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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Crew Swap on the Uto Ni Yalo Ends Early - but Fijians Stay on Bardot!

Brigitte Bardot crew member, Galen, playing with local children from the Solomon Islands. Photo: Sarah FiskBrigitte Bardot crew member, Galen, playing with local children from the Solomon Islands. Photo: Sarah FiskThe thought of leaving a completely motorized and digitized boat to join a wooden sailboat that looked to the stars for guidance was intimidating. Yet being on deck and sailing out of the sight of the Brigitte Bardot was a comfortable and inspiring experience. It was nice to be in the hands of a crew who has sailed with traditional navigation for two years straight around the Pacific Islands. And even better to be with the Fijian crew who were ecstatic to be on there last leg of the journey returning home.

The catamaran we sailed on was called Uto Ni Yalo, meaning “Heart of the Spirit” in Fijian.  It is a 60-foot boat made primarily from wood with intricate carvings about the deck that they have slowly accumulated over their journeys. The boat has a very simplistic and comfortable feel to it and after even one day I felt welcome enough to roam the deck freely and chat openly with any of the crew members. By the time our journey was cut short because of a few severed toes, I felt that I had become extremely comfortable and close to all 16 people on board.  I also felt I had learned a lot about the South Pacific, its culture and the marine environment – including the threats it faced. By the time I left the Uto I felt as if I was leaving an extended family behind.

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Surprises from the Deep

A Pod of False Killer Whales. Photo: Paul WildmanA Pod of False Killer Whales.
Photo: Paul Wildman
This campaign has been one of constant change. But what I have come to realize is the unexpected can deliver the most amazing and unexpected surprises. Ones that are far more appreciated than those we are planning for. Or, to put it bluntly, stop trying to control and just roll with it, because you’ll never know when the turd starts smelling like roses. But keep the faith, because it usually does.

This morning I woke up to discover not only the satellite on the Bardot was still down – but it was not in range on my boat as well - meaning there was no way for us to communicate. Something critically important on campaign – particularly because we were on split missions.  That the Vaka that held Nick and Galen was in such hectic seas it had to turn around but not before a hatch slammed down on Nick. And that one of our team member’s bee stings was turning into something that looked rather festering and septic.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Imagining Pirates

Photo: Carolina A. CastroPhoto: Carolina A. CastroThe last two weeks of college were a struggle. While my friends at school had internships set up working for banks such as JP Morgan and various start-up companies in the San Francisco Bay area, I was planning to join the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society – a so called “environmental terrorist group.”  I found myself constantly trying to imagine what I would actually be doing this coming summer. I knew it was a shark campaign in the South Pacific but other than that my summer job was just a vague idea I constantly was trying to fathom. During exams week I found myself repeatedly watching Sharkwater and getting myself amped up. It was hard to focus on learning computer programming knowing that in only a few weeks I would be diving alongside a school of reef sharks and working in areas where there fate may be determined by my presence.

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Monday, July 16, 2012

I Love the Light

blog-120716-2-IMG_0392Today I went to church for the first time in years.  I found myself asked by the chief of the village on Makongi to attend their weekly sermon. You see, later that afternoon we were meant to teach the village kids about sharks, so as is custom, they wanted to bring the guests into their Sunday morning festivities.

The room was bursting with excitement for the foreigners – 60 Fijians thrilled to welcome us into their special place. A single-roomed building that serves as the town’s classroom, church and meeting hall with a grass mat on the floor. And as the room filled with the most beautiful hymn, my eyes filled uncontrollably with tears.

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Friend or Foe? Discussions with a Long Liner

blog-120716-1-IN ACTION_068[2]Last night, I ended up across the table from the person whom I thought was my enemy.  After a long day spent at governmental offices getting handed off and shuffled around – all in the innocent hopes of receiving approval to serve as a volunteer teacher to teach Fijian kids about the importance of sharks in their waters – an urgent call came in. “Hurry up and get here. A commercial longlining captain will talk to you.”

Wait a minute… The owner of a tuna longlining boat wants to talk to me? Ok, must be some sort of miscommunication – certainly he doesn’t know what organizations I am with and my stance on tuna long liners and sharks – who have quickly become the target of their catch. In fact 7% of the tuna fishing catch in Fiji is shark – but it makes up 30% of their income/profit. And with up to 50% of sharks caught as “bycatch” by tuna longliners, I certainly have a strong opinion on these ships and their owners. I am still haunted by the memories of the horrifying images of 7,000 sharks landed in a single day in Kessenuma (LINK:  ) by supposed tuna long liners (only a handful of tuna were actually landed that day.)

But what an opportunity. It is so rare to be able to talk candidly with the opposition without of course some sort of cover story and mistruths as to my identity. So I rushed over.

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Misunderstandings in the South Pacific

Photo: Simon AgerPhoto: Simon AgerHow does the saying go about the best of intentions? Today in Fiji it went something like this… The best of intentions lead to huge misunderstandings and massive discouragement all around. And once again, sharks draw the short stick.

A few months ago, the Fijian government shocked us when it came out with an unfounded warning prohibiting Sea Shepherd from its waters.

Sea Shepherd had not sought permission to enter Fijian waters – and we are certain that an unfortunate miscommunication occurred regarding our intent.  We work collaboratively with governments – like we have in the Galapagos. We had full intent of approaching the Prime Minister and Attorney General, once the shark sanctuary decision in Fiji was made, to offer our assistance. We would not enter Fiji to perform illegal activities – we enforce laws and we aim to work collaboratively to protect sharks. Our response was summarized in this interview.

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Turning fear into a passion... for sharks!

By Julie, Campaign leader

Meet Mercy, our newest Shark Angel. He is the youngest crew member of the Pacific Voyagers vaka, the Hine Moana. He grew up terrified of sharks, as most Tongans do. Yet, a moment in Cocos changed his life when he decided to overcome his fear ­ and he realized sharks are not what they seem.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Shepherds, Angels and Voyagers Unite

Julie rides the bow of the Fijian Vaka with the Bardot in the distance on one of our crew swap sails. Photo: CarolinaJulie rides the bow of the Fijian Vaka with the Bardot in the distance on one of our crew swap sails. Photo: CarolinaWe didn’t choose the Solomon Islands as our first stop in the campaign randomly. In fact, it was for a very specific purpose.  We chose it because it was the final destination for the Pacific Voyagers. In the last week The Pacific Voyagers have become our brothers and sisters in a shared mission- to protect our planet by saving our oceans.

The Pacific Voyagers have spent the last two years travelling over 20,000 miles guided by the stars, powered only by the wind and the sun. 120 passionate and absolutely determined individuals from 20 different nations are carrying forward a critical and very personal message to local communities around the Pacific – that the oceans are in trouble – yet through local action and accountability there is hope.  By reconnecting with traditional cultures which have long celebrated and respected the oceans, sharing stories of what they, the Voyagers, have personally witnessed in contagious song and dance, and by illustrating there are no-impact ways to travel the seas, the Pacific Voyagers are compelling voices for the oceans. Voices that are being heard around the world.

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