Introduction by Jeff Goodman
There are many ways in which we as individuals and conservationists can influence how our ecosystems and the dependent wildlife may be protected. Some of us simply talk about issues over a cup of coffee or pint of beer. Others may join a wildlife group or donate money to a popular cause. Any effort made in the name of conservation is worthwhile, but some people are driven to make that effort become their life’s work.
While many talk the talk, some are walking the walk and they are putting themselves physically on the line, protecting our natural world from those who would destroy it. Paul Watson is one such person.
I first met Paul in 1987 near Plymouth in the UK. He was about to start a campaign against the Pilot Whale slaughter that takes place in the Faroe Islands every year. The Faroe Islands have been a self-governing country within the Danish Realm since 1948 and have taken control of most of their domestic matters.
I was trying to convince the BBC that we should follow Paul and his crew to document this appalling and unsustainable killing of these migratory animals. They weren’t sure…. then as luck would have it a few local schools in Plymouth got behind the campaign and raised money to support it. This gave me the link to local BBC I needed and the film was commissioned. I feel I got to know Paul well on that trip and was humbled by the man’s determination to save our marine life. Not only that, he was a really genuine, cheerful and very intelligent person. I last worked with him a few years later on an anti drift net fishing campaign in the North Pacific and then we met again briefly in 1990. Paul has endured many hardships during his campaigning, trying to make this world a better place for all of us.
He is continually hounded by governments and international agencies who seem to have financial gain high on their agendas and very little regard for the environment. It is now 2013 and I am back in touch with Paul because of my conservation role with Scubaverse. I asked him for an article that would inspire people, who were unfamiliar with his work, to think about and even take an active role in conservation. The following is that article. You can learn more about Sea Shepherd at http://www.seashepherd.org. I will be following the work of Sea Shepherd and Paul closely and will report regularly on their activities.
Eco-Exile Adrift in a Sea of Trouble
15th July 2013
By Captain Paul Watson
I am writing as an exile upon the ocean. I cannot come to land anywhere because I have been placed on the Interpol Red List by Costa Rica and by Japan.
I have been at sea now for eleven months.
I did not kill or even injure anyone. I did not damage any property nor did I steal anything. What I did was much worse in the eyes of some governments – I saved lives!
Costa Rica at the request of Japan dug up an incident from 2002 where at the request of the government of Guatemala I stopped a Costa Rican long liner from catching and finning sharks in Guatemalan waters. The warrant calling for my arrest on the charge of “creating a danger to ships or aircraft” came only days after the President of Costa Rica Laura Chinchilla met with the Prime Minister of Japan.
Costa Rica requested my name be placed on the Interpol Red List but this request was rejected by Interpol. It was for an incident a decade earlier which had been dismissed at the time on the basis that our film and witnesses demonstrated that the charge was simply the complaining of shark finners caught in the act of poaching in foreign waters.
Then in May 2012 while on my way to France on a Lufthansa flight from Denver, Colorado I was detained at Frankfurt airport by Germany on the Costa Rican request. I pointed out that Interpol had rejected the request. The Germans responded by saying that Germany made the decision to act independently of Interpol. This was two weeks before the state visit to Germany by Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla.
And so I was detained for 8 days in a maximum security prison and then released on a €250,000 bond and ordered to remain in Frankfurt until a decision on extradition was made. I waited patiently, reporting to the police twice a day for two months until around the end of July I received a confidential phone call from a supporter inside the German Ministry of Justice who warned me that I was to be arrested the next day and extradited to Japan.
While I was waiting in Germany, Japan had requested extradition from Germany.
Knowing that if extradited to Japan I would most likely never leave that country, at least not alive, I elected to depart Germany.
The Japanese were accusing me of ordering Peter Bethune to trespass on a Japanese whaling ship by boarding it after the ship had cut his own vessel in two. Bethune was arrested and taken back to Japan where he struck a plea agreement with the Japanese, exchanging a suspended sentence for an accusation that I had ordered him to board the vessel.
In actual fact I am on camera on the Animal Planet show Whale Wars advising him not to board the Japanese vessel.
I left Germany and boarded a small sailboat in the Netherlands where I proceeded to cross both the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. I did not have any passports or papers so I could not go on land. However I did manage after four months to reach the waters off American Samoa in the South Pacific where I rejoined my ship the Steve Irwin in time for the voyage to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary to once again intervene against the illegal whaling operations by the Japanese whaling fleet.
