At a press conference held on Saturday in Marina del Rey, Calif., Sea Shepherd Conservation Society USA and long-time celebrity supporter Martin Sheen unveiled the newest vessel in Sea Shepherd’s fleet, the R/V Martin Sheen, named for the Golden Globe, Emmy and Screen Actors’ Guild awardee, and announced plans for an upcoming campaign to address the plastic pollution problem.

Martin Sheen unveiled the newest vessel in Sea Shepherd's fleet, the R/V Martin Sheen
Martin Sheen unveiled the newest vessel in Sea Shepherd's fleet, the R/V Martin Sheen

Attendees were welcomed by Sea Shepherd USA staff who explained that the name of this vessel would carry the prefix of R/V because it will be engaged in direct action of a different sort, as a research vessel. The crowd cheered when Sea Shepherd staff explained that unlike Japan’s so-called “research” whaling vessels, this ship will be engaged in legitimate and very important research — including documentation and investigation — much like the work Sea Shepherd has been doing with its colleagues at Ocean Alliance in the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

Captain Oona Layolle of France spoke to media and the assembled crowd. An experienced mariner and licensed Master 500, Layolle was at the helm of the vessel on its voyage from Hawaii to Los Angeles. She discussed the Sea Shepherd crew’s efforts to document and remove plastic from the ocean ecosystem on the way. Captain Layolle stated: “During our sail we collected water samples daily at three depths from the same position to measure the level of plastic particles in the water. What we confirmed with our sampling, data collection and observations is that even in highly remote locations, there is an infiltration of plastic debris, from large ghost nets to micro-plastics,” said Captain Layolle.

Later, Sea Shepherd USA staff announced the name of the vessel and Sea Shepherd flags were lifted to reveal its name, Martin Sheen, painted on the bow of the beautiful 80-foot ocean blue ketch.

Speaking next, Martin Sheen approached the bow of the vessel. Sheen, who sits on Sea Shepherd USA’s Media and Arts Advisory Board, is a longtime friend of Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson, and has joined Sea Shepherd and Captain Watson on the frontlines to defend ocean wildlife. Sheen shared some of his incredible history with the organization: “I have a long history of nearly 20 years supporting Sea Shepherd. In 1995, I was on campaign with Paul to try to protect baby harp seals from being clubbed in the Magdalen Islands. Paul, myself, and crew traveled to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Before we could fly out to the seals on the ice floes, a mob of angry sealers invaded the Magdalen Islands hotel where Sea Shepherd was staying. They broke down doors to enter Paul’s room and attacked and beat him. The police intervened only to forcibly expel Paul from the Magdalens. The campaign received international media attention.”

Sheen then announced the vessel bearing his name would play a critical role in starting to address the ever-present threats of plastic debris and why that is an environmental imperative. “If we fail to cleanup the plastic mess humans have made and stop the continued pollution of our oceans — the lungs of our planet — we face the potential extinctions of many species of sea life and the disruption of the entire eco-system.”

It was then time to christen the ship. Tradition states that a woman must christen a ship for “good luck.” Therefore, Sheen asked Captain Layolle to do the honors as he enjoyed the celebratory smashing of the bottle against the bow of the ship alongside his name.

Sea Shepherd USA staff invited media and attendees onboard the R/V Martin Sheen to hear Captain Paul Watson speak remotely from overseas. He provided a brief campaign update and spoke about the work the R/V Martin Sheen will do. He also sent a special message to Sheen from another fellow Sea Shepherd celebrity supporter and long-time friend of Captain Watson, Brigitte Bardot. Captain Watson spoke about Bardot’s recent visit to the Sea Shepherd trimaran named in her honor while it was visiting France, and her joy at seeing the vessel in person for the first time. Watson said that Bardot sent her congratulations to Sheen, saying she remarked that it is an “honor” to have a Sea Shepherd ship bear one’s name.

On hand to welcome the new R/V Martin Sheen was The Simpsons co-creator and dedicated supporter, Sam Simon, who also has a Sea Shepherd vessel named in his honor that he purchased for the organization. Simon joined Sea Shepherd USA’s Cove Guardians in Taiji, Japan in February in defense of dolphins. Martin Sheen’s wife, Janet was also present at the press conference, along with many of the Sheen’s friends and family members.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society USA, a leading nonprofit marine conservation organization, is at the forefront of the movement to defend ocean wildlife and habitats worldwide. The R/V Martin Sheen will be an important part of the organization’s direct action campaigns around the world, strengthening Sea Shepherd’s work to prevent the slaughter of ocean wildlife and destruction of marine ecosystems.

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