Operation Milagro III Update: Suffocating Sharks

On Wednesday 15th of February, the M/V Farley Mowat retrieved three totoaba nets off the shores of San Felipe, just a few miles away from the Vaquita refuge in Mexico’s Gulf of California. In one of these nets the crew found two dead sharks. The first one was believed to be a smoothhound shark measuring 1.10 m in length. The second was a juvenile thresher shark 1.70 m long.

Both these sharks suffered long and painful suffocation whilst struggling to escape these nets. Unfortunately, the Farley Mowat arrived too late to save them. The reality is that there are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of nets in this area, trapping all sorts of wildlife, condemning the trapped individuals to a slow and agonizing death. A third shark was spotted by the crew in the same net, however, the shark sank as the net was pulled up and no accurate identification could be done. It was believed to be a smoothhound shark as well. However, whether the shark escaped actively or just fell off the net, its carcass sinking to the bottom of the sea, remains unclear.

The conditions of the nets retrieved by the Farley Mowat on February 15, shows that they were deployed only recently. Who knows how long they would have stayed in the water had they not been found by Sea Shepherd, and how many more animals would have suffered as a result of that? The crew regularly finds nets that have been lost at sea or simply left there, continuing their indiscriminate slaughter, killing dolphins, sharks, rays, fish, including the totoaba, which in many instances is the targeted species. The critically endangered Vaquita porpoise can also get trapped in these nets.

The MV Sam Simon and the Farley Mowat are patrolling the Vaquita refuge every day, monitoring illegal fishing activities and picking up ghost nets. In the last two months of the Milagro III campaign, both ships have recovered about 90 nets, saving hundreds of animals. The efforts of both crews will keep going, for several months still, as we remain determined to defend the marine wildlife in the world’s oceans.

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