By Lamya Essemlali, President, Sea Shepherd France
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society founder and president Captain Paul Watson has become only the second person after Captain Jacques Cousteau to be honored with the Jules Verne Award, dedicated to environmentalists and adventurers.
On October 10th, I was proud to represent Captain Watson in Paris to receive the award on his behalf for his extraordinary lifelong battle to defend and protect our oceans.
The ceremony took place in the presence of Richard Dean Anderson, a long-time friend and supporter of Captain Watson, who also received the Jules Verne Award in the Artist category.
During the ceremony in Paris, I also had the great pleasure to once again meet with Captain Watson’s dear friend, Jacques Perrin, Producer and Director of the movie Ocean, one of the most spectacular films ever made about our oceans. Monsieur Perrin also received the Jules Verne Award in the Artist category.
After the ceremony, Jacques Perrin voiced his continued support of his friend Captain Paul Watson.
Knowing the great admiration that Captain Paul Watson holds both for Jules Verne and for Captain Cousteau and his friendship with both Jacques Perrin and Richard Dean Anderson, there is no doubt that he would have found himself in great company, if only the consequences of his life's work for whales and marine creatures hadn’t cost him a portion of his freedom. But as he very well stated in a message recorded specially for the occasion, “the cost of [his] freedom in exchange for the lives of thousands of seals, whales, sharks and sea creatures is a worthwhile investment.”
And the audience was well aware of this fact that evening, when the voice of the Captain was broadcast in the auditorium of the historical Parisian palace of The Grand Rex. It was certainly the most moving moment of the evening.
We all missed the Captain very much. He deserved to be there with us and he should have received his award in person. Nevertheless, it was with immense honor and a pinch in my heart that I was able to receive this prestigious award in his name. I will preciously safeguard it until the sky clears up for him, and he is able to return to shore again.
After hearing about the ceremony, Captain Watson sent a message to me saying how much he appreciated the warm wave of love, respect and support that people in attendance expressed for him and the work of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
“Thank you Lamya, Richard, and Jacques for representing me and speaking on my behalf. I have never been much for awards but this one, well it was different, because it is the Jules Verne Award, and the association of this award with the legendary captain of the Calypso, Jacques Cousteau, makes it very special indeed.”