I finally meet Captain Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd. Even Peter Hammarstedt shows. I missed Watson in San Diego so we drive through trash strewn Skid Row and walk through the drugged out homeless of downtown L.A. Hanging out on a Sunday night isn’t usually my thing, but I can’t miss Captain Watson again!
On our way to Beelman’s, we find a familiar face talking to some guy on a bike waiting at the crosswalk. Renaissance Man says, “That was Andy Serkis,” then beats himself up for not stopping to say hi throughout the evening and the next day.
Renaissance Man keeps asking if a lot of people will be at the gathering. I keep saying, “No. Out of all the people I tell about Sea Shepherd only one knew.”
Here’s what I tell everybody when they tell me they haven’t heard of Captain Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd. Captain Paul is a co-founder of the Greenpeace Foundation. In 1977, Paul left Greenpeace and founded Sea Shepherd, a conservation group defending the sea. Watson is best known as an anti-whaler fighting the Japanese whalers in the best reality TV show EVER called Whale Wars on Animal Planet.
The show is no longer on, and Sea Shepherd no longer goes to Antarctica since they can’t justify spending charitable money for 333 minke whales. But it would be great if the show returned following other ships in the organization.
Through the patio at Beelman’s, we enter the yellow-booth, vegan restaurant, bar to the left. The Los Angeles Sea Shepherd Chapter has a small table of merchandise set up. The captain’s not there yet. We settle on a booth, and enjoy vegan pub food. The Dodgers are playing and some at the bar are cheering. I go over to get Renaissance Man a Sea Shepherd T-shirt when Captain Paul walks in. I start clapping. A few begin to clap. Captain stops and is a bit stunned by the enthusiasm. The Dodger fans continue watching their team while I cheer for Team Sea Shepherd.
“Is Peter here?” Watson asks one of the Sea Shepherd volunteers.
Watson makes his way to the bar with the people he knows. He drinks something in a faux coconut with an umbrella. Then Peter Hammarstedt walks in. One of the girls tries to get her boyfriend’s attention at the bar as she points at Peter.
Peter’s no longer that nineteen year old young man when he started out with Sea Shepherd. He’s filled out and he’s not wearing glasses anymore-the look I’m accustomed to from watching Whale Wars.
Eventually, the small crowd makes their way to the duo to get a photo with them. I wait patiently. No one is talking to them so I go up to both Watson and Hammarstedt.
“I wrote a book inspired by Whale Wars. You’re the captain.” I look up at Peter. “And you’re the first mate.”
“He’s my cabin boy.” From the chair, Captain Paul points at Peter standing to his side and laughs.
“You’ve been demoted,” I say. Turning back to Paul, “May I give you my book?”
I know he’s an avid reader, which I tell him as I give him my book later in the evening. I don’t want him to have to carry my book Superfreak around. He looks at the cover. Flips the book over. A lady says from behind, “He’s going to sign books.” I believe he is walking to a table as someone had bought a book of his and wants it signed. He is an author himself and a good one. He wrote the book Earthforce! The book explains how governments never follow through to strategies for earth warriors to some of his beliefs. His knowledge of Spaceship Earth, as he calls it, is astounding and will blow your mind. (Man, now I’m really kicking myself for not asking him questions, but I was only thinking I’ve got to meet him.) Then Captains Paul and Peter speak to the crowd.
Paul talks about the world’s most endangered marine mammal—the vaquita porpoise. Earlier this year, M/V Farley Mowat and two other Sea Shepherd vessels returned to Mexico’s Gulf of California for Operation Milagro IV to help support the Mexican Navy protect the vaquita refuge. Local fishermen use illegal gillnets to kill endangered totoaba sea bass. Gillnets indiscriminately catch any species of fish, and drown marine mammals and birds.
Sea Shepherd volunteers removed 385 pieces of illegal deadly fishing gear and saved 854 animals—their most successful campaign for the vaquita to date.
Peter talks about seeing his first whale harpooned when he was fourteen years old. It was that whale that made him want to protect the whales and the seas. Peter is truly a kind soul. As soon as he could he joined Sea Shepherd at nineteen. He used to be the first mate on the M/V Bob Barker. He talks about his recent endeavor as captain on the M/V Bob Barker working with the government of Gabon on the west coast of Central Africa. He says a blacklisted vessel that was killing over a half million sharks a year was arrested. He personally tells me he had been patrolling off East Africa. So he put a lot of hours on the engine chasing illegal fishing boats. He reminds the crowd that our global ocean fisheries will be completely exploited by 2048. Each year, 300,000 whales and dolphins are killed as by-catch, 50 million sharks are caught as by-catch, and more than 100,000 sea turtles, seals, and other marine mammals are killed.
Paul asks if we have any questions. You know that part in the story where the author intrudes and says, she didn’t think to ask questions. At that moment, I don’t remember that I do have questions for him.
We are having a great evening sharing our booth with vegans and animal activists. They are supportive of my book and want to buy it. I give them my bookmarks. If I had brought more books, I would have given them away. It’s an eclectic bunch of compassionate people. And I’m hanging with two of the greatest defenders of the sea—Paul and Peter—truly the nicest people.
To donate to Sea Shepherd go to the donation page. In the comments, you can say Author Melissa Crismon told you about Sea Shepherd. Or shop Sea Shepherd for Christmas. One of the volunteers says the donations are well utilized by Sea Shepherd.