Photo: Gary StokesPhoto: Gary StokesEffective next month, two Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ships will enter the waters off the coast of Libya, an area declared to be in a state of war as NATO-backed rebel forces struggle to topple the despotic dictator Muammar Gaddafi, with the goal of intercepting bluefin tuna poachers and freeing any illegally caught fish in attempt to save the species from nearing extinction.

The territorial waters off Libya are a declared a no-fly zone by NATO, which means there will be a distinct absence of poaching surveillance in the region. NATO is not interested in illegal fishing operations, and no European Union or International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) inspectors will be allowed into the Libyan zone.

The Greenpeace Foundation is not conducting a bluefin tuna campaign, meaning that the only protection for the highly endangered bluefin tuna will be at the presence of two Sea Shepherd's vessels: the flagship Steve Irwin and the soon to be renamed fast interceptor vessel. The only non-military aircraft in this zone will be Sea Shepherd's helicopter the Nancy Burnet onboard the Steve Irwin.

This will be a dangerous campaign but the bluefin tuna are facing extinction within a few years unless they are effectively protected, and Sea Shepherd will not fail them. Last year, during the first Operation Blue Rage Campaign in 2010, Sea Shepherd crewmembers located and intervened against an illegal poaching operation freeing approximately 800 bluefins.

President of Sea Shepherd France, Lamya Essemlali, attended a meeting with the European Commission Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries on May 6, 2011. As a result, the commission will follow Sea Shepherd's campaign activities in June; Sea Shepherd will also prepare a complete progress report for the commission at the end of their campaign. Prior to taking action to release any unlawful catches, Sea Shepherd will confer with the commission regarding the potential illegality of the intercepted vessels.

Click to view invitation from European CommissionClick to view invitation from European Commission

This year, the bluefin will have some respite because nearly half of the French bluefin tuna fleet will remain in port due to the cancellation of all fishing permits in Libyan waters for all Libyan-owned, French-registered boats. Ten of the tuna ships operating in the Mediterranean port of Sete, some 185 km (115 miles) from the city of Toulouse, will be confined to port because they are owned by Libyan companies with links to Gaddafi.

The conflict led to a delay in Libya submitting its 2011 Atlantic bluefin tuna fishing quota to the Madrid-based ICCAT, which determined quotas late last year and awarded permits in mid April; Libya's quota was canceled. "Because of the war in Libya, around a hundred fishermen from Sete will not go out to sea this year," said Raphael Scannapieco, owner of five tuna ships, three of which are registered in Libya.

The Libyan quota was to be set at 902 tons out of a total of 12,900 tons for all nations for the 2011 season starting on May 15. However, no fishing will be allowed at all in Libyan waters this year, making Sea Shepherd's job of identifying and interfering with poachers much easier this year than last.

"The profits from the poaching of bluefin are enormous," said Essemlali, President of Sea Shepherd France. "This kind of quick-profit enterprise does attract a criminal element and we must take every precaution to defend ourselves from the potential of violent attacks."  The Sea Shepherd deck crew and bridge officers have been outfitted with bulletproof vests for this campaign in the event that the poachers are armed and potentially violent.

Sea Shepherd will not be intervening against legal tuna fishing operations, although we consider any so-called legal quotas to be grossly irresponsible, considering the recent diminishment of bluefin tuna due to excessive overfishing and mortality caused by the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill where the Atlantic bluefin spawn.

France, Italy, and Spain catch most of the Atlantic bluefin consumed in the world, and 80 percent of the haul is sold to Japan. Bluefin tuna can weigh up to 650 kg (1,433 lbs) and are found in the North Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Mediterranean Sea, where big commercial fisheries often fatten captured fish in floating enclosures.

Port captain Philippe Friboullet in Sete, France said the authorities would be informed if any of the Libyan-owned boats left port without the required fishing permits. Poachers can be expected from Libya, Malta, Italy, Spain, Tunisia, and Turkey.

"We will be armed with the regulations and in touch with NATO and the European Union Commission if we encounter any suspicious activity," said Sea Shepherd Founder and President, Captain Paul Watson. "Any bluefin tuna seiner or holding cage found in Libyan waters will be intercepted, the nets will be cut open, and the fish will be released. This year it is zero tolerance towards these illegal poaching operations and any fish in any net we encounter in Libyan waters will be freed and released."

Donate Now

Sea Shepherd
Why Just One NYC screening Q&A
Why Just One NYC screening Q&A
On December 16, 2016, the New York City chapter hosted the premiere of Why Just One? Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s first full length, in-house documentary. The sold-out event was Captain Paul Watson's his first New York appearance at a Sea Shepherd event since returning to the United States...
Sea Shepherd vs Poachers in the Gulf of California
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
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 not make it.
Sam Simon arrives in Mexico for Operation Milagro III
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 illegal activities found in the Vaquita refuge in the...
Divina Guadalupe Beaked Whale Research Project
Divina Guadalupe Beaked Whale Research Project
**If you cannot see the captions on this video, just click on CC on the lower right corner of video settings on the video ** #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 t...
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...