Paul Watson goes to trial

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1995:

ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland– –
Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd
Conservation Society seemed to be the most
relaxed person in the courtroom through the
first week of his trial for allegedly recklessly
endangering the lives of the crew of Cuban drag
trawler Rio Las Casas and his own 29 crew
members as well, including his wife Lisa
DiStefano, during a July 28, 1993 action in
defense of the Atlantic Canadian cod fishery. If
convicted, Watson could be sentenced to life in
prison. But Canadian fisheries officer Wayne
Evans, the first prosecution witness, testified
that Watson was arrested outside Canadian
waters. Extensive video of the encounter presented
by the prosecution showed no contact
between Watson’s vessel, the Cleveland
Amory, and the Rio Las Casas. And three
Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers who
were on the scene testified that they saw no
bumping.


Under cross-examination, RCMP tactical
squad commander Bill Rooney said that in
addition to his 21-man unit, the Canadian government
had a destroyer, three patrol boats,
two helicopters, and two fixed-wing aircraft
were present to shadow Watson, at cost of
about $3.4 million. The trial is expected to cost
another $1 million. “People are angry with the
government for spending that kind of money to
arrest and try me for protecting the cod, when
10,000 Atlantic Canadians are out of work
because there are not any cod left to catch,”
Watson told ANIMAL PEOPLE.
Meanwhile, two years after Watson’s
effort to chase foreign draggers out of the area,
four years after suspending cod fishing until the
population recovers, the Canadian government
recently began ousting foreign draggers using
similar tactics.
In other matters surfacing early in the
trial, a ship’s engineer who was fired by the
Sea Shepherds for drinking on board the
Cleveland Amory before the engagement began
turned out to have been a Norwegian spy. The
engineer, James Barnhart, apparently hired on
first, then approached the Norwegian consulate
to cut a deal.
Watson came to Newfoundland after
costing the Canadian government another bundle
in August by cruising up the coast of British
Columbia in a small vessel named The Sirenian
with an 11-member crew, trailed in relays by
RCMP, Canadian Coast Guard, and Canadian
Armed Services craft. As the V a n c o u v e r
Province headlined, “Eco-pirate Watson threatens
to sink seiners,” the Pacific Salmon
Commission cut the maximum allowable catch
of depleted Fraser River sockeye salmon in
half, underscoring Watson’s contention that
large-scale commercial fishing in the region
cannot be sustained. Panic seemed to be catching.
United Fishermen and Allied Workers
Union local 17 president Rick Frey accused
Watson of teaming up with sport fishers to
damage nets, while U.S. immigration at
Ketchikan refused to allow Watson––a
Canadian citizen, though a U.S. resident––to
enter U.S. waters, lest he disturb the Alaskan
salmon fishing fleet.
“But all we were doing,” Watson
laughed, “was taking pictures.”
Contributions to Watson’s defense
may be sent c/o the Sea Shepherd Conservation
Society, 3107-A Washington Blvd., Marina
del Rey, CA 90292.

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