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Thursday, August 30, 2012

There’s no shark issue in Tonga…

By Julie Andersen, August 3, 2012

Photo: Carolina A. CastroPhoto: Carolina A. CastroWell, at least that is what we were told and what we were able to surmise from an extensive amount of research we did prior to our arrival.

The next stop for Operation Requiem was Tonga, where we’d regroup as a team, exchange stories from the Bardot’s time in Vanuatu and our time in Fiji, and celebrate the some of the animals we work so hard to protect: humpback whales.

We headed to Tonga with much enthusiasm, thanks to the official invitations from the government, a welcoming ceremony at the airport and several meetings with key ministries – another South Pacific partnership on the horizon. We also brought with us the “Shepherd of the Sea” award to thank the prime minister and his royal government for their commitment to the whales by providing them with a long-standing sanctuary. The very whales we fight for in the Antarctic.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

State of Grace

By Simon Ager, August 7, 2012

Photo: Simon AgerPhoto: Simon AgerI have defended whales from the Japanese whaling fleet in the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary, and am now visiting the humpback play and mating grounds of Tonga, where boisterous males brawl for a female companion, mothers with calves and curious juveniles swim freely and in peace.

Sea Shepherd crewmembers were invited aboard the licensed whale watching vessel, Nai’a, for several days to experience the majesty of the humpbacks in recognition of our hard work over the last 35 years defending these very whales.

Eight a.m. the next morning, the sun rising. Just off our bow, playful humpbacks were breaching as if to welcome in a brand new day, launching forty tonnes into the air with all the grace of a ballerina, a slow pirouette before the crescendo of an almighty splashdown. Returning to the surface, exhaling a plume of fishy breath that washed over us. In awe!!

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Dangerous Archipelagos

By Julie Andersen, August 5, 2012

Photo: Deborah BassettPhoto: Deborah BassettEveryone who watches Whale Wars or simply follows the work of Sea Shepherd knows one of last season’s biggest dramas during our eighth Antarctica campaign was the rogue wave that nearly tore off the Brigitte Bardot’s pontoon. Seven days sail from Australia; the partially detached pontoon could have broken off at any moment, leaving the crew and ship in serious jeopardy. But the Bardot didn’t fail us then – and it hasn’t failed us now.

However, our trip to the South Pacific has not been without drama either. In fact, the Brigitte Bardot has found herself in yet another precarious situation equally as dangerous to the crew and the boat as the Antarctic. The danger of navigating the unmarked and often incredibly shallow reefs that have been sinking ships since the time of Captain Cook – when he named the area “The Dangerous Archipelagos”.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

It’s a small world – even in the South Pacific

By Julie Andersen, August 8, 2012

Photo: Deborah BassettPhoto: Deborah BassettWherever we go, no matter how remote, we run into people who know us. And are thrilled to see us. The work Sea Shepherd does has earned us a lot of fans around the world – and all over the South Pacific. From local villagers running to the beaches in droves with fresh fruit to welcome us, to posing for countless pictures with Tongans, Fijians, Solomon Islanders and Fijians who recognize the Sea Shepherds from Whale Wars, to boats sailing off course to meet us, excited to see the unique shape of Bardot on the horizon, desperate for a tour.

Yesterday, we realized just how small our planet is – or perhaps how fate intervenes to ensure those on the same mission come together. We went ashore an incredibly remote and rather desolate village on a small island in Tonga in the hopes that somehow, there might actually be a phone signal – or better yet… Internet! As we walked down the empty dirt street without a person in sight, we heard someone yell from behind “Hey Sea Shepherd!”

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Monday, August 27, 2012

No Shark Sanctuary in Fiji

By Sarah Fisk, August 5, 2012

Photo: Erwin FiliusPhoto: Erwin FiliusWhile here in the Kingdom of Tonga, working on strengthening the protection of whales and sharks, we received the sad news that the proposed shark sanctuary in Fiji was rejected.  The news is sad on many levels.  Since Operation Requiem’s mission is to protect sharks and we are shark lovers, the idea of a sanctuary for sharks that would have encompassed all of Fiji’s EEZ was something we all supported and hoped for.

We are also saddened when we think of all the work and effort by CORAL (Coral Reef Alliance), Pew Family Trust, Fijian communities and local businesses to create a safe haven for sharks in Fiji.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Meeting My Guru - A True “Shark Man”

By Julie Andersen, July 24, 2012

Photo: Paul WildmanPhoto: Paul WildmanSome people idolize rock stars, others brilliant scientists or talented athletes. Me, I’d give anything to meet the descendant of the shark. Yesterday, my dream came true… in a humbling way that exceeded my wildest imagination.

Fiji is a very special place for sharks – not just because of the beautiful marine ecosystems that sharks sit atop or the local economies reliant upon healthy fish stocks and shark diving, but because the shark holds a special place in Fiji’s lore, history, and social structure.

In the last few weeks, I’ve heard many stories of sharks. How sharks became the god of war. How they’ve saved people’s lives. How sharks aren’t traditionally fished or eaten – but rather respected. How many, fear the water because they have wronged the sharks or the oceans and knew there would be a price to pay. How the first “shark man” was born.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Brothers and Sisters of Vanuatu

By Angelo Smith, July 20, 2012

Photo: Simon AgerPhoto: Simon AgerAfter an emotional farewell from the Solomons we started our sail on our new vaka the Brigitte Bardot bound for Vanuatu on the shark campaign. The crossing over from Honiara was pretty tough as we faced up-to 40kt winds with swells at around 5-6meters or maybe even more. Getting used to the different motions of the Brigitte Bardot didn’t take too long, thankfully. From sailing using the stars and the elements for the past 2 years, to joining Sea Shepherd has been a real change for me. Using a paddle to steer our way around the north and south pacific to sitting in a wheelhouse is totally different. With those changes it’s also an eye and mind opening experience.

Since we arrived almost 2 weeks ago, we were able to visit a lot of villages and schools and share with them our message of ocean conservation and protection of our marine resource, especially the endangered sharks and the important role they play in our marine ecosystem.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Vanuatu: Beauty and Sadness

By Captain Sid, July 23, 2012

Photo: Simon AgerPhoto: Simon AgerVanuatu is a country that makes me wish I had the secret to make time stop. The smiles, the waves, the warmth and the love of the local people have made this visit one where I will be leaving with more than I can give. The Brigitte Bardot has been here for a week and in this time we have made significant progress. My crew has been working tirelessly to reach out to the local communities, screen films, do presentations, have meetings with the local chiefs and the government officials, and of course, walk the hundreds of locals through who visit through the ship everywhere we berth or anchor.

Vanuatu has been a visual treat as well. Over the past week, I have had a chance to anchor in crystal clear waters, berth at tiny wooden wharves in the middle of marine reserves and navigate the Brigitte Bardot through tricky shallow waters amidst copra plantations and mangroves. I can’t wait to sit back a few months later and go through the photo journal of this voyage.

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