Galapagos Field Report
Happy Holidays from the Galapagos Islands!
Reporting from the field, the Sea Shepherd Galapagos Team is happy to report a successful year 2006 for the protection of marine wildlife within the Galapagos Islands. With the inauguration of the new Sea Shepherd field office in the Galapagos we have been able to kick start a new research and education program to help educate local children and tourists about conservation issues facing the wildlife of the marine reserve. Sea Shepherd has been at the forefront of shark conservation in the Galapagos Islands over the last 5 years and we are now going to increase our efforts in supporting the community of the Galapagos through the education of its children as responsible future environmental leaders and caretakers of the enchanted islands.
Sean OHearn O'Hearn-Gimenez and Captain Paul Watson in front of the new office
The sharks of the Galapagos Islands will also continue to take center stage as they still are the most threatened marine species in the Galapagos. With recent data concluding that up to 73 million sharks are killed every year globally, often finned while they are still alive, Sea Shepherd will continue its efforts in shark conservation. Compare that number to the 10 to 15 people reported as being killed by a shark each year and you will see that we are more of a threat to sharks then they are to us. We will be looking to help educate local children as well as the many tourists that visit the islands each year about the important role of the different shark species within the marine ecosystem especially as top predators in the food chain. The Galapagos Islands were the greatest influence to Darwin's Theory on Evolution and there is no better example of evolution then the shark: They have survived over 400 million years of evolution, not only outlasting the dinosaur but shark ancestry dates back to more then 200 million years before the earliest known dinosaur.
It's time we replace all of the shark myths and fables with hard facts. The reality is that shark populations are declining, and if they are truly the indicators of the status of our World's Oceans and therefore the health of our Planet then, as our President and Founder, Captain Paul Watson, recently stated:
"The writing is on the wall and the signs can be plainly seen. We continue our present fishing practices at the peril of the human species. For those who see this as a radical demand, I should point out that the consequences of doing nothing will be catastrophic," said Captain Paul Watson. "Unless we take aggressive and radical action soon, we will cause irreparable damage to global marine ecosystems."
Since the year 2000, Sea Shepherd has made its field office onboard its patrol boat, Sirenian, while stationed in the Galapagos Islands protecting its vast marine reserve (third largest in the world) from industrial class poaching and brutal shark finning operations. Now, with a strategic base and field office adjacent to the Galapagos National Park headquarters, the Sea Shepherd Galapagos field office is fully equipped to support the Galapagos National park in its control and surveillance efforts.
Also, after five years of successful operations and renegotiations in 2005, Sea Shepherd President and Founder Captain Paul Watson, officially signed an agreement to donate the Sirenian to the Galapagos National Park (a division of the Ecuadorian Ministry of the Environment), and now, in 2006, the Sirenian has officially been re-registered to navigate within the Galapagos under the Ecuadorian flag in order to ensure its continued service protecting the wonderful marine biodiversity of the Galapagos Marine Reserve.
Captain Paul Watson meets with Galapagos National Park Director Raquel Molina
The Sirenian, also in 2006, as part of its ownership transfer agreement between Sea Shepherd and the Galapagos National Park, has also been re-branded with a new name, the Yoshka, and has undergone a major overhaul thanks to a successful partnership between Sea Shepherd Galapagos, WWF Galapagos, and WildAid. Thanks to this partnership over ½ million dollars were invested into the Sirenian to ensure it continues to serve in the protection of the marine wildlife that makes the Galapagos Islands a unique World Heritage Site. Among the major successes of the Sea Shepherd donated vessel, Sirenian, over the last five years of service in the Galapagos includes:
- Over 5,000 shark fins confiscated, numerous poaching operations shutdown, and numerous poaching vessels captured
- Setting a legal precedence with first-ever court ruling in Galapagos history to auction off two foreign industrial poachers captured by the Sirenian (vessels Maria Canela II and Indio I). In addition, video documentation, captured by Sea Shepherd volunteers, was used successfully in court as evidence for these landmark trials
- There has also been an indirect impact, seen statistically over the years, which shows that the effectiveness in patrols as well as its international coverage helped provide a deterrent to other foreign industrial poachers thinking about violating laws within the Galapagos Marine Reserve
- First responder to the Jessica oil spill in 2001 cleanup and containment efforts plus served as a floating hospital for numerous affected birds, seals, and marine iguanas
Sean O'Hearn-Gimenez has taken part in many patrols, helping the
Rangers arrest poachers and confiscate their illegal takes
In 2006, Sea Shepherd Galapagos also became a member of the Inter-institutional Committee for the Management of Introduced Species (CIMEI) in the Galapagos Islands. Sea Shepherd has used its flagship, Farley Mowat, to bring needed supplies for the dog and cat sterilization campaigns and has provided countless hours of volunteer assistance during the sterilization campaigns throughout 2006. Management of Introduced Species is priority for Sea Shepherd specifically due to the impact they have on endemic marine wildlife in the Galapagos.