It was a week after leaving Germany that the Costa Rican and the Japanese warrants were accepted by Interpol making it impossible for me to land onshore anywhere. This was done more on Germany’s request than Costa Rica or Japan although Germany has since dropped their warrant for me.
Pete Bethune has since signed an affidavit stating that he signed the accusations under duress but despite this, Interpol refuses to drop the Red Listing.
No one has ever been placed on the Interpol Red List for trespassing and especially when the person was not the actual person trespassing.
However I am not overly surprised. The real reason that I am on the list is because I have led eight campaigns to the Southern Ocean to oppose the illegal whaling activities of the Japanese whaling fleet and it has cost them tens of millions of dollars in lost profits.
In 2011, the Japanese whalers were allocated $30 Million U.S. from the Tsunami Relief Fund for the purpose of shutting down Sea Shepherd and myself. With that money they are suing Sea Shepherd in the U.S., hiring P.R. firms to demonize Sea Shepherd and myself, and increasing their security around their ships.
Despite this, Sea Shepherd interventions in January and February 2013 prevented the Japanese whalers from killing 90% of their intended victims.
And despite shutting down funding for the campaign from Sea Shepherd USA through the U.S. courts, Sea Shepherd Australia is continuing to lead the effort to stop the whale poachers off the coast of Antarctica. In December 2013, the Sea Shepherd fleet and more than a hundred volunteers will once more return for Operation Relentless.
Although many people think that all Sea Shepherd does is protect whales, the fact is that the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has become a global network of national groups addressing issues right across the world’s oceans from working with the rangers in Ecuador to protecting the Galapagos National Park Marine Reserve, to taking Gooseneck barnacle poachers to court in France.
Sea Shepherd is battling Bluefin tuna fishermen off the coast of Libya and in the British Courts and Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians spends half the year working to defend dolphins in Taiji, Japan.
What is unique about Sea Shepherd is that we are a network of passionate volunteers working globally to intervene and uphold international conservation law when governments refuse to do so. We are also unique in not spending donor’s money on promotion and fund-raising. Sea Shepherd money goes into ships and campaigns and as a result Sea Shepherd, founded in 1977, has become the world’s most aggressive marine conservation society.
We have one basic message and it is this; our ocean is dying and if the ocean dies, we die. We cannot live on this planet with a dead ocean. It is as simple as that.
These are dangerous times to be a conservation activist. Last month 26 year-old turtle conservationist Jairo Mora Sandoval was murdered on the beach where he was trying to defend turtle nests from turtle egg poachers. Jairo had been asking for police protection for weeks before his death and after his murder one Costa Rican government minister insensitively stated that he would not have died if he had not put himself in such a dangerous place.
Not much about this murder has been in the international media. Just another death of someone trying to defend life on the planet. Meanwhile when we succeed in non-violently preventing the killing of a whale in a whale sanctuary, the stories describe us as violent, radical, and even eco-terrorists.
Our oceans are in trouble and governments are doing very little. The only thing that stands between the destroyers of oceanic eco-systems and their victims are passionate individuals who are jailed, beaten and murdered for their efforts.
This is everyone’s fight no matter where people live for what we are fighting for is to maintain and defend the life support system for the planet.
Whatever the risks, they are risks worth taking, because if the oceans die, sooner or later we all die.
Reef-World Launches New Partnerships to Accelerate Sustainability in the Dive Industry
The Reef-World Foundation, DiveAssure, and ZuBlu are launching a new collaboration to champion marine conservation while promoting sustainable diving practices. The symbiotic partnerships aim to increase awareness and implementation of environmental standards in the marine tourism industry through the Green Fins initiative, spearheaded by Reef-World in partnership with the UN Environment Programme.
Businesses have a unique opportunity to create a long-lasting impact through partnerships with conservation organisations. These partnerships show how tourism can go hand in hand with sustainability when businesses join forces with conservation organisations. By working together, these organisations and companies demonstrate their dedication towards sustainability and open doors to endless opportunities for growth and success in the tourism industry that benefit the people and the planet.
