Following the ramming of the Sea Shepherd vessel M/V John Paul Dejoria and other aggressive action by Panamanian fishing vessels, Sea Shepherd gives account and dispels weapons lies live on Panamanian national television.
Transcript (English translation):
Reporter: We recently shared with our audience a complaint lodged by fishermen in Chiriqi province, who alleged that a vessel belonging to an environmental organization, protecting marine species, intercepted them and that these people were armed.
Today we have the pleasure of hearing the people who were there and represent that organization. Alexis Sanches and Antonio Sueiras, accompany us today, Thanks for coming and thanks for sharing.
First, your version and who do you represent?
Antonio: Sea Shepherd is a conservation organization dedicated to the protection of marine life and oceans. We are committed to evaluating marine species and oceans worldwide.
Reporter: Since when do they do that in Panama?
Antonio: We have a local group in Panama, Sea Shepherd Panama and they have been here for a few years. We have started a campaign a few weeks ago that started in Costa Rica and we have been in Panama for about 10 days .
Reporter: Shea Shepherd Panama is the boat. Here we are sharing some images of the incident that occurred was that 3 days ago?
Alexis and Antonio: That was June 28
Reporter: Where did that take place and what happened?
Antonio: We were traveling through the natural park of Coiba, which is a paradise you have here in Panama, we saw the activity of some fishing boats and we approached them document what was going on. Basically to take pictures and film video and register what kind of activity takes on inside the park.
Reporter: What happened at that time? Were they fishing?
Antonio: As we were transiting through the national park we saw some fishermen and we approached them to see what kind of activity was going on inside the park. They were fishing, they had nets and they had long lines in the water. We approached and they surrounded us aggressively and they wanted that we leave. We had an incident with a propeller and as soon as we solved it, we left to meet the park rangers at their station station.
Reporter: In the audio that the fishermen share share, in their complaint that they brought to us, they say that you cut their long lines. Did you cut their long lines?
Antonio: As I said, we had an incident as we approached the area where the line got tangled in our propeller. We had to cut and remove a small piece of line to be able to release our propeller because we were immobilized.
Reporter: Can you explain what a long line is?
Antonio: A long line is a fishing equipment that consist of a long line with a large number hooks. It is usually used to fish big species such as tunas or sharks.
Reporter: Alexis, is that's forbidden in Panama?
Alexis: In Panama no, but it is forbidden in the protected area of the Coiba National Park, especially in the protected area, I have here an image, I do not know if the camera can capture it?
Reporter: That image is important, because when the fishermen brought us their complaint we were told it was in the Gulf of Chiriqui. We had no precise idea of where this was. Is this according to your logbook?
Alexis: Yes yes.
Reporter. We are going to show it soon, because it is important to know where it was exactly. I am personally learning that it was in the national park of Coiba.
Reporter: Let’s hear again what happened that day
Here are the are the images. The version that you give Antonio and Alexis, is that you got tangled in the long line. That is totally the opposite of what the fishermen said. You got entangled in the long line.
Antonio: The long line got tangled in our propeller and we had to cut a piece to be able to leave.
Our boat was totally immobilized. As you see in the images, our bat is completely still.
Reporter: Do you have proof that you were in Coiba?
Antonio: Yes. We have video recording and we have photos. We have presented some of that here and we have more proof that documents the incident that took lace in the Coiba Natural Reserve between the island of Montuosa and the island of Coiba.
Reporter: In the complaint, the fishermen indicated that you were armed
Antonio: I have brought the weapons of Sea Shepherd
Alexis: It is important to show the weapons used by Sea Shepherd. These cameras and drones are used by the organization to document to document the whole operation. This is also scientific and they are in an operation called Treasured Islands that starts in the Cocos Islands throughout the Litoral and ends in the Galapagos islands.
