The Global Lead News NOV | DEC 2016 - Page 37

It was a difficult campaign for Sea Shepherd crew who were forced to witness the massive by-catch associated with the legal operations. But even this was a positive development because prior to Sea Shepherd’s involvement there was no documentation of by-catch reported. In one case the crew documented the 119 sharks killed as by-catch in a single haul of tuna from a vessel that reported a total of only 5 sharks killed for the entire voyage. This documentation is critical to future management plans by Gabon.

Sea Shepherd is greatly encouraged by George Mbe Asseko, the Director General of the Gabonese Fisheries and Aquaculture Agency who stated that he is ready to “propose legislation to government to declare a series of marine protected areas covering 23% of Gabon’s EEZ. The date that Sea Shepherd helped to gather during Operation Albacore will be critical to this initiative.

Sea Shepherd has pioneered the partnering between NGO’s and governments. Sea Shepherd first began this idea with the partnership with the Galapagos Park Rangers and the Ecuadorian Federal police to defend the marine reserve of the Galapagos National Park, a project still going strong after 16 years. In addition Sea Shepherd is partnered with the Mexican Navy to patrol the Gulf of California to stop poachers that threaten two species, the Vaquita and the Totoaba with extinction.

Photos by: Alemar Primero

There were over 50 at-sea boardings, 4 major arrests and a powerful deterrent of what were once regular nightly incursions into Gabonese territorial waters from Congolese waters. Sea Shepherd assisted with the training of over 60 Gabonese and Sao Tome Principe technicians and military personnel. In addition there was extensive documentation of by-catch by legal operations, confiscation of dozens of illegal unmarked FAD’s (fish aggregating devices) and the release of several whale sharks, Bryde’s whales and sea-turtles caught in purse-seine nets.