Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s “aviation wing” has been extremely busy in the Gulf of Mexico for the past couple of months and especially this past month. In keeping with the strong emphasis being put on collaboration, Sea Shepherd has been working with other NGOs as well as local people and businesses, indigenous groups in the Gulf area, and government agencies in order to maximize effectiveness in protecting and promoting recovery of the Gulf wildlife and ecosystems.

Oil on a beachSea Shepherd has forged some strong connections with these groups, and we have obtained access to regular low-altitude surveillance flights over the Gulf, the coastal waters, and the off-shore islands. As such, we have compiled a large video and photo database that has helped us track the movement, extent, nature, and consequences of the oil as it has spread from “the Source” (the Deepwater Horizon rig) to the off-shore islands and right up to the coastal shores from Texas to Florida.  

We were able to provide invaluable oil-spotting flights to scientists from universities, the USGS, NGA, and NASA to guide their boats for sampling and spectral analysis of the oil and water. In the course of those flights, we used every opportunity to document with our eyes, camera, and video equipment the behavior of wildlife and the status of vegetation around the off-shore islands from Dauphin (south of Alabama) west to Marsh Island, an expanse of over 250 miles east to west centered around Venice, Louisiana. Through many generous and helpful contacts in the Gulf area, we’ve also had access to a variety of boats and permits to enter secured beach areas, which have enabled us and the scientists and media who joined us to get a close and objective look at what the conditions are in the coastal areas.  

The look of the surface of the ocean changes from day to day, in part because of winds and currents moving the oil and emulsion around, but also in part because we humans continue to spray a dispersant known as Corexit in massive amounts from large C-130s and other planes, in attempts to break up the oil and make it separate into small particles and sink beneath the surface…  

Gulf Rescue UpdateWhy do we do this? Sadly the answer is because less of the oil will make it to shore, because photos from the air will not look so egregious and horrifying, so that maybe tourism and BP's reputation can be salvaged. So that fishermen can still go out and try to bring in shrimp? One might not believe the last, and yet we have seen trawlers out there almost every day, not trawling but still pulling their nets! Sure, some of those boats are now pulling skimmers, trying to salvage some of the fresh oil from the surface. But some of them are still fishing, unbelievably. As the dispersant works, and the small bubbles of oil sink, all life beneath the surface becomes coated with it. They ingest it. Their eyes and ears and gills fill with it. They suffocate, they are poisoned, and they die slow and horrible deaths.  

We have seen less and less ocean wildlife over the past two months. What we do see is now much closer to shore than it was previously, typically within 50 miles of the coast, and crowded into the shallow waters on the coastal sides of the off-shore islands. Within 30 miles of the coast off Caillou Bay (west of Grand Isle), and within 5 miles of the oil-scarred shores of the Chandeleur Islands, we have seen many schools of cownose rays (Rhinoptera bonasus), golden-colored and swimming very close to the surface, 20-40 in a square-shaped school. Often these rays are followed by sharks. We’ve seen small pods of dolphins, almost always swimming very fast, almost frantically in circles, and often within a few hundred meters of thick patches of brown crude oil emulsion. If we had been seeing this in beautiful clear blue water, we might have thought this was enthusiastic play, but in this toxic pool, we wondered if this isn’t a sign of serious stress.

Having flown over the “water” for hundreds of miles, we know that there is no clear passage for those animals to swim out of the oiled areas and out to cleaner open water, unless they first go several hundred miles along the coasts east or west and then out to open water. Do they know to do that, we have wondered? Perhaps the animals who are still here do not, and we wonder, what will become of them? As hurricane season arrives and blows oil all over the off-shore islands, the thousands of nests with hatchlings—pelicans, egrets, herons, and more—they seem doomed.  

Birds on boomsIn the coming weeks, we’ll be bringing more boats, more fully hazWOPER-trained crew who are experienced and trained in the recognition of oiled wildlife and coastal ecosystems. Wildlife rescue activities are tightly controlled in the US Gulf waters. At this time, even the International Bird Rescue and Research Center (IBRRC), people who clean and rehab most of the captured oiled seabirds, are no longer permitted to capture and bring to shore oiled birds; that authority is reserved for the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF).

Less parochial, it seems, are the sea turtle rescue efforts. Several non-government groups in the New Orleans and Alabama areas have been very active and effective in the rescue and rehab of oiled turtles. We have flown and boated and worked and discussed at length with sea turtle experts, and Sea Shepherd will be coordinating tightly with sea turtle rescue activities throughout the Gulf, including proactive efforts farther south, near Rancho Nuevo, Mexico, where so many sea turtles live and begin their lives. We will work with the many indigenous peoples of Mexico whose lives and cultures are tightly bound to sea turtles and what they represent.  

You’ll hear more about the ships and experts that Sea Shepherd will be supporting in the Gulf in the coming months. For now, we’ll continue to bring you objective, clear documentation of what conditions there really are, and we’ll continue building strong ties with groups, scientists, and local people who can help us make a big impact toward protecting and preserving as much of the Gulf wildlife and ecosystems as can be saved.

