by Cristina Giusti — Media Group Coordinator, Sea Shepherd Italy
It was two fulfilling days of heartfelt emotion recently for the Italian Chapter of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. On the morning of September 1st, Venice woke up to the incredible and surprising sight of Captain Hammarstedt arriving via gondola at perhaps Venice’s most famous landmark, Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square), sailed by the oarsman Thommaso Luppi. Captain Peter Hammarstedt arrived in Venice to a very warm official welcome from the city and its representatives. A large delegation of Venetian gondoliers and a group of Sea Shepherd supporters and volunteers were on hand to joyously welcome Captain Hammarstedt. Later, the Captain visited assessors and other officials in the ancient corridors of Venice’s City Hall and received a traditional welcome when he was bestowed with a replica of the Lion of Venice, the city’s legendary mascot.
At the Venetian Sailing Club, preparations were underway for the christening ceremony of the Sea Shepherd Italia, a sailboat donated to the Italian chapter. The new vessel is a welcome addition to the fleet and will be an ambassador of ocean defense specifically along the Mediterranean coastline. Today, the endangered Bluefin tuna, an extraordinary marine animal, is being indiscriminately and illegally fished to extinction in our oceans. During Operation Blue Rage in 2010, Sea Shepherd intervened to release 800 bluefin tuna — many of them juveniles — which had been illegally caught after the close of season, fish that are today swimming free in our oceans because of our action.
The Venetian Sailing Club gave Sea Shepherd a hearty and impeccable reception to celebrate the vessel’s launch while the City of Venice officially embraced Sea Shepherd’s Jolly Roger emblem evidence of its friendship with “Neptune’s Navy.”
The sailboat was repainted in the official colors of Sea Shepherd’s fleet, and its sail was turned into a giant Jolly Roger. The Italian Director of Sea Shepherd, Andrea Morello, the Italian Northeast Area coordinator, Stefano Are, and other hard-working volunteers did an excellent job of presenting the vessel as a worthy member of the Sea Shepherd fleet, with the task of spreading awareness and focusing attention on the Mediterranean front.
During the event, the Jolly Roger flew on the flagpole of the Venetian Sailing Club while Captain Hammarstedt addressed a very enthusiastic crowd of supporters. To conclude his speech and in flawless Italian, he said: "Ti battezzo Sea Shepherd Italia,” which means “I christen you, Sea Shepherd Italy,” at which time he hit the ship’s hull with a bottle of Italian sparkling wine.
After the launch ceremony, an historic Venetian boat called “Topo” (“Mouse”) celebrated Captain Hammarstedt’s and Sea Shepherd’s visit by carrying the Captain back to the mainland through the Venetian canals to the city’s celebrated center and its "calli,” the traditional name for the streets of Venice.
The Grand Canal, Rialto Bridge and St. Mark’s Square greeted Captain Hammarstedt, who later said: "When I walk in the streets of Stockholm, I feel like I am walking in a postcard, but when I was walking in the streets of Venice, I felt like I was in a painting.”
Sea Shepherd Italy, the City of Venice, the Venetian Sailing Club, and all the Italian volunteers and supporters of Sea Shepherd stand in support of Sea Shepherd and Captain Paul Watson at this time, and proudly express their profound and sincere intention to remain steadfast in their loyalty to Captain Watson and to Sea Shepherd.
Sea Shepherd – Italy would like to thank Sea Shepherd headquarters for taking part in this memorable event. The visit will remain in the hearts and minds of anyone who had the great honor to live them and share them. We look forward to our new vessel, Sea Shepherd Italia, being a grand Ambassador in the Mediterranean in defense of marine wildlife!