|Saturday, June 05, 2004|
As Situation Deteriorates in Galapagos Canada Blames the Messenger
The Canadian government has contacted the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society with an unusual demand. They have asked us to remove the posting on our website about the situation in the Galapagos.
The government is insisting that our website is helping to inflame the situation by angering the fishermen.
In particular, the government states that our claim that the town of Villamil is being held hostage. Six Sea Shepherd crewmembers have been in Villamil for the last three days and they have been unable to depart.
The Canadian government became involved because one of our crew Tracy Godin is a Canadian citizen.
According to the Canadian government, Tracy and the other five are not actually hostages.
Of course this depends on the interpretation of events.
Since the fishermen seized control of the harbor at Villamil, no one has been allowed to leave or arrive. Fishing boats have intercepted tourist vessels and ordered the tourists to remain on board and not to set foot on Isabela Island.
Our crew has been prevented from leaving because the entire town is hostage to the demands of a violent mob of fishermen.
According to the Canadian government this is not an actual hostage situation because no ransom has been demanded.
However, the fishermen are demanding concessions from the government.
In their efforts to achieve these concessions the fishermen have taken control of Galapagos National Park offices on the islands of Santa Cruz, Isabela, San Cristobal and Floreana and tourists sites on Espanola. Dozens of tourist cruises have been cancelled. The tortoise breeding facilities have been seized. The fishermen have openly threatened citizens and Park officials with Molotov cocktails, clubs and lead pipes. These threats have been filmed and documented and published in Ecuadorian newspapers and aired on Ecuadorian television.
Yet Canada is accusing the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society of inflaming the crisis by reporting what is happening on our website.
Of course it is embarrassing to question why the Ecuadorian authorities have allowed a mob of violent fishermen to seize control of government buildings without retaliation. It is also embarrassing to point out that the Governor of the province of Galapagos is the owner of a fishing boat and has prevented the police from intervening against the fishermen. It must also be embarrassing to have tourists see what is happening in the Galapagos, to have tourists told they cannot set foot on the islands and to have tourists prevented from entering their hotels.
The fact is that Sea Shepherd is not responsible for any of these things. We have been reporting what is happening. Does Canada think that the problem will go away if we do not report what is happening?
Captain Paul Watson was in contact with the six Sea Shepherd crew on Isabela at 1500 PST. They were being physically prevented from leaving the islands unless they agreed to sign a document stating that they had not been held against their will. The crew asked Captain Watson for advice and he advised that signing such a document would give credibility to the fishermen.
"The fishermen are acting illegally. They have no right to make any demand of anybody. The fact is that our crew members have been prevented from departing from Isabela for three days and that means they were indeed held on the island against their will and that means that the crew along with everyone in the town who has been prevented from departing have been hostages to the demands of this violent mob. Canada and Ecuador can spin this anyway they wish but the plain fact of the matter is that our crew was held hostage to the political demands of the fishermen."
Crewmember Cathy Davies spoke with Captain Watson and said that she would not sign the unreasonable demand imposed by the fishermen. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is demanding that Ecuador intervene to release our crew and to lift the illegal seige of the islands by this violent mob of fishermen.