Sixteen years ago, in 2001, I took my ship Ocean Warrior to Cocos Island, Costa Rica. Upon arriving we found an Ecuadorian longliner, the San Jose, busily slaughtering sharks not far off the beach of Cocos Island National Park. The rangers were watching from the shore, but not having a boat, could do nothing. We offered our help and together, the Cocos Island rangers and the Sea Shepherd crew stopped the San Jose, confiscated many kilometers of longlines and hundreds of dead sharks. We then assisted with the arrest of the crew.
The San Jose was the first large illegal fishing boat caught and stopped in the Cocos Island Marine Reserve, and the first illegal fishing vessel to be confiscated by the Costa Rican courts.
Because of that arrest, I signed a formal agreement with the Costa Rican Ministry of the Environment to begin patrolling the Cocos Island Marine Reserve in partnership with the rangers, beginning in 2002.
Two years earlier, in 2000, Sea Shepherd had begun a similar partnership with the Galapagos National Park and the Ecuadorian Federal Police – a partnership that continues 17 years later.
Unfortunately, our partnership with Costa Rica stopped before it even had a chance to begin. The same year we signed the agreement to patrol Cocos Island, my crew and I caught a Costa Rican poaching vessel, the Varadero I, in Guatemalan territorial waters. At the request of the Guatemalan authorities, we stopped the poachers’ illegal activities. We caught and filmed them in the act of catching and finning sharks. We stopped them with fire hoses. No one was hurt and there was no damage to the vessel. A film crew onboard working on the documentary film Sharkwater documented the entire incident.