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Friday, September 21, 2012

Acting Locally to Protect the Oceans

By Julie Andersen, July 20, 2012

Erwin_Fillius_Healthy_Namena_ReefHealthy Reef
Photo: Erwin Filius
This trip has been primarily one of outreach and education (for all of us), though we have managed to get into the water now and then. It would be a crime to come to one of the world’s most beautiful reef systems and not spend some time appreciating the splendor.

One of the most stunning places I have ever dove is an area called Namena in Fiji. I remember first diving it 5 years ago and being absolutely blown away.  Sadly, it isn’t often when you revisit a dive site that  you dove years ago and it is as pristine and plentiful as you remember.  Namena certainly didn’t disappoint! Gorgeous, flowing, soft corals, healthy, huge coral heads, brightly colored reef fish, and large schools of silvery predators filled every corner of my mask.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Spreading a Message of Hope 

By Seru Saumakidonu, July 20, 2012

Litslits Vanuato local school SSCS shark talkPhoto: Simon Ager/Sea ShepherdBeing a volunteer for the past 5 years has really taught me a lot and opened up my mind. From sailing traditionally on our vaka, Uto Ni Yalo, to joining the Sea Shepherd crew on the Brigitte Bardot, which is a dream come true. We are like-minded for sure. I have been involved with our locally managed marine reserve in my village for the past 5 years and to have the opportunity to share this experience with Sea Shepherd and the people of Vanuatu is something that I always wanted to do. Discussing the importance of marine protected areas (MPA’s) with our people of the South Pacific is something truly special.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sea Shepherd Takes Tongan Kids To Meet Their First Whales

By Sarah Fisk, August 11, 2012

Simon Ager Whale WatchingWhale Watching
Photo: Simon Ager/Sea Shepherd
Whale watching in the Kingdom of Tonga- a dream of ocean lovers around the world. For those of us lucky enough to come here to snorkel with Humpback whales, it is a life changing experience. There is nothing quite like floating on the surface of the sea looking down through your mask at nothing but shifting, flowing blue-green infinity all around. Then having a creature the size of a bus enter your field of vision and move by, rolling their massive body so as to look you in the eye with intelligence and curiosity.

It is even more amazing when this leviathan is a mother accompanied by her baby, who she allows to swim between herself and you, unafraid and inquisitive. You do not have to be a new-age yay-hoo, or even an animal lover to be emotionally moved by such an encounter. The shear mass of a whale compared to your puny self and the “extra-terrestrial” nature of the fluid world in which you are clearly only a visitor (and she is completely at home) will put even the most jaded of us into a state of awe.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Observations From a Long liner

By Julie Andersen, Campaign Leader, August 26, 2012

The last place in the world I thought I’d be is standing in a huge blast-freezing morgue with one eye on the door to ensure I didn’t meet a similar untimely demise, counting the number of blue shark carcasses deep in the hull of a long liner in the middle South Pacific, hundreds of miles from shore. But here I was…

Julie Andersen Simon Ager takes Julie to the ship for boardingSea Shepherd crew approaches
a long liner for inspection
Photo: Julie Andersen / Sea Shepherd
“Long liner ahead!”

Up until now, we’d only boarded purse seiners – so I’ve been looking forward to hearing those words. To me, long liners meant sharks – and probably lots of them. Another new opportunity to learn as much as possible about those doing a considerable amount of the fishing that is decimating shark populations around the world. And the potential to arrest fishermen for their illegal shark catch.

Iaekana, the marine officer, and I kitted up quickly and prepared to board the Korean vessel – with a legal license to fish in PIPA. Putting on our dry suits, Iaekana told me about a recent shoot out aboard a long-lining vessel, which resulted in a fisherman’s death. Clearly a warning — purse seiners were one thing, long liners another. We approached and boarded with caution.

