the will to enforce them.

Watson makes it very clear that the status quo cannot continue and the over-fishing of the oceans will bring catastrophic results to the planet. In very simple terms he states, "If the oceans die, we die".

While other organizations and politicians stay on the sidelines as illegal whaling and fishing still goes on, Watson leads his Sea Shepherd Society into direct conflict with these ships and in the process stands between them and the marine life he has sworn to protect.

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