P. Watson: Open Letter to the President of Ecuador

Thursday, August 09, 2007

To: President Rafael Corea, President of EcuadorFrom: Captain Paul Watson, Founder and President of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Dear Mr. President,I have been informed by the Ecuadorian media that the Mayor’s office in Quito accepted to consider an official “appeal on the grounds of unconstitutionality” (Recurso de Amparo) in reference to your order to deport Sea Shepherd’s Representative in Ecuador, Sean O’Hearn Gimenez.  As a result, Sean O’Hearn Gimenez avoided expulsion 10 minutes before being forced to board a Delta flight to Atlanta.  On this point, we are all a bit confused.  Why, Mr. President, did you publicly announce to the national and international media at 8 o’clock in the morning of August 4th, 2007 that you personally had deported Sean O’Hearn Gimenez three hours before the official deportation hearing had taken place?  Isn’t it true, Mr. President, that under Ecuadorian law, a person can only be deported after the official hearing has taken place?  During this hearing isn’t it true, Mr. President, that Sean had the right to the legal counsel of his choice?  Can you please instruct the Minister of Government, Mr. President, to confirm that Dr. Gyna Solis, Sean’s attorney, was not allowed to be present during this official hearing?  Could you also request the Minister of Government, Mr. President, to explain how he could legally have nullified the 9-VI Residency Visa?

Within this context, I have received all the documentation relating to the police operations conducted in the province of Manabí on July 31st, 2007.  Similarly, we have obtained numerous reports concerning Sean’s illegal detention on the night of August 3rd, 2007, as well as the analysis of the evident inconsistencies which suggest that due process was clearly denied.  I have forwarded all of this information to our international lawyers and our Board of Directors for their review.

On behalf of Sea Shepherd, I take this opportunity to thank the Ecuadorian media for their unbiased, professional and dedicated coverage of this very unfortunate incident which has transcended to thousands of media outlets on all six continents of the world.  We have taken note that the overwhelming majority of the Ecuadorian press is suggesting that effectively the Ecuadorian state has failed to uphold Sean O’Hearn Gimenez’s legal rights as stipulated and guaranteed under the Ecuadorian Constitution  and under International law.

Nevertheless, Mr. President, I reaffirm the position taken by both Sean O’Hearn Gimenez and Pieter Brouwer, Spokesperson for Sea Shepherd in Ecuador, as published in El Universo on August 8th, 2007, stating that differences of opinion in democracies can best be resolved through dialogue and that unilateral actions which apparently abuse the due process of law should not be encouraged.  Sea Shepherd is open to any invitation to discuss the events with you and your Minister of Government personally.

Subsequently, concerning the agreement of cooperation signed at the request of your government, between the National Police and Sea Shepherd, I hereby officially communicate to you that this was immediately suspended the second Sean O’Hearn Gimenez was illegally arrested.  For the record, our cooperation with the environmental police produced 7 operations during which a historical record was achieved including the decommission of 40,000+ shark fins and 93,000+ endemic sea cucumbers of the Galapagos Islands.  The suspension of the agreement very unfortunately affects over 20 Million dollars of international funds which were being successfully negotiated to strengthen the projects that we were jointly formulating between your government and Sea Shepherd.  Ironically, a very important program was being directed to improve the socioeconomic situation of artisanal fishermen living in the Galapagos and on the mainland who are facing conditions of extreme poverty.  Certainly, Mr. President, the environment does not have to account for poverty nor should it have to pay the consequences, as your Presidential Decree No. 486 would imply.  Poverty is directly correlated to state policy and should be resolved within this spectrum.

I am requesting, as President and Founder of Sea Shepherd, my board of advisors to contact the Secretary General of the United Nations, the Director General of UNESCO, the European Parliament, the EU, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, the Ecuadorian Congress and other pertinent authorities to express our deep concern that the marine reserve of the Galapagos Islands is under major threat.  We are all appealing, Mr. President, to your sensibility on ecological matters and agree with you when you state that “the shark is more valuable swimming freely in Galapagos than floating dead in the soup of the Chinese.”  Consequently, once again I formally request that you reinstate Presidential Decree No. 2130 by nullifying your Presidential Decree No. 486, especially as UNESCO World Heritage Committee will be reviewing the status of the archipelago in November 2007 and February 2008.

However, I am forced to draw your attention and wish to express to you my very deep concern as to the more than unfortunate incident which has occurred this morning with regard to Elsa Maria Cortez, wife of Sean O’Hearn Gimenez.  I have requested Sean and his family to return for consultation as soon as possible.  This matter, as well as all the incidents surrounding Sean’s illegal arrest, have been communicated to the institutions which legally represent the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Very specifically, I am requesting Mariana Almeida, Executive President of Selva-Vida Sin Fronteras Foundation of Ecuador and member of our Board of Advisors in Latin America to intercede.  Independently, I am also asking Dr. Juan De Dios Parra, Secretary General of the Latin American Association of Human Rights (ALDHU), to represent Sean O’Hearn Gimenez’s human rights in Ecuador.

