Sea Shepherd is in the news again, folks. The infamous Whale Wars vessel has made headlines by agreeing to…cooperate with the Mexican government? That can’t be right. Sea Shepherd takes matters of international whaling violations into its own hands, making them the high seas equivalent of Liam Neeson (although with less of a fan base). Surely they wouldn’t agree to cooperate with a national government and become an agent of positive and productive change.
Well readers, for once in my life I am wrong. The vessel’s website, SeaShepherd.org, details a new campaign called “Operation Milagro II” to protect the critically endangered vaquita porpoise. Operation Milagro II, translated as “Operation Miracle II,” will see Sea Shepherd patrol Mexico’s Sea of Cortez to monitor the vaquita population and police for illegal poaching in the area. As we discussed a few weeks ago, the vaquita is a critically endangered yet iconic marine mammal found in the Sea of Cortez whose numbers have dwindled to less than one hundred. These porpoises can easily become bycatch of fishing vessels that use gillnets for other fishing ventures, most commonly the totoaba. These fish are also endangered and highly lucrative, with a kilogram of their swim bladders going for around $8,500 USD on the Chinese black market.
Though the use of gillnets is banned in the vaquita’s habitat, the monetary incentive to illegally poach totoabo and sell their swim bladders is substantial. Totoabo poaching in the sea of Cortex is still a problem, and the Mexican government doesn’t have the resources necessary to police the area and enforce this gillnet ban. Luckily, this is exactly what Sea Shepherd does. And the vessel has agreed to help police Mexican waters, thereby protecting the endemic vaquita population from further depletion.
This is a great sign for the vaquita and the conservation community. While recent observations suggest that a vaquita population still exists in the Sea of Cortez, it’s number of reproductive females is dangerously low. This species needs constant monitoring and protection against numerous extinction threats. Not only will Sea Shepherd contribute to this protection, it also is spreading the word about the vaquita’s plight. Everyone feels a certain way about Sea Shepherd and its captain Paul Watson, but at least they recognize the names. Hopefully all of these fans and opponents will now know what a vaquita is, where it lives, and what problems the species faces. That’s an incredible number of potential supporters for this gillnet ban and the future protection of the species. So you go, Sea Shepherd! Keep on keeping on protecting our ocean, just please use legal methods and go through the proper channels.
Enjoy the Podcast!