Sea Shepherd France Presents Paul Watson
June 7, 2008
Event Report by Delphine Martin-David - Sea Shepherd France board member
It was our first big event for Sea Shepherd France, and the members of the French board: Lamya Essemlali - Président, Anne Fourier - Treasurer, and myself - Webmaster, were a bit anxious at how many people would participate.
Publicity had been rather minimal: no big press announcement, word of mouth, a few email exchanges and simple announcements posted on websites.
The conference with Paul was set for 2.30 pm on Saturday June 7th. We hoped to get at least a hundred people attending, and that the awareness we had helped raise this past year would be reflected on this event. So just in case, we had booked a three hundred person room at the University of Jussieu Paris VI -in a lecture hall.
Sea Shepherd had received some publicity in the recent months with several articles in French magazines about Captain Paul Watson and his achievements -especially in Antarctica.
Around 11.00 the entire board of Sea Shepherd France met and we started preparing the room, arranging merchandise on a table, and hooking the Farley Mowat's Jolly Roger flag on one of the black boards facing the audience.
Captain Paul Watson, Alex Earl- Development Director, and Kim McCoy- International Executive Director, took their positions at the table down before the board while journalists from the Kappa Agency and a TV crew from Canada set their cameras and microphones.
At 2.30, the three hundred people room was packed and there were even people standing up for lack of chairs! Lamya Essemlali introduced the event, presenting Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and in particular Sea Shepherd France, before Captain Paul Watson started his presentation with the help of Olivia Amos, who served as interpreter.
Captain Watson explained his deep emotion when seeing the sperm whale's eye as he died and spared his life, how mankind was plundering the oceans with such avidity that there would be nothing left by 2030, and how we could learn so much from the whales, dolphins and other intelligent life on our very planet before trying to search for intelligent life on other planets.
Not a sound came from the audience; people were captivated by his words... It is one thing to read them on a website or in a press article, it is entirely another to be able to listen to them, because the man carries his words with the force of his convictions.
When asked if he was worried about the death threats of which he has been the target, Captain Watson said he was not afraid, and that he would rather die saving a whale than in his own bed.
After a two hour conference, Captain Watson kindly replied to questions ranging from ocean wildlife issues to human life on Earth and human population, or even what kind of food we should be eating and what his stance was on several traditions such as bull fighting or force-feeding geese.
At 5.00 pm, Lamya Essemlali drew the conclusion to the conference, announcing that Sea Shepherd France offered an informal vegetarian buffet. She had just finished speaking when the entire room stood up erupting with applause and deafening whistles.
I checked my watch... Captain Watson's standing ovation lasted almost three minutes.
The reaction of those people was truly amazing. I watched them during the conference, they hung to Captain Watson's words, spoken almost for the first time in our country -I learned afterwards that people had come from Spain, Switzerland, all corners of France to hear him.
His passion and his dedication to the cause have not wavered one second in more than 30 years, and they are what makes us what we are, Sea Shepherds, the ocean defenders.
Now that all is set and done, the assessments are made, and we can lay back and relax, I think we can all say - at Sea Shepherd France - that we hope the seeds were thrown and that they have taken root. Now is the time for us from all over Europe to join the fight and take a stand to protect our oceans.
I never dreamed of such a huge success, and I don't want to speak for my fellow Sea Shepherd France board members, but I think they were amazed at the response we received as well. We hope it's a sign of the good things to come for Sea Shepherd in France...