by Lina Vergara Huilcamán

I fell in love with the sea the first time I saw it. I was very young then, but old enough to decide that I would devote all my efforts to it. When I was twelve, my Italian teacher in middle school, who was also a WWF manager, used to pick me up in the evening and take me to a local radio station to tell the listeners that whales should not be killed. When I was fourteen I had obtained all the scuba diving licenses and I later became a freediving instructor. At eighteen I used to go sailing and offer to participate in yacht races for free to gain experience... Then, one day, I was about twenty years old, I had lunch with a friend who told me about the adventure of somebody who had just come back from Antarctica where, aboard a completely black ship, he and the rest of the crew had saved 768 whales. I was frozen. I knew from that exact number that they had really done it. These were not the usual protests. I went on the Sea Shepherd website and submitted the form to become a volunteer. Protesting was no longer enough, I had to take action, it was necessary to go and defend the sea in person or Atlantic Bluefin tuna and sharks would disappear... Biodiversity needs to be protected and safeguarded, just like our children.
In July 2010 all of us Italian volunteers – fifteen people in total – gathered in the port of La Spezia, on the occasion of the arrival of Sea Shepherd’s flagship MV Steve Irwin. The port hosted us for free and, although when the black ship arrived everyone was frightened, after two or three days of getting to know each other, everything changed. In front of the ship there was a row of people who wanted to know us, what we were doing and help us by donating what they could. It was an extraordinary welcome. Thus the Italian movement, of which I am president, was born an incredible ten-year adventure, during which we kicked off the Sea Shepherd effect!
Today, we are about a thousand volunteers throughout Italy and we hope to have a Sea Shepherd ship for the Mediterranean by 2021, to face a great battle – the biggest one! – to change the fate of the most overexploited sea in the world, which has the highest micro-plastic content, the sea that needs to be defended and protected most. For us at Sea Shepherd it will be a great battle for life, in which we will decide whether the Mediterranean will die – and us with it – or if we will continue to exist.
to be continued…