Our Voices for the Sharks in a Heartfelt Pledge of Cooperation on the May 23rd Day of Protest
By Captain Paul Watson
Much has been happening since I have been arrested in Germany. Captain Alex Cornelissen and our legal team in Costa Rica have been meeting with officials in Costa Rica. Our excellent German legal team working with Captain Peter Hammarstedt, Sea Shepherd Director of Investigations Scott West, and myself has been working with officials, judges, police, and the media in Germany. Sea Shepherd volunteers around the world have been passionately working to assist in every way possible. It has been an incredibly positive response to not just my arrest but to the realization that this is about something more than just my freedom. This is about protecting life in our oceans and it is about the courage, initiative, and imagination to see possibilities instead of conflict, to see where positive change can be brought about in place of conflict.
Tomorrow is an international day of protest on my behalf and it is important that we direct our energies in a positive manner.
We do not want to attack the President or the government of Costa Rica. We would like to approach the Costa Rican government in a positive manner, not simply to resolve this legal issue but more importantly to find a way to work cooperatively with Costa Rica to end the illegal practice of shark finning and to protect the fragile marine eco-systems surrounding Cocos Island.
Ten years ago when this conflict first arose there was a different government and a far stronger shark finning operation. In fact, we felt at the time that the entire affair was orchestrated to prevent Sea Shepherd and the Costa Rican Ministry of the Environment from working cooperatively to protect the Cocos Island National Park. That, unfortunately, is exactly what occurred and whereas we have spent the last 12 years working in positive cooperation with the rangers of the Galapagos and the Ecuadorian Federal Police, we have been denied the opportunity to work with the rangers of Cocos and the government of Costa Rica.
We believe we can accomplish a great deal more here than simply dropping charges against me. I believe we can address these charges and more importantly I believe we just may be able to directly initiate a relationship with Costa Rica that will positively benefit the sharks and other marine species of the Cocos Island National Park. I am willing to risk that the new government of Costa Rica is more enlightened and much more concerned with protecting sharks and marine life than the government we dealt with a decade ago.
Towards this end I am willing to address the judicial demands, but more importantly I do not want to lose the opportunity of actually being able to work- hands on- with Costa Rica to do what we are most passionate about – the preservation of the shark and marine species of Cocos Island National Park.
I think we can reach an understanding with Costa Rica and I am willing to risk whatever it takes to realize the possibility that Sea Shepherd can once again partner with our ranger friends on Cocos Island.
The demonstrations tomorrow should not focus on Costa Rica. We should focus on Germany. Germany has the power to politically set me free. The red list arrest warrant issued to Interpol was voided as politically motivated and dismissed practically everywhere in the world except for Germany.
I unfortunately landed in Germany- the one nation where Interpol’s decisions are disregarded.
I have found since I have arrived in Germany that the German people are incredibly supportive from the judges to the prison guards, to the police, to the taxi drivers, to the people on the streets and in the shops. The German people are very conservation minded and they get it.
Our task is to convince the government of Germany that conservation is about being active about taking risks and that the environment must be put before politics. Therefore let us focus our energies on May 23rd towards politely appealing to German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger to drop this extradition demand.
In return I will make this promise – that I will initiate a cooperative relationship with Costa Rica to protect Cocos Island National Park and the sharks. Costa Rica will have my word on this and the entire world will be on notice that I have made this pledge.
I feel it is better to move forward positively than to waste so much time in conflict and dispute, when there is a real possibility here to create something positive and effective in addressing the real issue and that is the protection and conservation of the marine eco-systems of Costa Rica.
So please everyone – tomorrow, be polite yet firm in requesting that the extradition be dropped. Tomorrow is the opportunity to speak to the German government. The Minister has the power to drop this extradition demand.
All of you participating have my deepest appreciation for taking the time to speak on behalf of securing my freedom and especially thank you for your passionate concern for the defense of life in our oceans.
Let us make history and take the lessons of Nelson Mandela to mind that we can work together because just as the strength of an eco-system is determined by diversity, the strength of an effective movement is determined by the diversity of imagination, resourcefulness, skills, and passions of a community of caring people.
We are a force for positive change and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is proud of our record of saving lives without causing injury to life. We hold out our hand to Costa Rica and we respectfully request that Germany allow us to resolve this issue with integrity and a cooperative spirit.
Captain Paul Watson