Islanders gathered at the Friday Harbor Film Festival gala to watch Capt. Paul Watson be presented with a lifetime achievement award. Watson co-founded the environmental organization Greenpeace and is the founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
“A fish award seemed appropriate, so I got the largest fish I could find,” said Lynn Danaher, director of the Film Festival as she handed Watson a giant salmon-shaped Andrew McLaglen Lifetime Achievement Award.
Watson received a standing ovation as he accepted the award during the Friday Harbor Film Festival’s Gala on Friday, Oct. 27 at the San Juan Community Theatre. Cynthia’s catered the event, and Teddy Dean played the saxophone.
“We call it Earth but it is, in fact, an ocean,” Watson said, adding that these waters are currently in straights. Should this trend continue and the oceans die, he said, humans also will die. Sea Shepherd has developed a partnership with countries around the world, in which governments provide the authority and the law, and the conservation group provides the volunteers to assist in enforcing those laws.
“He became increasingly concerned with the state of the oceans toward the end of his life,” Watson noted.
The film follows Sea Shepherd crew as they chase one of the most notorious illegal fishing vessels, the Thunder, through icebergs, storms and three oceans for 110 days. The film shows how the crew attempted to contact workers aboard the Thunder, and how the Thunder’s captain attempted to ram the Sea Shepherds vessel. The film shows, on that last day, the Thunder sinking, taking evidence of its illegal loot to the bottom of the sea. The conservation group was able to rescue those aboard the illegal fishing boat. The captain was later charged and convicted of sinking the Thunder.
Watson told gala attendees that several other illegal vessels have been caught since that epic chase, but that 40 percent of the fish caught across the board, come from illegal fishing. This jeopardizes fishing sustainably, puts entire fish populations at risk, as well as all sea life.
“Life simply can’t exist without the oceans,” he said.