By Sean Olson

Sean Olsen. Photo: Carolina A CastroI had no idea what to expect when I made the decision to work with Sea Shepherd. Some people said that they were pirates, some called them eco-terrorists, and others dismissed them as “dirty hippies.”  Looking back, I suppose that all of those groups sounded good to me, so I caught a plane to Mexico to save a porpoise on the brink of extinction, and maybe, something else.

On my first day here we freed a humpback whale that was caught in a fishing net, two weeks later we pulled up a similar net that had trapped and killed both a white shark, and a bottlenose dolphin. In the few weeks between, we removed a dozen illegal nets, several long lines, and resuscitated quite a few dying animals.  

The Vaquita porpoise has taken the worst hit from the nets, it is estimated that there are less than one hundred Vaquita left in the world.  I think of every net we remove as a small relief, a slight breath towards the greater breeze. It can be hard work. The nets are full of and all manner of sea life and rotten fish; and these missions usually take place in the middle of the night on very little sleep. Despite all this though, the work somehow doesn’t seem that bad, maybe it’s because of our sense community, or a belief in what we are doing, but with Sea Shepherd, it seems that some rather miserable jobs, when done with good company, can be more than tolerable.

Since I have been onboard, I haven’t seen any piracy, and eco-terrorism is such a relative term, as for the hippies; well, it seems strange to call one that when you see them on an industrial machine that is full of welding, sparks, diesel smoke, and all the while pushing 5000 horsepower. But then again, maybe they are hippies, hippies in the original sense of the word; a group of like-minded, yet independently thinking people who love nature and genuinely believe that their actions can change the world. Isn’t that how it all started? What I see here is a group of passionate and enthusiastic human beings, who care deeply for this planet and all its creatures, but they are not sitting around and talking about it, they are taking action. We are using the tools of our time to combat that which is killing the Earth's greatest treasures, and right now, time is of the essence.

The image of the white shark and the dolphin dying together in the same net is telling. These two animals perfectly represent the duality of the ocean, and in doing so, they represent the paradox of the human experience as well. The dolphin is playful and intelligent, a companion that is easily loved by humanity; while the Great White inspires fear and admiration for its strength, size, and of course-its teeth.

The ocean is the last frontier, the place where the wildness isn’t tamed, and the edge is still out there. That is why I am here. I don’t want to live in a world where the great white isn’t down in the deep, inspiring imagination, wonder, and fear; or in a world that doesn’t have the dolphin to rescue us from that fear, to inspire joy and help us all to laugh like children again. The natural world is us-every part of us, we need it physically, emotionally, and spiritually, but right now, it needs us too. That is why I am proud of what Sea Shepherd is doing. I feel that wildlife conservation is a noble goal, but sometimes it doesn’t have the necessary impact--Sea Shepherd is conservation with teeth.

