A party hosted last weekend at the Malibu estate of John Paul DeJoria helped raise funds for the release of the animal rights activist Paul Watson. Watson is under house arrest in Germany and faces extradition to Costa Rica.
By Patrick Timothy Mullikin / Special to The Malibu Times
There’s a little bit of Paul Watson in every one of us, John Paul DeJoria told the Saturday evening crowd of supporters at his Malibu estate. We’re folks who want to make a difference, to make a change, he said.
“But,” he hesitates, “Paul does these on the front line,” DeJoria said as the crowd roared its approval.
For Captain Watson, the founder and president of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society who has made a name for himself with highly public confrontations with commercial fishing vessels, his front-line presence has led him to a month-long house arrest in Frankfurt, Germany, and possible extradition to Costa Rica. That could be dangerous.
All in the name of sharks.
“Paul was on his way to Cannes for the film festival, and they busted him at the airport in Germany,” DeJoria said, adding that Brigitte Bardot, a staunch animal rights activist who serves on Sea Shepherd’s board of advisors, said she’d gladly take his place in jail so he could attend the festival.
Watson addressed the assembled crowd by a live feed from Frankfurt. According to Watson, his May 13 arrest stems from an incident 10 years ago when he and his crew encountered an illegal shark-finning operation off the Guatemalan coast.
“Ten years ago we chased some poachers out of Guatemalan waters – with the permission of the Guatemalan government–and didn’t think anything of it,” Watson said. “And suddenly 10 years later, in Germany, I’m arrested because some of these poachers complained.”
“I could be here for 90 days awaiting extradition. There are a lot of powerful people behind the shark fin (business). It’s a pretty powerful entity, the shark-fin mafia, and I think they are probably behind this,” he said.
On the positive side, Watson said his arrest and its publicity are focusing international attention on this issue of shark-finning, which results in the killing of between 70 million and 90 million sharks every year.
DeJoria, of Patron Spirits and Paul Mitchell Hair fame, has been on the society’s financial and management advisor board for several years and received an award for his financial support of the society during the evening. The gathering at DeJoria’s Malibu estate was to have been a celebration of the society’s 35th anniversary event. But it was changed to celebrity-filled fundraiser in light of Watson’s arrest.
Actor Daryl Hannah was among those who’ve come to support the captain. She served her time at sea with Watson, sailing to Tasmania four or five years ago.
“He is doing a very visceral action, as are other people of Sea Shepherd, which is laying their bodies down on the line to protect the creatures of the ocean from being made extinct,” Hannah said. “There are a lot of people who fight over-fishing through the courts, and that’s one way to do it. But at some point people are going to have to get their hands dirty and put their bodies on the line.”
Actor Perrey Reeves agreed with Hannah’s assessment of Watson.
“I think Paul Watson is amazing—his devotion, dedication. He’s never daunted by the prospect of work. He’s got such a positive outlook. Day to day he’s undaunted; it doesn’t get him down,” she said. Reeves is looking forward to serving time at sea with Watson and crew. “I hope to go to Fiji and roll up my sleeves and dive with some sharks.”
The evening’s event was not all just moral support for Watson, though there was plenty to be had from the 200 people attending. Sea Shepherd will be receiving a new addition to its fleet, courtesy of producer Sam Simon.
“I think this is the year we are going to end whaling once and for all,” Simon told the crowd.
Watson, who has been branded an “eco-terrorist” by the Japanese government due to his televised run-ins with whaling ships on his Animal Planet show “Whale Wars,” told Simon more anti-whaling vessels were needed.
“He said they needed something fast, and they needed something with a reinforced hull to battle the Japanese,” Simon said jokingly. “So next whaling season— if there is one, we’re not sure—the ‘Sam Simon’ will be bashing through ice, and hopefully we can end the atrocity of whaling in the southern ocean forever.”
In his closing Skyped remarks, Watson told his Malibu supporters that “no matter what happens to me, whether I’m locked up or not, our campaigns are going to go forward, our ships are going to go back to the southern oceans to protect the whales.”
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (www.seashepherd.org) is considered the world’s leading direct-action, marine conservation organization. Watson is a founding member of Greenpeace and the focus of “Whale Wars.”