SANTA MONICA, California, April 24, 2002 (ENS) - Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society at the helm of the conservation patrol ship Ocean Warrior expects to arrive in Costa Rica tonight, after escaping the clutches of Guatemalan officials who yesterday threatened him with arrest.
With a full crew of 25 people, the Ocean Warrior left U.S. waters on April 13, heading for Costa Rica where Watson has an arrangement to help Costa Rican authorities stop poaching around Cocos Island.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has formed an alliance with the Costa Rican government. Watson will be signing an agreement with the Costa Rican Ministry of the Environment on April 30 that will give the society official status to intervene against illegal fishing activities in Costa Rican waters.
On the way to Costa Rica Monday morning, the Ocean Warrior came upon a Costa Rican registered fishing vessel, the Varadero I, 145 miles off the west coast of Guatemala. The vessel, owned by owned by Franklin Martinez, was poaching, Watson observed. It had dropped 50 miles of longline inside Guatemala's 200 mile no take zone and had killed six sharks.
Sea Shepherd Operations Director Lori Pye in the organization's Santa Monica office explained that Sea Shepherd conservation ships operate under the World Charter for Nature.
"It says if we do come across poachers along the way, and no one is doing anything about it inside the no take zone which is 200 miles off a coast, we can try to do something about the poachers," Pye explained.
"Basically, the way Captain Watson operates is he gives them a warning and asks them to pull in their lines and release their catch. If they don't do it, then we will pull in their lines for them."
In accordance with this policy, Watson contacted the Varadero I and demanded that they pull in their illegal lines and release all ensnared marine life.
The Varadero I responded by saying, “Their lines drifted into the no take zone,” and refused to pull in their lines.
Sea Shepherd crewmembers cut one of the lines, releasing three dead sharks.
The Varadero I fled the scene with the Ocean Warrior in hot pursuit. Catching up with the poachers, Watson gave them an ultimatum - pull in all fishing lines and release the catch or the Sea Shepherd crew would pull in the lines.
The Varadero I agreed, and the Ocean Warrior stood by as the longlines were pulled in and 14 more sharks released. Divers from the Sea Shepherd patroled under the water to help release any live animals and to keep the lines from entangling the Ocean Warrior’s propellers.
Watson contacted Guatemalan officials with the Environment Ministry and with the Guatemalan Embassy. He was told to turn over the poachers to the Guatemalan Coast Guard.
The Ocean Warrior took the Varadero I under tow to turn the poaching vessel over to the Guatemalan Coast Guard, but released the vessel when its captain complained that the tow was too rough. As soon as it was released the Varadero I fled.
The Ocean Warrior recaptured the Varadero I 170 miles off the coast of Guatemala several hours later. "The poaching vessel tried to ram the Ocean Warrior in an attempt to thwart capture, however, Captain Paul Watson was able to maneuver his ship so that the two vessels side-swiped each other, rather than colliding," the Sea Shepherd Society said.
The poaching vessel was followed in to the port of San Jose, Guatemala by the Ocean Warrior all night.
Early Tuesday morning, within 60 miles of the port, Captain Watson was informed by Port Captain, Castro Alvarado that he would be arrested if he brought in the poaching vessel, the Varadero I.
"With such a drastic change of tune by the Guatemalan Coast Guard," said Pye, "Captain Watson had the Home office of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society verify that he would indeed be arrested if he brought in the poachers."
Pye spoke with the Guatemalan Embassy and the office the Ministry of the Environment. Both confirmed the change of tune and told her, “The best thing for Ocean Warrior to do is release the boat and go to Costa Rica as fast as possible.”
Pye was told by the office of the Ministry of Environment that “another ship saw the Ocean Warrior use force” to catch the Varadero I. The Ministry of Environment staff member also stated, “There was no evidence of illegal activity by the Varadero I,” Pye said.
But Watson maintains there were no other vessels anywhere in sight, and that evidence of illegal fishing within the 200 mile no take limit was documented on videotape by media on board the Ocean Warrior.
No force was used by the Ocean Warrior in the capture of the poaching boat as documented on tape. The Varadero I tried to ram the Ocean Warrior, a ship over three times its size, to avoid capture, the videotape shows.
As of 11:30 am (PST) Tuesday, the poaching boat was released 60 miles off the coast of Guatemala. Pye says, "Most likely the boat will resume its illegal activities."
|International Hydropower Association accused of excluding indigenous peoples and supporting Taib’s corruption USCC Releases Model Rule for Composting Operations ADA Carbon Solutions Announces New Hire of Vice President of Sales and Key Executive Promotions|