There is the image
Here we can see the image that is marked by a triangle. This happened between the Montuosa island and the Coiba Island. The complete polygon that represents the Coiba National Park, which in fact is decreed by Unesco as a natural heritage of humanity. That is to say, it is not only up to Panama to take care of this patrimony but to the whole world. The fact is that the fishing boats of the Pedregal port were exactly in an exclusion zone where it is forbidden to fish with nets. We can see in the images that their boats are full of nets they use to catch tuna. It is prohibited in that area, it is an area that is established within the law 44 of July 26, 2004. So it is, article 11 and article 10 of this law establishes it. "A zone of special marine protection is established", says article 10, "which is delimited from Montuoso Island to Hannibal bank" and the law establishes the coordinates of this place and article 11 clarifies it much better when it says "this Is an exclusion zone in which the use of purse seine nets is banned, and all these devices that affect the marine species "
Reporter: Alexis, you are Panamanian, I am trying to summarize this statement here. I am very honest to you, as a Panamanian I am embarrassed!. From day 1 the fishermen in their right, make public knowledge what they consider an abuse by a foreign boat, because they do not know where the ship was coming from, or who they were, implementing the law. The ones who should be implementing the law is our Panamanian authorities. if I were a fisherman, I would also ask you who do you think you are? Antonio, I do not know where you come from to come and tell us what to do? And you can't take anything away from us because you are not Panamanian. Here our Panamanian authorities are not present, they are not studying what is going on, they lack the resources and they do not show us what they are doing. You have made a criticism in the midst of this circumstance where this situation is so confusing. We do not have the capacity to look after this space.
Alexis: We do not have that. Coiba has more than 270 hectares and is a very large extension. It is not only coastlines or islands, but also a lot of open sea, and there are no resources. The park rangers do not have the ability to be look after the whole area.
Reporter: Antonio, when you arrived here, do you come with a permit? How do you operate in Panama?
Antonio: We are 100% legal. We have a legal permit to be here for a year.. We approached the authorities to request the permit to be here early April. We have sent in our forms with all our information and the Panamanian authorities know that we are here, they know who we are and they know that we are Sea Shepherd and they know what our activities are. We are now surprised that they are withdrawing that permit.
Reporter: Antonio, here the maritime authority of Panama informs through this press release the cancellation of the leisure navigation permit that was issued to the vessel John Paul Dejoria. According to the statement, this occurred after the inspection carried out on July 5 to the ship in which it was proved that it was doing an activity different from the permit that was granted to it as a pleasure craft. The authorities request the naval service to escort such craft outside the territorial waters of Panama.
Alexis: It is disappointing. I call the authorities to change they way they think because these organizations are the ones that protect the environment and these areas that are special and exclusive. We are destroying the future of our children.
Reporter: Alexis, you are Panamanian and Antonio represents a very difficult situation. I put myself in the position of the fishermen as well and the ones who should be doing this are our authorities, the ones carrying out these kind of controls: ARAP. ARAP has no budget!
Alexis: Authority of the environment, Senacid.
Reporter to Antonio: What are you going to do, are you going to leave?
Antonio: We are not here to break any law, if the authorities expel us from the country, unfortunately and with a lot of heartache, we will have to leave because that is what they have decided. We do not understand why taking photos is not considered recreational activity and that they are asking us to leave Panamanian waters because of that. This is beyond us. If taking photos is not recreational we are asking them to explain to us what is recreational.
Reporter: Sea Shepherd is recognized as an organization that is a little bit aggressive at the time to intervene in a situation where people are breaking the law or when people are putting an end to endagenerd species.
Antonio: We like to define ourselves as a direct action organization. When get to a country or an environment, and we detect some illegality, we like denounce it. We also like to denounce the passivity of the authorities. This space of Coiba has been declared a UNESCO site for twelve years now and it is a protected area. And even if they tell us that they can do what they are doing there, it is inconceivable what is going on there.
Reporter: As a representative of this organization, you are making a public complaint that the Coiba National Park is not being protected the way it should be?
Antonio: Not as it should be, and we know. We have met the park rangers and they are excellent people and excellent professionals, but they do not have the means, they do not have the resources, they do not have enough people to protect such a large area, because the Coiba natural park is a very large national park.
Alexis: I want to add, I have an image on the cell phone, if the camera can show it. Sea Shepherd is a conservation society. That is a turtle, in Coiba, there are 3 types or species of turtles that come to spawn there. This happens in silence. Organizations like this are those who have a voice to protect nature. I call to our authorities to change their way of thinking and the way they see this organization because this organization is a friend of Panama and a friend of the Panamanian environment and the environment of the whole world.
Reporter: And I call the authorities of ARAP, my environment to come next week, and tell us what kind of resources they are allocating to care for this park. Regardless of the conflict that has unfortunately occurred, and hopefully you can make the amends with this group of fishermen.
Antonio: We would be delighted to do so.
Reporter: Regardless of the conflict that has occurred between this organization and this group of fishermen, it has been made clear our limited capacities. As far as news go, that is what has to concern us. Publicly we are inviting ARAP and the ministry of environment to come next week and explain what tools and resources we currently have in Panama to protect these protected areas, Thank you for joining us.
Antonio and Alexis: Thank you very much.