Dead Humpback Calf Found Entangled in Illegal Gillnet
At dusk on Christmas Eve, crew onboard the Sea Shepherd vessel R/VMartin Sheen spotted a dead humpback calf entangled in an illegal gillnet inside the vaquita refuge in the northernmost tip of Mexico's Gulf of California. A two-year ban on the use of gillnets was issued by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto earlier this year in an effort to protect the vaquita, one of the most endangered marine mammals in the world.
After spotting the whale from a distance, the crew upon closer inspection discovered that the calf's right flipper was entangled by the gillnet. The gillnet anchored the whale down to the bottom of the sea. The tail flukes were also injured and entangled with other fishing lines. The crew of the R/V Martin Sheen alerted the government authorities with the whale’s coordinates so they could remove the net and fishing debris from the area before it kills other marine life.
The R/V Martin Sheen’s international crew is currently engaged in Operation Milagro II, working with the Mexican authorities to enforce the two-year moratorium on the use of gillnets and to protect the vaquita's habitat. Vaquita are often accidentally caught in gillnets set to catch the totoaba, another endangered species native only to the northernmost part of the Gulf of California. The totoaba’s swim bladder is smuggled from Mexico and sold on the black market in China where it is used for a soup believed to have medicinal properties. The gillnets used to poach totoaba often trap the vaquita, entangling them and causing them to drown.
"It was a very sad sight to spot this dead humpback calf inside the vaquita's refuge. It proves that there is still totoaba poaching happening. There are less than 97 vaquitas surviving; any one of them could become caught in these deadly gillnets," Bastien Boudoire, first officer onboard the R/V Martin Sheen, said.
Currently, the Sea Shepherd crew is not authorized to remove the gill nets. Sea Shepherd has requested the authority from the Government of Mexico to remove gillnets in order to more effectively assist the Mexican Navy in protecting the vaquita’s habitat.
"We recognize and commend the efforts of the Mexican Navy," Oona Layolle, captain of the R/V Martin Sheen and campaign leader of Operation Milagro II, said. They are doing an outstanding job in the vaquita's refuge—extensively patrolling the area and enforcing the law here. We would like to help even further by being able to remove these nets that are a constant danger to the few surviving vaquitas. Losing even one vaquita at this point is a disaster as this species is on the brink of extinction right before our very own eyes."
By authorizing the Sea Shepherd crew to remove gill nets and other fishing line, Sea Shepherd can more effectively protect the vaquita and all marine wildlife in the Gulf of California. In the next few weeks, the R/V Martin Sheen will be joined by Sea Shepherd’s new fast patrol ship, the M/V Farley Mowat. This former U.S. Coast Guard Cutter will substantially increase Sea Shepherd’s effectiveness in patrolling the vaquita refuge and stopping the illegal use of gillnets.
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theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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