Dead dolphin. Photo: Carolina A Castro

Dead dolphin. Photo: Carolina A Castro

Sean Olsen. Photo: Carolina A Castro

Photos: Carolina A Castro

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Milagro III

Sea Shepherd vs Poachers in the Gulf of California
Six fishing boats engaged in illegal activities were spotted by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, ending in their arrest by the Mexican Navy.
Ghost Nets Go; Vaquitas Stay
Sea Shepherd and the M/V Farley Mowat break down how illegal underwater nets in the Sea of Cortez are snagged, pulled, cut and bundled. Footage also includes freeing and releasing live animals from the nets and cataloging those who unfortunately did ...
Sam Simon arrives in Mexico for Operation Milagro III
The Sam Simon has arrived in Mexico to join the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society-led campaign, Operation Milagro III. A partnership between Sea Shepherd and the Mexican authorities, Operation Milagro III intercepts, intervenes and interrupts any ill...
Operation Milagro III Campaign Launch Video
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is returning to Mexico’s Gulf of California for Operation Milagro III to save the near extinct vaquita marina porpoise and the endangered totoaba bass. The M/V Farley Mowat is back on active duty with the M/V Sam S...
Sea Shepherd Investigates Whale Corpse in Sea of Cortez
The Farley Mowat Sea Shepherd crew is called out to investigate a dead Brydes whale in the Gulf of California on November 5th, 2016 while patrolling the vaquita refuge. To help the Sea Shepherd crew to continue its work in the Sea of Cortez, includin...
Resumen Operación Milagro II - ESPANOL
La Operación Milagro II de Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ha llegado a su fin. Milagro es una campaña para luchar contra la extinción inminente de la vaquita marina, el mamífero marino más amenazado del mundo. Con menos de 100 vaquitas resta...
Milagro Summary - English
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's Operation Milagro II has come to an end. Milagro is its campaign to fight the looming extinction of the vaquita porpoise, the most endangered marine mammal in the world. With an estimate of less than 100 survivin...
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 15 - Good Bye
Watch the crew of the Farley Mowat capture footage of illegal fishing activity with a night vision drone and pull up a totoaba net in the dead of night. This is the final vlog of Operation Milagro II!
Totoaba Poachers Caught on Camera
Never before seen footage. Sea Shepherd catches critically endangered totoaba poacher in the act. The Sea Shepherd crew filmed these totoaba poachers as they were checking one of their illegal nets in the protected vaquita habitat. The vaquita porpoi...
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 14 - Saving Lives
Watch‬ the routine of our crew doing valuable work in the ‪Sea of Cortez‬. We have been very effective at removing illegal fishing gear from the ‪‎vaquita‬ porpoise's habitat. So much so, that now, most of the time we remove nets and line...
Sea Shepherd finds 3 dead vaquitas in 3 weeks
The Sea Shepherd crew has found 3 dead vaquitas in 3 weeks in the month of march of 2016. The vaquita porpoise is the most endangered marine mammal in the world. Learn more at:
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 13 - A Really Long Day
The events of the following Vlog occurred on a single day.This was probably the most eventful day we have had on Operation Milagro II. We found a dead entangled dolphin, then a Great White Shark - that most likely bit that dolphin- entangled in the s...
Sea Shepherds finds a dead sample of the most endangered marine mammal in the world
While patrolling the waters of the upper Gulf of California the Sea Shepherd crew found a dead vaquita porpoise. The vaquita is the most endangered marine mammal in the whole world. The crew also found a Great White Shark caught in an illegal gillnet...
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 12 - This is Direct Action
This week, the crew of ‪Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's ships The M/V Farley Mowat and The RV Martin Sheen find and retrieve an illegal totoaba bass long line from the critically endangered ‪vaquita porpoise habitat. The totoaba fish is also ...
Sea Shepherd Crew Save Humpback Whale Entangled in Illegal Gillnet
Sea Shepherd crew rescued a whale entangled in an illegal totoaba gillnet in the Gulf of California. Sea Shepherd currently has two vessels in Mexico's Gulf of California on OPERATION MILAGRO. Our goal is to save the vaquita porpoises, the most endan...
Gregg Lowe on Sea Shepherd's Operation Milagro
You might know Gregg Lowe from X-Men: Days of Future Past, but now watch him explain Sea Shepherd's Operation Milagro and understand why we must save the #VaquitaMarina - The most endangered cetacean in the world. Help us save the vaquita at: http://...
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 11 - Big Fish
This week the crew of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's ships The Farley Mowat and The Martin Sheen find and retrieve an illegal totoaba bass net from the critically endangered vaquita marina's habitat Watch all episodes at: http://www.seashepherd....
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 10 - Light up the Dark
Actor Gregg Lowe crews with Sea Shepherd to help us protect the vaquita. The M/V Farley Mowat lights up the vaquita refuge and deters poacher from laying deadly nets in the vaquita marina's habitat. Watch all episodes at:
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 09 - Justice for the Vaquita.
The M/V Farley Mowat​ and the RV Martin Sheen​ patrol the #vaquita refuge searching for illegal nets and poachers. Sea Shepherd Conservation Society​ assists the Mexican Navy arrest a poacher in the habitat of the most endangered cetacean in th...
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 08 - Return of the Farley Mowat
The new M/V Farley Mowat continues the direct action approach set by the original vessel. Joining the R/V Martin Sheen on Operation Milagro II, the M/V Farley Mowat is immediately effective by confiscating an illegal gillnet in the endangered vaquita...
Sea Shepherd Removes gillnet from Endangered Vaquita Habitat
Sea Shepherd Removes gillnet from Endangered Vaquita Habitat.
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 07 - Anti-Poaching Campaigns
The crew of the R/V Martin Sheen describes their previous campaign doing Legitimate Whale Research and speaks to the crew of the M/V Steve Irwin before their departure for Operation Ice Fish II. Read the article on Legitimate Whale Research at: http:...
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 06 - Permission Granted
Captain Oona Layolle meets with Mexican Authorities and is granted permission to remove gillnets from the Vaquita's Refuge.
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 05 - Gillnet Damage
Join the crew of the R/V Martin Sheen as they witness the damage a gillnet can cause to marine wildlife while patrolling the endangered vaquita's refuge in Mexico.