Commentary by Captain Oona Layolle, R/V Martin Sheen
The R/V Martin Sheen is now at sea, all sails out.
On May 25th we departed La Paz, Baja California, Mexico, setting sail for Costa Rica where new Sea Shepherd projects to defend marine wildlife will soon begin.
Sea Shepherd’s Operation Milagro (Operation Miracle) has been highly successful; our goals for the first leg of the campaign have all been reached. Sea Shepherd has investigated the situation facing the endangered vaquita porpoise, threatened by illegal fishing operations within its marine refuge. We have built key relationships with marine scientists from Mexico and the U.S. as well as other NGOs working toward the recovery of this dwindling species. Sea Shepherd has formed a partnership with the government of Mexico, joining forces on a plan to help the vaquita escape the irreversible fate of extinction. Documenting the first sighting of a vaquita since 2013, our Sea Shepherd crew aboard the R/V Martin Sheen shattered claims by some that the vaquita has already vanished and that work being done to save them is for nothing. Through all of these efforts we have brought international attention to the plight of this elusive marine mammal, a species that is not very well known, one whose fate has gone ignored by most of the world.
This campaign has been a powerful adventure in which we have met many inspiring people working tirelessly to protect the oceans and the wildlife within them. I would like to thank the marine biologists and organizations that have been studying this important issue and helping the vaquita to survive for these past years; I greatly admire their dedication and commitment to the sea.
I am proud that Sea Shepherd now has a strong, positive presence in Mexico to join the fight against extinction for the smallest cetacean. I am very proud to have the opportunity to be at the helm of the R/V Martin Sheen and of this project. I would also like to thank Sea Shepherd Mexico Director Hector Torres for all of his help throughout this campaign and his great energy and enthusiasm on our mission for the world’s oceans. It has been a pleasure to work with our colleagues at Sea Shepherd Mexico.
But the vaquita remains the most endangered marine mammal on the planet, and we cannot stand by while this precious being disappears. Sea Shepherd will return to the Sea of Cortez at the beginning of the next fishing season with the right tools and the right vessel to best help the government of Mexico in its patrols against illegal fishing activities within the vaquita’s protected refuge. Sea Shepherd will not let the vaquita down. We will come back stronger and prepared to do what is necessary to avoid losing another wild species due to irresponsible human actions.
Sea Shepherd has proven to have expertise in monitoring marine protected areas and stopping illegal fishing activities in waters around the world through our many campaigns spanning nearly 38 years. It will be my pleasure and honor to help protect the beautiful Sea of Cortez and her miraculous vaquita.