As the number of divers continues to grow and make a comeback post-pandemic, studies have shown that there’s a strong demand for sustainability education from dive tourists. This resulted in the partnership between Reef-World, DiveAssure and ZuBlu to promote sustainable diving practices through one of Green Fins tools, the Green Fins Diver e-Course. The course is designed for recreational divers to build on their existing scuba diving knowledge and provide them with the skills and confidence to conduct environmentally friendly diving trips. This, in return, empowers them to use their consumer power to demand more sustainable practices.
Chloe Harvey, Executive Director at The Reef-World Foundation, said: “We’re thrilled to be taking this step with these two wonderful companies. This is a truly symbiotic partnership, one that furthers the business priorities of DiveAssure and ZuBlu, as well as delivering on our conservation objectives. Reef-World has a long history of working with sustainability leaders in the diving industry, and with their support, we look forward to diving into a future where sustainability is at the heart of every dive adventure.”
What the partnerships entail for divers who have completed the Green Fins Diver e-Course:
- Get 20% off worldwide diving accident and dive-travel insurance from DiveAssure.
- Get 5% off scuba diving holidays booked with ZuBlu, a dive travel agency which has over 800 carefully chosen resort and liveaboard partners across 100 dive destinations worldwide.
- Reef-World to provide 10% off on Green Fins Diver e-Course for all DiveAssure and ZuBlu customers and members.
Besides offering a discount on their diving accident and travel plans, DiveAssure proudly supports top Green Fins Members across the globe with grants to fulfil their sustainability and conservation goals. Founded in 1999, DiveAssure has a goal of not only providing scuba divers with everything they might need in terms of safety and medical assistance, they are also committed to sustainability and the protection of our ocean. They champion responsible diving, endorse marine conservation, and continuously strive to minimise environmental footprints. Every quarter, DiveAssure evaluates initiatives proposed by Green Fins members — be it beach or reef cleanups, coral propagation, or setting up marine life nurseries. Dive centres keen to collaborate on such impactful endeavours are encouraged to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
Tal Tamir, Business Development & Community Chief at DiveAssure, said: “We are thrilled about our new partnership with The Reef-World Foundation. We believe that sustainable diving is a key factor in preserving the beauty and biodiversity of our ocean. And that through education, we can raise awareness and drive positive change. The Green Fins courses empower divers and operators with knowledge about marine conservation, sustainable diving practices and the importance of protecting the ocean and its ecosystems — knowledge we encourage all our members to have. Green Fins Members are welcome to apply for funding for their blue-green initiatives, which are considered quarterly. Let’s do good together!”
With the “Explore the blue. Dive green.” tagline, ZuBlu celebrates sustainable businesses and encourages divers to be more environmentally conscious while on their adventures to contribute to a healthier ocean. Reef-World has proudly collaborated with ZuBlu since 2018, and this new partnership model represents a transformation in the impact they can have together. Their mission centres around improving the way travellers engage with the ocean. They believe every dive starts at home, and every decision made in planning a holiday can make a difference to the marine environment. With access to information on the sustainable practices implemented by their featured resort and liveaboard partners, they can ensure their customers find sustainable operators to book their ocean adventures with.
Adam Broadbent, co-founder and CEO at ZuBlu, said: “We are delighted to be deepening our collaboration with The Reef-World Foundation to further encourage more conscious divers. At ZuBlu, we want to empower our guests to be a force for good on their scuba diving adventures. And we are delighted to be rewarding Green Fins Divers with a 5% discount to acknowledge their commitment to the ocean.”
Join the movement to protect our ocean by taking the Green Fins Diver e-Course and receiving all the rewards that come from the partnerships.
The Reef-World Foundation is a registered UK charity which delivers practical solutions for marine conservation around the world. The charity promotes the wise use of natural resources – particularly coral reefs and related ecosystems – for the benefit of local communities, visitors and future generations. It is dedicated to supporting, inspiring and empowering governments, businesses, communities and individuals around the world to act in conserving and sustainably developing coastal resources.
Reef-World leads the global implementation of the UN Environment Programme’s Green Fins initiative, which focuses on driving environmentally friendly scuba diving and snorkelling practices across the industry globally. As such, the charity provides low-cost and practical solutions to local and industry-wide environmental challenges associated with the marine tourism industry. It provides education and capacity-building assistance to empower environmental champions (within the diving industry, local communities, authorities and governments) to implement proven coastal resource management approaches.
