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Beach Grit

Blood Feud: Jeremy Flores vs Paul Watson!

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

Jeremy Flores' defamation suit against Sea Shep's Paul Watson thrown out by French court…

On Monday, the Reunion Island born-surfer Jeremy Flores lost a defamation suit he’d brought against Sea Shep’s Paul Watson. The sixty-six-year-old environmental activist had published a screed that accused Jeremy and the French government of being partly responsible for the spike in shark attacks there.

Let’s back track a little.

You sure as hell don’t need me to remind you of Reunion Island’s sudden, disastrous relationship with the anything-but-rare bull shark.

Like nearby Madagascar, sharks had always been a bit of a thing. If you surfed there, you played your cards straight: no surfing after rain or in dirty water or river mouths, avoid the east coast, dusk, dawn. Hardly the science of rocketry.

In 2007 a marine park was created, shark fishing was banned, and…boom…Reunion suddenly become the worst place in the world to jump into the ocean. Eighteen attacks in five years. Eight fatals. A little island of 970 square miles responsible for almost a fifth of the world’s attacks.

Jeremy Flores, who regularly visits Reunion Island, stopped surfing there.

“It’s not worth the risk,” he said.

Jeremy also advocated a return to the fishing of bull sharks in the reserve.

Kelly Slater agreed.

“There is a clear imbalance in the ocean there,” he said.

Paul Watson, a founder of Greenpeace but famous for its offshoot Sea Shepherd whose photogenic attacks on Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean made it the darling of animal lovers, stepped in, convinced Kelly to change his mind and wrote the accusatory piece (Kelly Slater is not an enemy of the sharks) that included:

From our point of view the cause of these frequent attacks is the culling itself and thus Flores and the government of France are very much complicit in the circumstances that have seen 20 attacks since 2011 of which 8 attacks were fatal.

Pretty fucken wild, no?

In an Australian court Watson would’ve been hung out to dry. The French court, however, ruled that “there is no direct responsibility between Jeremy Flores and the shark attacks but merely a debate between the association and the surfer about the causes of these attacks.”

Jeremy had to pay a thousand euros in legal costs to Sea Shepherd who responded to the judgement by saying, “Justice seems to support scientific advice rather than controversial advice.”

Jeremy’s response was eloquent.

I have read a lot of things over the last few days following the judgment of the dax court, which considered that the words against me by Paul Watson and sea shepherd were not defamatory.

No media has asked me about the subject while the other party has spoken, and I would like to take the floor here to clarify and respond to all those who criticize me without knowing the reality of the facts.

This is the first and last time I speak on this subject.

Those who want it can continue to mock and attack me.

Let them know, however, that what Paul Watson and sea shepherd say about me is completely wrong.
I’m not a shark killer.
I’ve never spoken for a shark slaughter.
I grew up in the ocean.
I’m an ocean lover.

Although I do not approve of their methods, I have never publicly accused Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd of anything and I have never held words that can be considered personal attacks against them.

Why did I file a libel suit against Sea Shepherd?

Because I could not continue to suffer very serious false accusations, completely contrary to what I am and what I believe in. I would point out that I did not press charges to condemn the actions of Sea Shepherd. But good for his leaders to stop calomnier me and spread lies about my person.

In February, I posted on social networks a message of support to the family of Alexander Naussac, after his death as a result of his attack on a spot of the meeting.
Kelly Slater stands by commenting on my message. He writes for shark regulation at the meeting. Which is controversial.

Paul Watson says in his editorial that I was the one who inspired Kelly Slater to write this post and take a stand for shark slaughter. Frankly, Kelly didn’t need me to figure out what’s been going on at the meeting for years.

Contrary to what Paul Watson says, I’ve never touched a shark in my life and I’ve never raised money for shark slaughter. This is all wrong. In recent years, I have always said that a solution must be sought to find a balance between men and the marine world. Nothing else.

How could I stay without doing anything about such false accusations? Given that I am still beset by messages of insults and hatred by people who do not know me and who accuse me of the worst things.

So I decided to press charges against my person so I wouldn’t be tainted by these slanderous accusations.

I have asked for financial compensation with the sole objective of putting the funds in full to Marine Environmental Protection Associations at the meeting.

I didn’t get justice to make money, it’s obvious. I love my island. I lost friends, brothers.

As you know, I was rejected by the Dax court a few days ago, and sentenced to pay 1.000 € of justice to Sea Shepherd. I respect justice and I will therefore respect this decision. I have no regrets except for not being heard. I simply note that there are untouchable people.

Meanwhile, on Reunion, surfers cluster around a couple of small beaches with nets, surfing banned elsewhere.