|Thursday, July 12, 2012|
Misunderstandings in the South Pacific
How does the saying go about the best of intentions? Today in Fiji it went something like this… The best of intentions lead to huge misunderstandings and massive discouragement all around. And once again, sharks draw the short stick.
A few months ago, the Fijian government shocked us when it came out with an unfounded warning prohibiting Sea Shepherd from its waters.
Sea Shepherd had not sought permission to enter Fijian waters – and we are certain that an unfortunate miscommunication occurred regarding our intent. We work collaboratively with governments – like we have in the Galapagos. We had full intent of approaching the Prime Minister and Attorney General, once the shark sanctuary decision in Fiji was made, to offer our assistance. We would not enter Fiji to perform illegal activities – we enforce laws and we aim to work collaboratively to protect sharks. Our response was summarized in this interview.
While Sea Shepherd is well known for confrontational tactics and the reality television program Whale Wars, our program in Galapagos Islands, Ecuador is an example of a different strategy; supporting a local government in developing a sustainable, on-going, program to preserve their shark population and marine ecosystems. Together, we are protecting these rich waters from poachers and illegal international fishing fleets who aim to disturb local economies and ecosystems.
To avoid any issues or further misunderstanding, we decided not to travel to Fiji uninvited and made a new plan for our vessel, the Brigitte Bardot. We support the Fijian people and government and while we were ready to invest resources – Fiji wasn’t ready for us. We believe they will do the right thing for sharks and the marine ecosystem and we will support that – if asked – in the future, in whatever way we can. We’ve also learned we have the support of many local Fijians. And we know how strong the local and international tuna and shark fishery presences are… a balance and collaboration – as well as patience – are required.
Instead, we launched Operation Requiem and began working with nations and organizations that saw benefit in our unique campaign. We have resources and experience unlike those of other conservation organizations that they can put at the disposal of nations who need our support for the short and long term. Ultimately, we know that the local communities need to lead the effort.
We’ve made great strides in the last few weeks in the Solomon Islands, as is evident from our other blog postings. We’ve even swapped crew with the traditional Vaka from Fiji as a cultural and conservation exchange to perform further outreach. We cherish the relationships we have built and are genuine in our desire to support the South Pacific. This trip is one of learning, listening, and determining how to best empower local efforts. We are working hard on the behalf of sharks to build relationships, identify areas we can be of the greatest assistance, and call attention to the issues facing sharks through positive messages of hope, culture, communication and collaboration. After all, we are working towards the same goals and share the same beliefs as the individual nations of the South Pacific.
Then today, our world was rocked when again another miscommunication came out in the paper.
Again, Sea Shepherd has no intention of entering Fiji. We work collaboratively with governments. Shark Angels is a separate organization. Sea Shepherd would never jeopardize the relationship with any South Pacific nations or the Pacific Voyagers Society. The list goes on and on of inaccuracies…
I spent the day talking to reporters, the editor in chief, visiting the Fiji Times office, and making phone calls around the world to correct all of this. We are here to help. Period. And we are gutted that the misperception continues. The sharks, Sea Shepherd, the work we have done collaboratively, and the local people and ecosystems of the South Pacific suffer.
Yes, the best of intentions have gone awry once again. Let’s hope we can correct them once and for all and get back on track. Because the sharks are running out of time.
- Julie, Campaign Leader