Monday, May 14, 2012

Oceanography and the Marine Environment:

The Arrest of the Sea Shepherd's Master of the STEVE IRWIN

ABC News (Australia) reported today that German maritime authorities had arrested Capt. Paul Watson , Master of the Sea Shepherd owned,  M/V STEVE IRWIN. Capt. Watson is the founder of the marine environmental group "Sea Shepherd", which should not be confused with the more widely known "Green Peace". Green Peace is known for some tactics in defense marine mammals that literally amount to deliberate collisions at sea. Some of their in port protests have created major headaches for vessel traffic authorities, causing one to wonder how tactics that actually increase the danger of a major tanker accident in a crowded port could possibly be in the defense of the environment.Of the two, Sea Shepherd has the better record for common sense and marine safety. It is a disappointment to see Guatemalan and Costa Rican maritime authorities working in concert over what appear to be trumped up charges brought by Guatemalan authorities apparently at the behest of powerful ship owners who were clearly operating outside the law. By contrast, the M/V STEVE IRWIN was actually cooperating with Guatemalan fisheries authorities until some sort of political intervention occurred, or at least is inferred by the subsequent events as reported by ABC (Australia"), Lets examine the "facts" as reported by ABC:
"Paul Watson, the founder of the anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd, has been arrested in Germany and will be extradited to Costa Rica.The activist group has labelled the arrest as "nonsense" and called for the charges against the Canadian-born Watson to be dropped. Sea Shepherd says Watson, who is the captain of the Steve Irwin ship, has been arrested on a Costa Rican warrant over an incident which occurred in 2002. 
"The specific 'violation of ships traffic' incident took place on the high seas in Guatemalan waters, when Sea Shepherd encountered an illegal shark finning operation, run by a Costa Rican ship called the Varadero," the group said in a statement. 
"On order of the Guatemalan authorities, Sea Shepherd instructed the crew of the Varadero to cease their illegal shark finning activities and head back to port to be prosecuted." Sea Shepherd claims that while it was taking the Varadero back to port, the tables were turned."A Guatemalan gunboat was dispatched to intercept the Sea Shepherd crew," the group said.
"The crew of the Varadero accused Sea Shepherd of trying to kill them, while the video evidence proves this to be a fallacy. "To avoid the Guatemalan gunboat, Sea Shepherd then set sail for Costa Rica, where they uncovered even more illegal shark finning activities in the form of dried shark fins by the thousands on the roofs of industrial buildings."

 American Admiralty Books of course has nothing to go on other that the "facts" as reported by ABC (Australia) reprinted above. Assuming these facts prove accurate something is wrong within both the Guatemalan and Costa Rican fisheries authorities. Assuming the facts are correct, the M/V STEVE IRWIN was doing exactly what  Guatemalan authorities had asked them to do. There was no indication of collision threatening activity. Providing observation and reporting platforms is the safest and probably the most productive conservation enforcement assistance activity that such organizations can do. The activities that the M/V STEVE IRWIN observed and reported on off of Guatemala and in Costa Rica were illegal. Unfortunately, in the space of a few radio messages and obviously some phone calls from politically powerful commercial fishing vessel owners the M/V STEVE IRWIN goes from observer and reporter to the pursued. 

 Clearly the world fisheries resources and ocean environment needs some non governmental watch dogs.We have before us two models of non governmental watch dog tactics, the observe and report  and coordinate with governmental authorities model of the Sea Shepherd activities as reported by ABC (Australia) and the Green Peace model that so often presents environmental and public safety issues of their own. Guatemalan and Costa Rican authorities are exposing themselves to not only possible exposure of corrupt practices before a world audience but also they are suppressing the growth of the more sensible model of non governmental watch dog behavior. It's the sort of behavior displayed by the Guatemalan and Costa Rican authorities that drives the frustrations that drive the far more disruptive and dangerous Green Peace tactics. 

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