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Supporters on hand to give Sea Shepherd's Paul Watson a hero's welcome home

Sea Shepherd
Sea Shepherd's Capt. Paul Watson is greeted by a dozen or so supporters Thursday afternoon at Friday Harbor airport.
— image credit: Scott Rasmussen

Captain Paul Watson has a habit of making his presence known. But not so much on return trips to his San Juan Island home, where, more often than not, he tends to slip in under the radar — until today.

A small but eager group of supporters were on hand to give Watson a hug, a handshake and a hero's welcome home as the founder, president and the face of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society stepped off a plane Thursday afternoon at the Friday Harbor airport. The enthusiastic reception appeared to take the 61-year-old world renown activist by surprise.

"His face started to get a little red and flushed when he looked out the window," said Al Davis, a fellow passenger on Watson's plane, who flies to Seattle regularly for business and along with Watson every now and then. "He was saying, 'I don't know if I know anybody out there'."

But they knew him, of course, and were in formation to celebrate Sea Shepherd's outspoken leader and the group's most recent victory in its seven-year struggle in the Southern Ocean against a fleet of Japanese whaling ships. Sea Shepherd's battles with Japanese whalers have been the subject of the Animal Planet TV series, "Whale Wars." The fleet curtailed its hunting operations in mid-February, a month-and-a-half ahead of schedule, and headed for home with only 10 percent of its seasonal quota n tow. Its early departure, according to Sea Shepherd, with means that about 900 whales will be spared this year.

The group of a dozen or so supporters carried a colorful array of handmade "welcome home" signs and sang round after round of "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" as Watson greeted the contingent and then made his way through the terminal.

"He got a hero's welcome home in Australia and we just wanted to make sure he knows that San Juan Island appreciates him too," Nancy Devaux said.

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