Report from the Sea Shepherd ship Farley Mowat
The Island of Baltra, Galapagos, Ecuador
The Farley Mowat reported to the fueling station at Baltra on Monday, June 7 at 0600 Hours as scheduled.
Harassment by the Navy began immediately. We were accused of damaging the fuel dock upon arrival although we had not made physical contact with it.
The procedure at Baltra is to drop anchor, back down and attach lines from the stern to the dock. Our stern was therefore about thirty feet from the dock.
It was somewhat amusing because the concrete dock is severely damaged along the entire length, and every time the Port Captain's office pointed to the damage we had allegedly caused, they pointed to a different place each time. There were many damaged spots to assign credit to.
The Port Captain asked for fifty dollars to cover the damage. Captain Watson refused and told the Port Captain that he would have to take him to court for the damages. The issue was dropped.
But the fuel did not come. We had paid for 19,000 gallons at $1.01 per gallon. That was the price agreed upon and the ship had been receipted for that amount.
But with politicians angry at our outspoken intervention against the illegal striking fishermen, the bureaucrats were not going to let us off easy. We were told to wait until 0800 Hours the next day before we could get fuel.
Meanwhile, tour boats and private yachts came in continuously to refuel.
Captain Watson was told to move his ship out to anchor but he refused. He said that he had docked on schedule and he would stay until refueled.
The next morning at 0800 Hours there was again a delay. At 1100 Hours they finally connected the hose but informed Captain Watson that he would only receive 12,707 gallons and not the 19,000 he had paid for. The reason being that the government ruled Sea Shepherd would be required to pay $1.51 per gallon.
To add insult to injury, the Port Captain at Baltra ordered Captain Watson to pay an additional $338.87 for a docking fee.
Captain Watson said that this was extortion and refused to pay it but was told that he would not be allowed to leave unless he did. The Port Captain told him that he could write a check.
Captain Watson did so and smiled, "You don't ask a pirate for a check but if he wants a check, I'll give him a check."
Finally at 1330 Hours, the Farley Mowat was able to depart from Baltra on a mission to hunt down longlines and poachers.
In her wake, the Farley Mowat left a situation that has become a tragic political mess. The corruption of political and military officials in the Galapagos and the military is tearing the ecology and the economy of these enchanted islands apart.
It is tragic because it can be prevented. There are good people in the Galapagos. The National Park Director and his officers and rangers are dedicated, honest and hard-working people intent on the protection of the Park and the Marine reserve.
Unfortunately, they do not have the power of enforcement nor do they have the jurisdiction to protect the Park, their property or themselves.
That power lies in the hands of the government and the military.
Governor Alexandra Cedenio of Galapagos Province is a fishing boat owner and it was she who allowed the fishermen to take the Park unopposed.
Santa Cruz Port Captain Freddy Enala was more concerned with harassing Sea Shepherd than with stopping the illegal takeover of Park headquarters by a violent mob.
The community of Puerto Ayora put four hundred people on the streets to march against the strikers, and whereas the marines and the police had allowed the fishermen to march into the Park unopposed, a line of soldiers and police physically prevented the counter-strikers to approach the entrance of the Park.
When a military opposes citizens protesting the violation of the laws, and protects and even encourages the breaking of laws by an armed mob, there can be only one reason for such a perversion of civic duty and that is corruption.
The funny thing is that everyone in the Galapagos knows that that Navy and the politicians are corrupt and that the system is rotten to the very core in Ecuador. The problem is that no one has been able to do anything about it.
Sea Shepherd has played a unique role in this conflict. We have been able to speak out and say the things that need to be said and to point the finger where it needs pointed. It was our documentation of a Navy Admiral intervening to protect a poaching vessel that led to the dismissal of the Admiral and led to continued hostility from the Navy towards Sea Shepherd ever since.
This hostility has resulted in bureaucrats retaliating by charging us extortionist fees. It has been expensive trying to assist the National Park. We have delivered tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment, donated a quarter of a million dollar patrol boat, and sent $30,000 this year for maintenance of the vessel. Yet we were charged $7,500 for port fees upon arrival, forced to pay an agent $1,200 for doing essentially nothing, we were short changed on our fuel purchase to the tune of 6,000 gallons and hassled for money by every bureaucrat not connected with the National Park.
Unfortunately, this is the cost of speaking out and assisting the National Park. We have to wade through the crowd of bureaucratic parasites to bring assistance to the dedicated guardians of the National Park and the Marine Reserve.
The solution to the problems in the Galapagos is simple. The National Park must be given the enforcement powers, and the jurisdiction to defend and protect the Park. As long as the mandate for the defense of the Park lies with the Ecuadorian Navy, nothing will change and the Galapagos eco-system will continue to be diminished.
Ecuador needs to replace the corrupt Port Captains, and it needs to give the Director of the National Park the tools that he needs to protect the Park, the Marine Reserve, and to uphold the Special Law for the Galapagos.
The Farley Mowat left Baltra and headed out to patrol the boundaries of the Park. Twelve hours later we discovered and reported a tuna seiner operating illegally in the Marine Reserve . We reported it to the Park although we cannot match a tuna seiner for speed.
The Ecuadorian Navy has the aircraft and the ships to catch and apprehend this poacher, unfortunately, they are busy standing around watching fishermen parade around with clubs and Molotov cocktails making impossible demands.
As Galapagos fishermen protest and seize Park offices, foreign poachers and outlaws from mainland Ecuador move inside the unprotected Park boundaries to exploit and steal the fish.
It's all fishy business in the Galapagos these days. As the fishermen in Galapagos riot over fish, poachers steal the fish and the Navy and the government simply carry on with fishy business as usual.