Watson gets 30 days

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 1995:

ST. JOHN’S, NEWFOUNDLAND––
A jury on October 9 found Captain
Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation
Society innocent of endangering the lives of
the crews of the Cuban trawler Rio Las Casas
and his own vessel, the Cleveland Amory,
during a high seas encounter on July 28, 1993,
but convicted him of simple mischief for
enabling members of OrcaForce to throw noxious
buteric acid from the Cleveland Amory to
the desk of the Rio Las Casas. Watson was
thus cleared of counts that could have brought
him a double life sentence, but drew a felony
conviction, a fine of $35, 30 days in prison in
addition to the six days he served after his
arrest, and most significant, a “prior”––his
first in 22 years of frontline activism––in the
event he should again be arrested.


The rap, though less serious than
such common offenses as drunk driving,
breaking-and-entering, or simple assault,
could potentially inhibit Watson’s international
movements. “We’re going to appeal it,”
Watson said, “but I’ll be kept in jail meanwhile,
and it will take at least two weeks to get
an appeal before a judge.”
A more immediate problem for the
Canadian government was finding a place to
keep Watson where his presence wouldn’t
bring further media attention to the weaknesses
of Canadian fisheries policy. OrcaForce commander
Lisa DiStefano told ANIMAL PEOPLE
that Watson was moved four times in his
first week as a prisoner, shuttling among maximum
security facilities where at each stop he
was an instant hero to most inmates.
May backfire “This conviction is going to backfire,”
Watson predicted. “Canadian fisheries
minister Brian Tobin has been charged with
piracy by Spain in a Canadian court for doing
exactly what we did, but two years later,
intercepting a foreign fishing vessel in international
waters. If I’m a pirate, he’s a pirate. If
I did mischief, he did mischief.”
Watson was cheered to learn in trial
testimony that the Rio Las Casas fished no
more after the 1993 encounter, taking a
$63,000 loss––and that the whole Cuban fishing
fleet withdrew from the Grand Banks.
Watson thus belatedly found he had succeeded
in his goal of protecting depleted cod stocks.
The episode cost Canada $4.2 million dollars,
Watson said: $3.2 million for the small armada
of boats and helicopters that shadowed the
Cleveland Amory throughout its voyage, and
$1 million for the trial, including the cost of
flying the Rio Las Casas crew to
Newfoundland as witnesses and putting them
up at a hotel, where observers said they ate as
if they’d never before had plentiful food.
Trading fish for seals
One down side of the conviction was
that Watson was unable to do much to draw
attention to an October 19-20 conference
among the fisheries ministers of Canada,
Norway, Iceland, Russia, the Faroe Islands,
and European Union deputy-general for fisheries
Jose Almeida Serra, of Spain. Tobin
announced afterward that Canada might soon
lift its 1988 ban on the entrance of EU fishing
vessels into Canadian ports, while the EU
would re-examine its ban on the import of
Canadian seal pelts. In effect, Tobin seemed
to say, he tentatively traded protection of the
fishery on which the Atlantic Canadian economy
is based for a chance to revive sealing, a
six-week industry even at peak.
“All issues related to the seals
should be analyzed and decisions taken on scientific
evidence and advice,” Almeida Serra
said. “However,” he added, “any decisions
should be incorporated with public opinion.”
While Watson was in effect charged
as an accessory to throwing buteric acid at the
Rio Las Casas, no one was charged with the
throwing itself. Buteric acid is a harmless
chemical which stinks like vomit. Although
DiStefano and other members of Sea
Shepherds and OrcaForce were available to
Canadian authorities both in 1993 and during
the trial, no move was made to arrest any of
them.
OrcaForce is to the Sea Shepherds as
the Marines are to the Navy, Watson told
ANIMAL PEOPLE shortly after the incident.
Although DiStefano is also Watson’s consort,
Watson said he had no prior knowledge of
what the OrcaForce tactics would be. His job,
he said, was simply to get OrcaForce to the
scene of the action.

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