Sea Shepherd will continue to support control and surveillance operations and to work in joint operations with the Galapagos National Park in patrolling operations as well as providing much-needed training to park rangers of the marine reserve. Now, with our office fully operational, we can focus on expanding our operations to become more effective at providing resources where needed. We are also working with other local institutions to form a Shark Task Force, whose objective will be to work together to protect the sharks of the Galapagos Islands.
2006 also saw the start of a great new program for Sea Shepherd field operations in the Galapagos Islands. The Direct Action Research & Education (DARE) program has at its heart the local children of the Galapagos Islands. My wife was raised in the Galapagos Islands and her mother and both of her sisters are teachers. They remind me that many tourists learn more about the Galapagos then most children learn in a lifetime in school - it is therefore clear that we must take part in educating these children. Sea Shepherd Galapagos is creating this DARE program to promote the education and awareness of the importance of the Galapagos Marine Reserve. As part of our DARE program we have initiated a Save Our Sharks (SOS) campaign to educate local students and foreign tourists with regard to the importance, economically and ecologically, of the shark within the Galapagos Marine Reserve and our oceans around the world.
Shark Pack-Guide Team working in SSCS office
As part of this campaign, we have worked hard in 2006 to initiate a project we are calling the Shark Education Pak that will provide curriculum reinforcing activities and materials using the shark as the main theme for different topics already being taught in local schools. The goal is to continue to work on this project throughout 2007 to implement in the April 2008 school year. Here is an excerpt from the Teacher's Resource Guide, a critical component of the Shark Education Pak, taken from the Introduction and written by UK Teacher Lisa Gorman while volunteering for Sea Shepherd in the Galapagos:
"At the shear mention of the word 'shark´, many people instantly envisage the savage White Shark from the film classic of 1975; Jaws. Complete with haunting sound effects, this masterful science-fiction suspense/horror-disaster film feasted on the human fear surrounding the uncertainty of what unseen creatures lurk beneath the water's surface. Arguably one of the most impressionable films of all time, it inadvertently generated the popular consensus that all sharks are terrifyingly menacing and man-eating beasts. In reality, it couldn't have been further from the truth.
These fascinating animals, phenomenally successful products of evolution, have been cruising the oceans for the last 400 million years. Since long before dinosaurs walked on the planet sharks have been playing a fundamental role in helping to maintain the natural balance of animal populations in virtually all of the world's marine ecosystems.
The Galápagos Islands, along with the Galápagos Marine Reserve, provide a world-class haven for wildlife. We are incredibly lucky to have such a special diversity of species right here on our doorstep; finches, giant tortoises and - of course - sharks. From the weird and wonderful hammerheads, to the largest shark on the planet, the Whale Shark, and a huge array of different shaped..."
Volunteers talking to children
Local volunteers working alongside international volunteers on shore in the Galapagos also worked hard in 2006 giving presentations about sharks at local schools and in creating the first-ever Shark Field Guide dedicated to the many shark species that call the marine reserve their home. 50% of the species text for this book is complete, and the goal, if funding permits us, is to complete and publish this book for 2007. All proceeds from this book will help fund further projects towards shark research and education in the Galapagos Islands.
This year will be an exciting year as we continue to expand and serve our clients: the marine wildlife as well as the future caretakers, the children of our living planet Earth. Thank you all for supporting us and making a difference!
From the field and for the Oceans,
Director of Operations
Charles Darwin Avenue, Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos (Ecuador)