The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship Farley Mowat will depart on March 5 for the Equator in response to the crisis that has developed within the Galapagos National Park.
"We have had a patrol boat working full time in the Galapagos National Park Marine Reserve" said Farley Mowat Captain Paul Watson. "We have reason to be concerned for the security of our ship the Sirenian. After three years of assisting the National Park rangers in busting illegal fishing operations, Sea Shepherd and the Sirenian are not very popular among the poaches and their sympathizers."
On Friday, February 27, the BBC reported that 33 scientists and a number of Galapagos tortoises were being held hostage by a mob of angry fishermen surrounding the Darwin Research Station and the offices of the Galapagos National Park.
Contacts on Santa Cruz island in the Galapagos have reported that the situation is tense. The fishermen are attempting to extort the Ecuadorian government to lift regulations protecting marine wildlife in the Marine Reserve. The fishermen are demanding the right to set destructive longlines to take sharks and they are not satisfied with the quotas for lobsters and sea-cucumbers. The fishermen are also demanding that large cruise ships be allowed to dock at the islands.
The population of the Galapagos has grown over 300% in the last two decades. This population spurt, caused by mass migration from mainland Ecuador of people looking for short term profits from fishing and tourism is a major threat to the survival of the Galapagos National Park, a World Heritage Site.
"We must help the rangers in the Galapagos, "said Captain Watson. "If we cannot protect this unique, diverse and priceless ecological treasure, what will we be able to protect?
The Sea Shepherd ship Farley Mowat will be delivering donated supplies to the Galapagos rangers and re-supplying the Sea Shepherd patrol boat Sirenian.
"It is a strange coalition of fishermen, poachers, and advocates of eco-tourism responsible for this assault on the scientists and the rangers," continued Captain Watson. "How ironic is it that the unique biological flora and fauna is attracting people who both want to exploit wildlife for market and those who want to love it to death by tourists. What we are seeing is the rapid Hawaiianization of the Galapagos. The push is on to build hotels, dock cruise ships and to bring hundreds of thousands of tourists and tens of thousands of permanent residents to these islands that many people throughout the world actually believe are uninhabited? It is a race between developers and fishing companies to see who will destroy the islands first."
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is concerned that once more the Ecuadorian government will give into the violent demands of the fishermen as they have so many times before.
Sea Shepherd Seal Ship Campaign Delayed to 2005
A combination of events has conspired to cancel and make impossible, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's plans to take the research ship Farley Mowat to the ice floes of Eastern Canada in March and April 2004.
Chief Engineer Charles Hutchings reports, "We have been frustrated by complications in the repair of the propulsion system for the ship." He further states, "We were scheduled to be released from dry-dock in the last week of January but we were not released until the last week of February due to damage in the shaft bearings."
"Despite major expenditures for these repairs, it was the time that was our undoing. We simply ran out of time," said Hutchings.
Captain Paul Watson was not only disappointed with the breakdown but also concerned with the escalating prices of marine diesel. Sea Shepherd's budget for this campaign has been hit hard by the costs of repairs and even more so by the rapidly rising price of marine diesel fuel. The price has shot up from $.85 per gallon to over $1.30 per gallon and continues to rise.
"This price rise on diesel plus the delay caused by repairs and the recent assault on the fishermen in the Galapagos has motivated us to cancel our plans to take the ship to the Labrador ice. We simply will not make it there in time and we must conserve our resources to address the emergency in the Galapagos."
"But we will still address the seal hunt this year. Despite the difficulties, we will not ignore the seals," said Captain Watson. "We will have a crew on the ice, they will be airborne, not ship borne. Sea Shepherd has been fighting the seal slaughter since the Seventies and we will continue to oppose it until we shut it down. We will never abandon the seals. My crew will be on the ice this year with helicopters."
"From the Galapagos, I will deploy my ship to the Atlantic later this year and position it for an intervention on the Labrador Front for the spring of 2005."
In support of the land-based and airborne Seal Campaign 2004, there will be an International Day of Protest Against the Canadian Seal Hunt on March 15th. The objective is to bring international attention to the massive and cruel slaughter of the seals by Canadian seal killers; and to continue to pressure those authorities who are in a position to stop the hunt but do not have the political will to do so.