The Crew of the R/V Martin Sheen is Working with a Scientific Team from Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur on an Unprecedented Study in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez

The crew of the R/V Martin Sheen. Photo: Sea Shepherd/Jean-Paul GeoffroyThe crew of the R/V Martin Sheen
Photo: Sea Shepherd/Jean-Paul Geoffroy
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s research sailing vessel, the R/V Martin Sheen, arrived this past weekend in the Sea of Cortez, where Sea Shepherd’s crew is working alongside a team of scientists from Mexico's Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur on an unprecedented project to assess the presence of micro-plastics in the Sea of Cortez. As long-lived, resident top predators of this marine region, fin whales will be the primary focus of the research, serving as bio-indicators of the health and balance of their entire eco-system.

Captained by Francois Martin and crewed by a team of five Sea Shepherd volunteers, the R/V Martin Sheen will serve as home base for the marine research project. From onboard the Martin Sheen, the team will search for fin whales, using a small boat to cautiously approach the whales once they are spotted. Non-harmful skin biopsies and fecal samples will be taken to determine the presence of micro-plastics and other toxins in the whales.

In addition to benefiting the Sea of Cortez by studying the presence of plastics and other harmful debris, the study also seeks to determine why fin whales may be declining in number in this region.

Sea Shepherd will work with the team of marine scientists, led by marine biologist Dr. Jorge Urban Ramirez of Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur, in the collection of water samples using a mantra trawl (a specialized net that samples the surface of the water) provided by the scientists. The samples will be studied by researchers to determine the extent of micro-plastic pollution, an important effort to produce Mexico’s first-ever formalized data on pollution in the Sea of Cortez.

"The R/V Martin Sheen is well suited for marine research and our crew is happy to provide this Sea Shepherd vessel as the base for this groundbreaking research in the Sea of Cortez. The study of the health of fin whales and the level of micro-plastics in these waters will benefit not only the fin whales, but the critically endangered vaquita and all other species of marine wildlife that call the Sea of Cortez their home," said Captain Martin.

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