About Green Fins
Green Fins is a proven conservation management approach – spearheaded by The Reef-World Foundation in partnership with the UN Environment Programme – which leads to a measurable reduction in the negative environmental impacts associated with the marine tourism industry. The initiative aims to protect and conserve coral reefs through environmentally friendly guidelines that promote a sustainable diving and snorkelling tourism industry. It provides the only internationally recognised environmental standards for the diving and snorkelling industry and has a robust assessment system to measure compliance.
Green Fins encourages and empowers members of the diving industry to act to reduce the pressures on coral reefs by offering dive and snorkel companies practical, low-cost alternatives to harmful practices – such as anchoring, fish feeding and chemical pollution – as well as providing strategic training, support and resources. By reducing the local direct and indirect pressures tourism puts on coral reefs, it helps make corals healthier and more resilient to other stresses such as the effects of climate change. Look for the Green Fins logo when booking your next dive trip.
DiveAssure goes beyond being just another member association. DiveAssure is your steadfast companion and passport to extraordinary underwater adventures. Their membership provides medical, rescue and evacuation services in case divers and travellers have an accident, become injured, sick or if their safety is threatened.
Whatever the emergency, wherever you are, DiveAssure has your back. So you can immerse yourself in the wonders of the deep, knowing their comprehensive benefits, global network, and unwavering commitment to your safety will ensure that every dive is an unforgettable and secure experience. Learn more at www.diveassure.com.
ZuBlu is the world’s leading dive travel agency for scuba diving and ocean experiences, with more than 800 partners in over 100 dive destinations around the world. Secure online booking, expert travel advisors and flexible booking terms mean you can discover, compare and book scuba diving holidays with ease. Discover and book your next diving adventure at www.zubludiving.com now.
Seahorse National Park announced on Eleuthera in The Bahamas
This week has seen the announcement of the designation of Seahorse National Park at Hatchet Bay Cave and Sweetings Pond on Eleuthera. This monumental announcement comes after years of efforts from the BNT and its partners in advocating for the protection of Sweetings Pond and its surrounding areas as an official national park under the BNT’s management.
Sweetings Pond is a large, land-locked saltwater pond in Hatchet Bay, Eleuthera. It has many unique natural features, but the most notable of them all is its incredible seahorse population, which is believed to be the densest population of seahorses in the world. The new 548-acre national park protects the entire one-mile-long pond and the surrounding terrestrial area. The land surrounding Sweetings Pond is a blend of intact coppice, mangroves, and farmlands. In addition, the new national park includes the extensive Hatchet Bay Caves system. This historic cave system is a popular attraction and contains a number of impressive geological features. It is one of the longest dry cave systems in The Bahamas.
Since 2014, the BNT has been leading efforts to have the area declared as a national park. This included years of public outreach and stakeholder consultations in communities across Eleuthera; education presentations in local schools; science and research efforts; and engaging consecutive government administrations. In 2018, the BNT submitted the “20 by 20 Marine Protection Plan” to the government, which included the recommendation to declare Sweetings Pond and other areas in The Bahamas as protected areas.
During the lease signing ceremony for Seahorse National Park, Minister Clay Sweeting, said, “This lease agreement for Sweetings Pond has been a long time coming. It represents a milestone in our journey towards sustainable development. It symbolises our collective responsibility to safeguard our natural heritage and create a harmonious relationship between economic progress and environmental preservation.
“I would like to express my gratitude to all stakeholders in this process of drafting and finalising this lease agreement. Their dedication, expertise, and commitment has been crucial in ensuring that this agreement falls in line with our vision of creating a thriving ecosystem while promoting responsible usage. Let us continue to preserve the jewel that is Sweetings Pond for many generations to come.”
The BNT invites the public to stay tuned for more news about its plan for the country’s newest national park: Seahorse National Park at Hatchet Bay Cave and Sweetings Pond!
To learn more about the role the BNT plays in managing terrestrial and marine national parks, conserving wildlife, and informing environmental policy, please visit its website: www.bnt.bs
Banner Image: A lined seahorse (Hippocampus erectus), female, clining to algae in an alkaline pond in The Bahamas by Shane Gross
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