Finally, I am requesting the members of our Board of Advisors to consider:

  1. the implications of Presidential Decree No. 486 on the Galapagos Marine Reserve
  2. the impact of Presidential Decree No. 486 on the Pacific Marine Corridor
  3. the possible violations of human rights experienced by our representative in the very beautiful country which you are presently presiding

For your easy reference, The Sea Shepherd Advisory Board consists of:

Scientific, Technical, and Conservation:
Dr. Deborah Brosnan
David Foreman
Dr. Birute Galdikas
Randy Hayes
Dr. Herbert Henrich
Dr. Jennifer Hopper
Captain Jet Johnson
Horst Kleinschmidt
Dr. Louise Leakey
Elizabeth May
Dr. Joe McInnis
Dr. Godfrey Merlen
Dr. Roger Payne
Grant Pereira

Legal and Law Enforcement:
Basil Hobbs

Financial and Management:
John Paul DeJoria
Mike Galesi
Pritam Singh
Robert Wintner

Jody Boyman
Marc Gaede

Media and Arts:
Brigitte Bardot
Linda Blair
Berkeley Breathed
Pierce Brosnan
James Cromwell
Linda G. Fisher
Rutger Hauer
Pieter Kroonenburg
Rafe Mair
Jacques Perrin
Sean Penn
Martin Sheen
George Sumner
Diane Warren

Animal Welfare, Humane and Animal Rights:
Dr. Alex Hershaft
Marnie Gaede
Steve Hindi
Howard Lyman
Alex Pacheco
Heidi Prescott
Dr. Tom Regan

I remain yours sincerely,
Captain Paul Watson
Founder and President of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (1977-
Co-Founder – The Greenpeace Foundation (1972)
Co-Founder – Greenpeace International (1979)
Director of the Sierra Club USA (2003-2006)
Director – The Farley Mowat Institute
Director – http://www.harpseals.org
Working Partner with the Galapagos National Park.
Master/Commander of the M/Y Robert Hunter
Commander of the M/Y Farley Mowat


Shark Poachers Caught for the Second Time Inside the Galapagos Marine Reserve

From the Sea Shepherd Web Site:

Some poachers have little respect for laws; others think these laws don’t apply to them. The fishing vessel Nano from Manta, Ecuador seems to be in a league of its own. Sea Shepherd reported the capture of the Nano on April 27 2008.

Illegal poaching vessels NANO (photo: Benjamin Ayala)

Illegal poaching vessel NANO (photo: Benjamin Ayala)

The vessel was released from Isabela Island by the port captain and returned to Manta to face charges for having between 200 and 300 sharks on board and for being inside the Galapagos Marine Reserve. Upon the vessel’s arrival in Manta, the sharks had mysteriously disappeared and the local authorities took no action. The Nano was allowed to continue its shark killing activities without hindrance.

The poachers must have thought they were untouchable when they once again ventured into the Galapagos Marine Reserve on February 11th, only this time they were stopped by the Coastguard vessel San Cristobal. Upon arrest, they were 1.6 nautical miles inside the Galapagos Marine Reserve, Northwest of San Cristobal Island. The Captain of the Nano and his 8 crewmembers claimed to have drifted into the Marine Reserve due to mechanical problems. Inside the hold of the Nano were 100 sharks, which included:

  • Pelagic thresher sharks
  • Bigeye thresher sharks
  • Silky sharks
  • Scalloped hammerheads
  • Smooth hammerheads
  • Blue sharks

The Nano was accompanied by two small boats which both had longlines with 300 hooks. On board the Nano, two similar longlines were found. All hooks were clearly designed to capture sharks.

Besides the 100 sharks, only 30 other fish were found on board, albacore and dorado. This is solid proof that the Nano didn’t catch the sharks as by-catch but was specifically targeting sharks. Whereas sharks are unfortunately permitted to be caught as by-catch in Ecuador, fishing specifically for sharks is strictly prohibited. On these grounds, and for being inside the Galapagos Marine Reserve without authorization, the Nano was ordered and accompanied into port in San Cristobal Island. There it has been under detention since February 13th awaiting the official charges.

On March 20th the Director of the Galapagos National Park imposed the fine, which is set at 1000 times the minimum wage. Unfortunately, the law requires that the minimum wage is set at the level at which it was when the law was written. At that time minimum wage was 100,000 Sucre and was quite high. Presently that translates into USD $4, which puts the fine at a mere USD $4,000.

The Captain of the Nano also has to pay last year’s fine, which is equally low, putting the total at a ridiculous USD $8,000.

The fine has been paid and the Nano sailed out of San Cristobal Island on Thursday, April 2nd. Even though the catch has been confiscated as well as the illegal fishing gear, fines this low will not act as a proper deterrent to scare off illegal fishermen. In fact, the fins of 100 sharks will have more value on the black market that the two fines combined.

Sea Shepherd Galapagos is presently gathering information and legal advice to determine how they can contribute to higher sanctions. Ultimately, Sea Shepherd wants to see shark killers like the Nano permanently taken out of commission. It is clear that despite the new constitution in Ecuador, some laws are hopelessly outdated and need an urgent revision in order to keep the poachers out of the Galapagos Marine Reserve.

~ by FSVSF Admin on 16 April, 2009.

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