Ecuadorian Navy Orders Sea Shepherd Out of the Galapagos

PUERTO AYORA, Galapagos, Ecuador, August 30, 2001 (ENS) - Ecuadorian naval personnel have given Sea Shepherd Conservation Society founder Captain Paul Watson a written order to leave Ecuador aboard his ship the Ocean Warrior by 0800 hours on Friday.

Watson took the Ocean Warrior to the Galapagos Islands to bring needed parts and service to the Sea Shepherd vessel Sirenian, which has been engaged in successful anti-poaching patrols of the Galapagos Marine Reserve on a five year contract with the National Park Service.


The Ocean Warrrior (Photo courtesy Sea Shepherd Conservation Society)
Ocean Warrior has been unable to refuel during an ongoing six day stand-off with the Ecuadorian Navy. Watson says that forcing a vessel out to sea without sufficient fuel or provisions to reach another port is a major violation of the maritime law of all nations.

"If they force us out, we will not be able to make port, and we will be effectively stranded at sea, Watson said.

Ocean Warrior engineers have been prevented from servicing Sirenian’s engines, installing new filters, and surveying a damaged propeller.

Ecuadorian embassy statements to the contrary, Ecuadorian naval personnel are not allowing anyone on or off the Ocean Warrior. A Navy gunboat remains alongside the conservation vessel.

"The Navy has been gunning for us since day one," said Sean O’Hearn, Sea Shepherd’s marine liaison officer in the Galapagos.

"When our patrol vessel started busting poachers in the Marine Reserve last March after years of inaction by the Navy, and then blew the whistle on the corrupt admiral who was ordering the ships released, we made enemies in high places," said O'Hearn.


Captain Paul Watson (Photo courtesy Sea Shepherd)
"We have been prevented from transferring crew to Sirenian; we can’t re-supply and service our vessel in accordance with the terms of our contract with the Park," said Watson. "We have provided and are attempting to provide Ecuador with material assistance at our cost. We do not detect much gratitude in the way we are being treated in return."

As of Wednesday morning, National Park personnel are no longer being allowed on board the Sea Shepherd ship.

The nationalities of Ocean Warrior’s current crew are British, American, Cayman Islands, Canadian, and German. All members of the crew had entry visas stamped in their passports on August 24, the day the Ocean Warrior arrived in Puerto Ayora, allowing legal entry into Ecuador for 30 days.

Three crew members who flew into Galapagos and joined the Ocean Warrior after it arrived are being detained on board and not allowed to go ashore, even though they were not part of the crew manifest when the ship arrived.


Galapagos Islands (Photo courtesy government of Ecuador)
Ecuador’s statement that the Ocean Warrior was permitted into the Galapagos for five days "under pretense of emergency entry" is "an attempt at deception," says Watson. "Filing for emergency entry was a recommendation of the Port Captain in Puerto Ayora after the Ocean Warrior was denied normal entry. Authorities were informed four months in advance of Ocean Warrior’s impending arrival," he says.

The Galapagos chain of 13 large islands, six smaller ones and over 40 islets is located 622 miles off Ecuador's Pacific coast. Charles Darwin, the English naturalist, visited the Galapagos Islands in 1835 and later wrote "The Origin of the Species" based on observations and evidence gathered from the Galapagos. According to the Ecuadorian government, all of the Galapagos reptiles, 50 percent of the birds, 32 percent of the plants and 25 percent of the fish are found only in the archipelago.

"The Park and the people of the Galapagos have been overwhelming in their support," O'Hearn said. "They’ve let us know they are very grateful to find an organization that will help them fight to protect the natural heritage of these islands."