Captain Watson Responds to Critic of Illegal Fishing Intervention

Captain Paul Watson replies to an email questioning statements made
in the Ship-to-Shore article on June 17th. The original email message is
presented at the bottom of this page.

Sent: Friday, June 18, 2004 1:03 PM
To: e-mail address withheld for privacy
Subject: Article on Galapagos Islands

Response from Captain Paul Watson:

The e-mail sent by you is interesting. You claim to know exactly how many crew are on the Yolanda L and you guarantee that there is only one American on board. Unless you are the American skipper of the Yolanda L, and you may well be, you cannot make either of those claims.

But let's review the intervention in reference to your message

The captain admits on video that he was in the marine reserve. He also said that he sells to StarKist.

We intend to file an official protest against StarKist about this incident.

We documented the GPS position on film and it was verified by the Galapagos National Park that the tuna seiner was illegally fishing.

Unless you were on the Yolanda L, I cannot see how you can guarantee that there were no other Americans on the tuna seiner. We have video of crew speaking English with American accents.

The Yolanda L was instructed to remain in position and await a vessel from the National Park. They refused.

The captain said he had been advised by the Port Captain at Isabela to proceed. He lied. The National Park contacted the Port Captain who reported he had not been in contact with the Yolanda L.

Because the ship is registered in Ecuador, it will be prosecuted and the National Park is in the process of preparing a case against the Yolanda L.

It appears that the vessel may be owned, in part, by retired Ecuadorian naval officers and the captain of the Yolanda L gave the impression that whatever infraction may have occurred would be taken care of by the owners. He may well be right. The industrial fishing industry of Ecuador survives and thrives on corruption in the military and government. Everyone knows this but few have dared to address it.

The International Maritime Organization will be given a report on this incident as part of an ongoing international campaign to remove the Ecuadorian Navy as the authority over the National Park Marine Reserve.

The authority for enforcement should be given to the Galapagos National Park director or the Environmental Police.

The Ecuadorian Navy has a history of inaction, corruption and conflict of interest, and has demonstrated their ineffectiveness as a protection agency for the Galapagos National Park Marine Reserve.

Our video clip of this illegal incident has already aired on Ecuadorian television.

Because the swordfish was caught in the net inside the boundaries of the National Park the catch was illegal, and thus, the taking of the swordfish was illegal.

There may or may not have been an observer on the boat but it was clearly in the marine reserve and we documented the violation.

The American tuna industry has only itself to blame for the "destruction" of the fleet. The slaughter of dolphins and the over-fishing of tuna was and continue to remain, a conservation threat.

American fishermen have lost their jobs because of over-exploitation of resources, not because conservationists oppose them. Every major commercial fishery in the world's oceans is in a state of collapse. This is the fault of corporate greed and escalating demands for a diminishing resource.

You say that there is no debate as to which is more important - the life of a swordfish or the lives of the twenty crewmembers on the Yolanda L. Aside from the fact that it is a mystery how you would know how many crew were on the seiner, I can reply to you that the survival of the swordfish species and the integrity of the conservation laws of the Galapagos Marine Reserve are more important than the temporary profits for the crew of the Yolanda L and StarKist. This kind of argument would justify the drug trade because the people who grow and market cocaine and opium need to feed their families.

Yes, we do recognize Jordan de Vaan as a hero because he jumped into the water to rescue a swordfish -- because he was intervening against an illegal activity. The swordfish escaped over the top of the net.

You imply that we cut the net to free the shark and imply that this was property damage and thus illegal. This is worded by you to apparently fish for an admission that the net was cut and was cut by us. You ask why this was omitted from our report?

Our report was about the intervention against an illegal fishing operation and we reported the facts as they were. How the swordfish was released was not relevant to the report. What was relevant was that an illegally caught swordfish was released from an illegally set seine net.

We do not have compassion for human activity when that activity is clearly illegal. There is no difference between a, captain of a tuna vessel fishing illegally in a protected marine reserve and a bank robber walking into a bank with a gun. Both activities are crimes of theft.

We will indeed report on the legal consequences of the case against the Yolanda L.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society was not protesting fishing; we are working under a five-year contractual arrangement with the Galapagos National Park to intervene against illegal fishing. There is a big difference.

You may have a difference of opinion with our posting but we stand by the report as factual.

You profess to be sympathetic with the objectives of conservation and the enforcement of conservation regulations, but you are protesting the enforcement of regulations against an illegal activity.

Do you believe that commercial fishing operations should be allowed in the Marine Reserve of a National Park and World Heritage Site?

If not, then how can you be critical of an intervention against such an illegal operation by a non-governmental group with a contractual agreement to work with the Galapagos National Park to oppose illegal fishing?

Captain Paul Watson


From: e-mail address withheld for privacy.
Sent: Friday, June 18, 2004 1:03 PM
Subject: Article on Galapagos Islands

To whom it may concern,

I am writing this letter after reading your report from the boat The Farley Mowat. Although I commend your organization and its dedication to the environment I am familiar with the tuna fishing industry and unfortunately some of the points in your article did not make sense to me. First off, don't all of these boats have observers whose job it is to chart all activity and report if illegal actions are taken? Second of all it is not unusual for a foreign boat to have an American captain. This is only because of the destruction of the American Tuna fleet and the lack of jobs available to American fisherman. If the captain of the Yolanda L is an American, I feel sorry for him and his family. Also in your article it states that the Yolanda L has and American crew. Besides the captain how many other Americans were on the ship? I can guarantee you none. Whether or not this captain is in illegal waters is of concern to those whose jurisdiction the waters outside the Galapagos Islands are. The tuna that is caught by these fisherman feed people. I will not debate with which is more important, the life of a swordfish or the life of the Yolanda L's twenty crew members and their families. And while I do applaud your dedication to the environment I question your compassion to your fellow man. In your article you make a hero out of a man who dove into the water and helped a swordfish escape the net. How did this man do it? Did he cut the net? And if he did, is that not an illegal action taken against the property of the Yolanda L? Why is that left out of your article? It is not even illegal for the Yolanda L to have a swordfish in their net. Many of your readers will never know the answers to these questions, but I do. And I would appreciate if your articles in the future were more factual. But if these infractions did occur like you stated they have please write a follow up piece with what actions were taken against the Yolanda L and its crew.