While Iaekana went through the boat’s paperwork, I inspected the large ship, filming and observing the beacons, the long lines and buoys, and the bags full of hooks. It wasn’t long before I found the shark fins — drying on the stern of the boat; hanging on a line amongst the crew’s newly washed clothes. Blue shark fins — and plenty of them — a variety of sizes from immature to sharks undoubtedly bigger than me. Dorsal, pectoral, and caudal (tail) fins, all hanging in the sun to dry.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Life at Sea

By Julie Andersen, August 27, 2012

Simon Ager Bardot Crew on an Underwater_MissonPhoto: Simon AgerThough I have been working with Sea Shepherd since 2007, this is only my second campaign with Sea Shepherd and my first at sea. Even for someone who spends a lot of her life on or in the water, it has taken some getting used to!

The MV Brigitte Bardot is a very compact ship – particularly for 11 people, usually the crew is 8. With a few necessary additions for this campaign, we’ve expanded and are definitely pushing the limits of space and comfort. But then again, who joins a Sea Shepherd campaign to be comfortable?

I’ve learned personal space is a luxury in my small open bunk in a space I share with 10 others. I’ve realized how very little I actually need – possessions… what are those? I’ve learned how to sleep while on what feels like a roller coaster (the Bardot may be fast, but man does she rock and roll). I’ve figured out how to shower with a baby wipe and been liberated from mirrors, makeup, and even brushes. I’ve discovered how to cool off on the equator and what to do on a small ship on those long crossings. Plenty of time to think, plan, and in this case write.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Boiling Point - The Phoenix Islands

By Simon Ager, August 28, 2012

Simon Ager Samoa tuna and frigates chasing baitfishPhoto: Simon AgerEast of the island of Rawaki, the waters boiled, thousands upon thousands of silver shards breaking the surface, thrashing, swimming frantically for their lives, the tiny baitfish didn’t stand a chance against the skipjack and yellow fin tuna that were chasing them down. Hundreds of birds circled above swooping in for an easy feed.

An amazing spectacle to watch, free diving on the amazing show that ripped though the deep blue, only to surface and have frigate and boobie birds dive bombing right over your head plucking the tiny fish with all the precision of a skilled surgeon.

Witnessing nature, predator and prey is awe-inspiring; the circle of life at work, only to have the spectacle overshadowed by the approach of a purse-seiner fishing vessel. Here to cast her nets around the amazing show, wipe it out and banish it to the depths of a deep freezer.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Enforcement on the High Seas

By Julie Andersen, Campaign Leader, August 24, 2012

Purse Seiner. Photo: Chili DerezPurse Seiner. Photo: Chili DerezIn the last several years as a conservationist, I’ve been involved with many different aspects of conservation – from media to outreach to undercover investigations – working on both the demand and the supply side of the shark fin trade. The last few days were a new milestone, as I got my first real taste of official enforcement.  As educational as it was exhilarating, I have now had the experience of boarding “factory fishing” boats as well as participating in law enforcement on the high seas.

The story begins months ago when we started planning Operation Requiem. We’ve been working collaboratively and successfully with the government of Ecuador for years in the Galapagos protecting the sharks - we wanted to do the same in the South Pacific. The Phoenix Island Protected Area, another world heritage site, was the perfect place – and the government of Kiribati agreed.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

En Route to Phoenix Islands

By Chili Derez, August 23, 2012

Photo: Chili DerezPhoto: Chili DerezSamoa offered a chance for us to pick up supplies, fuel, and a Maritime Police Enforcement Officer for the next leg of the campaign. The plan is to head to Kiribati, under government request and patrol for illegal fishing vessels that may be taking shark by-catch. I say maybe but we all know they are, the question is how much? First thing we need is fuel. We picked up our anchor and started moving, much to the delight of the long-line fishing fleet we were sharing the harbor with. We passed their boats to crew whistling at us and waving good-bye, little did they realize our intended route was actually right in front of them at the refueling station.

Once this was recognized the crews gathered on the wharf where we were coming alongside. I'm not sure if they had any intentions but Port Control Authority soon sent them back to their respective boats as their numbers were multiplying. The correct fuel connection was located, the refueling went quicker than expected and we were soon back at out anchor point, probably much to the disappointment of the fishing fleet.


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