INTERNATIONAL sea activist organisation Sea Shepherd has reiterated its recent visit to Fiji waters was not designed to challenge the Fiji government.
The Sea Shepherd vessel Brigitte Bardot was escorted out of Fiji waters earlier this month by the authorities after stopping over for repairs and refuelling. In a statement, Sea Shepherd director of shark campaigns Julie Anderson said the organisation's mission was to work with Pacific governments.
"It is not Sea Shepherd's goal to challenge the Fijian government. Our campaign in the South Pacific is about collaboration, and we've received warm welcomes and support from other island nations," she said.
Sea Shepherd maintains all protocols were followed prior to the vessel's arrival in Fiji waters.
Fiji Navy Commander John Fox denied they escorted the vessel out while immigration authorities maintained they simply followed protocols for dealing with departing vessels. In an earlier interview, Immigration director Major Nemani Vuniwaqa said they conducted normal procedures and checks on the vessel before its departure.
"We are pleased the navy is reporting they did not give any instructions for Sea Shepherd to depart Fiji and that Immigration is reporting they were merely following protocols to assist us in our departure and were under no orders to force our departure either," said Ms Anderson. "We are hopeful this means we can return to work with Fiji in the future. By understanding the issues surrounding sharks and conservation and engaging in diplomacy and outreach, Sea Shepherd is laying the foundation for a long-term commitment to the region.
"We have grown to admire and adore the people of the South Pacific and their approach to conservation -— we simply want to help," she said.