Sea Shepherd
Divina Guadalupe Beaked Whale Research Project
Divina Guadalupe Beaked Whale Research Project
#Breaking #SeaShepherd helps scientists learn more about #rare Beaked whales! Did you know that Cuvier's Beaked whales hold the record for the deepest mammalian dive? Watch the video to learn more about these elusive creatures. With #science we can help protect these beautiful animals from seismic b...
Operation Milagro III Campaign Launch Video
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 Simon joining the Milagro campaign for the first ti...
Sea Shepherd Investigates Whale Corpse in Sea of Cortez
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, including protecting the near-extinct vaquita marina porpo...
Entanglement in the South
Entanglement in the South
Operation Guardian Angel - In and around Bahia de Los Angeles, in the Gulf of California, countless marine species are entrapped in nets with little or no hope of rescue. Rosalia Tellez works for CONANP, a department of the Mexican government that acts as park rangers to enforce laws and assist in ...
Good and Bad Days
Good and Bad Days
This video follows Sea Shepherd volunteers over the course of two days. The first day Sea Shepherd locates and removes a long line from the sea; fortunately no animals were caught in the net. However, the next day volunteers find a sea lion that has been caught and died in a fisherman's net.
Operation Virus Hunter Campaign Summary
Operation Virus Hunter Campaign Summary
Sea Shepherd campaign Operation Virus Hunter saw the vessel RV Martin Sheen under the leadership of Alexandra Morton, head up the coast of British Columbia Canada to expose open pen Atlantic salmon farms and the impact they are having on wild Pacific salmon and the the surrounding eco-systems.
Illegal Totoaba Nets
Illegal Totoaba Nets
This video follows Sea Shepherd volunteers through the process of locating, retrieving and disposing of illegal nets in the Gulf of California.
Discovering Alleged Wild Salmon Dead in Fish Farms
Discovering Alleged Wild Salmon Dead in Fish Farms
August 12th 2016: Early Thursday morning the R/V Martin Sheen assisted Melissa Willie, a band councilor of the Musgamagw Dza’wada’enuxw nation, in hand delivering a letter to three farms expressing the nations disapproval of the industry. Sea Shepherd crew alongside independent biologist Alexand...
The Grind of the Faroe Islands
The Grind of the Faroe Islands
Ross McCall travels to the Faroe Islands to explore the truths behind the centuries old tradition of the brutal Pilot Whale drives.
Operation Virus Hunter: A Salmon PSA with Pamela Anderson
Operation Virus Hunter: A Salmon PSA with Pamela Anderson
Sea Shepherd Chairman of the Board, actor/activist Pamela Anderson, cautions viewers about the dangers of eating farmed salmon.
Why Just One?  Indiegogo Video
Why Just One? Indiegogo Video
Support Sea Shepherd's documentary by sharing and backing our Indiegogo campaign here: http://bit.ly/1OfvER6
Milagro Summary - English
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 surviving vaquita, Sea Shepherd ships the R/V Martin Sheen...
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 15 - Good Bye
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!
Sea Shepherd's Ethical Research Whale Project
Sea Shepherd's Ethical Research Whale Project
Sea Shepherd's Ethical Research Whale Project is dedicated to collect samples from whales in the Gulf of California to measure levels of toxins in whales in order to determine the levels of toxins in the Gulf of California itself. Learn more at: www.seashepherd.org
Totoaba Poachers Caught on Camera
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 porpoise is the most endangered marine mammal in the wor...
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 14 - Saving Lives
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 lines that are mostly empty, our favorite thing to do....
Sea Shepherd finds 3 dead vaquitas in 3 weeks
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: www.seashepherd.org/milagro2
Sea Shepherds finds a dead sample of the most endangered marine mammal in the world
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
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 critically endangered. Watch all episodes at: http...
Sea Shepherd Crew Save Humpback Whale Entangled in Illegal Gillnet
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 endangered marine mammal. The vaquita are caught as a r...
Gregg Lowe on Sea Shepherd's Operation Milagro
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://seashepherd.org/milagro2/donate-now/vaquita-appeal...
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 11 - Big Fish
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.org/milagro2/multimedia/videos.html ‪#‎OpMilag...
Operation Milagro II: Vlog 10 - Light up the Dark
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: http://seashepherd.org/milagro2/multimedia
Sea Shepherd Wildlife - False Killer Whales
Sea Shepherd Wildlife - False Killer Whales
The first video of our new series "Sea Shepherd Wildlife". This episode is about one of the lesser know large dolphins - The False Killer Whales. Learn more about these beautiful creatures with the Sea Shepherd crew. Share it with your friends. Video by Carolina A. Castro Narration by Nicole D'Entr...
Sea Shepherd Removes gillnet from Endangered Vaquita Habitat
Sea Shepherd Removes gillnet from Endangered Vaquita Habitat
Sea Shepherd Removes gillnet from Endangered Vaquita Habitat.