by Bastien Boudoire
"The Sea of Cortez" where is that? When I first got the chance to crew on Operation Milagro 1 as Captain Oona's first mate, I didn't even know where the Sea of Cortez was located. And like most people, I didn't know what a Vaquita Marina was. As I learned more about it, I was shocked by the numbers: approximately 150 Vaquita Marina alive in 2007 and approximately 90 in 2014.
Between the ongoing fishing activities generated by the consumers demand for seafood and the fact that the Colorado River is no longer flowing, we are still the biggest threat for the Vaquita Marina. Even though the Vaquita Marina is not the direct target of the poachers, it is killed as by-catch in gillnets.
Recently, with the help of the Mexican Navy, the Sea Shepherd crew retrieved an illegal totoaba gillnet that was approximately 500 meters long. After the action, in the very early morning, I fully realized what we had done. An intense feeling of pleasure and justice ran through me.
We also found two other gillnets and one longline, all of which were illegal gear. What an awesome thing to know that no more animals will die as a result of this illegal fishing gear! That is the best reward for all of us!
Since I watch the documentary The End of the Line six years ago, I develop a lot of disgust toward gillnets and longlines. Gillnets are nothing but underwater walls of death. They are often illegal because they are not a selective method of fishing. Whether they are used by big fishing companies or local fisherman, they are a global problem for the environment. Like other non-targeted species such as sea turtles, sharks, dolphins, rays, whales and many others, the Vaquita Marina are also a victim of this fishing gear. And they are becoming extinct because of it.
The story of the Vaquita Marina is a story that has already been heard and told in human history. Think about the dodo, the Tasmanian tiger, the west African black rhinoceros, the Steller's sea cow and the Javan tiger. The list goes on and on. All of them were hunted down to the last individual or their habitats were polluted or destroyed.
And as long as human behavior toward nature remain destructive, we will continue to hear that same story for other species in the coming decades.
It is up to every single one of us to change our habits and take actions against the destruction of the Earth. Whether it is happening in our own backyard or on the other side of the planet, it is a global issue.