On Sept. 22, local authorities from the Central African island state of São Tomé and Príncipe boarded the Senegalese-flagged, but Spanish-linked, long-line fishing vessel Vema in a joint operation with Sea Shepherd marine conservationists and Gabonese law enforcement officers called Operation Albacore III.
Although the long-liner was licensed to fish for "tuna and similar species," inspections carried out by São Toméan authorities working on board the Sea Shepherd vessel Bob Barker revealed their fish holds were solely filled with sharks, predominantly blue sharks that are classified as "near-threatened" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Fishing line tracers (or snoods), which are the monofilament segments that support the fishing hooks, were reinforced with steel wire, thereby underlining the suspicion that the targeted species of the Vema was mainly sharks, not tuna. Steel snoods are used to prevent sharks from biting through the fishing line to escape.
Fish on board were also found gutted and processed, which is a violation of São Toméan fisheries regulations when advance approval has not been sought, which the Vema did not obtain.
Approximately two tons of sharks—including shark fins severed from their corresponding torsos—were discovered by inspectors, a fraction of what would have been uncovered had the Vema not recently returned to São Toméan waters from Walvis Bay, Namibia, a port commonly used for offloading shark fins.
Vema fishing for sharksSea Shepherd Global
The arrest of the Vema is the fourth shark-finning bust carried out over the past two years, three of which were the direct result of joint operations between São Tomé and Príncipe and Gabon, with assistance by Sea Shepherd ships and crew.
In August 2016, São Toméan authorities, again operating on board Sea Shepherd's Bob Barker, arrested a Spanish long-line fishing vessel, the Alemar Primero. On board the Alemar Primero were 87 tons of sharks and shark fins. The EU Directorate-General of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG Mare) decided not to pursue charges of violating the European Union Finning Ban, despite complaints lodged by the São Toméan fisheries department.
In October 2017, the São Toméan fisheries department issued a Notice of Violation of Fisheries Rules to another Spanish ship owner, as well as a request to the European Commission to investigate an additional violation of the European Union Finning Ban, this time by a Spanish long-line fishing vessel, the Baz.
On Sept. 12th, 2018, one week prior to the arrival of the Bob Barker in the waters of São Tomé and Príncipe, the Taiwanese-flagged Shang Fu was arrested by São Toméan Coast Guard with assistance from the Portuguese Navy.
Shark species are particularly vulnerable to overfishing because they're slow to grow, late to mature and breed small numbers of offspring.
São Toméan fisheries regulations that prohibit processing of sharks at-sea and the European Union Finning Ban are existing conservation measures that ensure shark bodies are not discarded at sea to make room for the more valuable shark fins, therefore allowing far more sharks to be killed. Sharks are being killed in increasingly large numbers to meet a demand for fins to make shark fin soup.
Sea Shepherd works with authorities in African coastal states in unique joint patrols that allow shark finning operations to be uncovered through critical boardings and inspections at sea.
"Given how sensitive shark species are to overfishing, coupled with the fact that 15 percent of shark species in the Atlantic are now endangered, it is alarming that industrial fishing vessels, many from Europe, continue to massacre sharks under the guise of tuna licenses," said Sea Shepherd director of campaigns Peter Hammarstedt. "These trojan horse fishing licenses deliberately mislead African coastal states as fishing vessels [and] slaughter sharks with reckless abandon. Sea Shepherd applauds the São Toméan authorities for working together with Gabon and Sea Shepherd to bring African marine wildlife poachers to justice."
Sea Shepherd Uncovers Huge Shipments of #Shark Fins https://t.co/I1qKbFaTLG @seashepherd @CaptPaulWatson @acousteau @Greenpeace @Oceana— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1488980429.0
'Unprecedented Rescue Operation': Sea Shepherd Saves 25 Critically Endangered Totoabas at the Height of Spawning Season
At 7:45 p.m. PST Monday, the Sea Shepherd vessel M/V SHARPIE came upon an illegal gillnet within the Vaquita Refuge in the Northern Sea of Cortez, Mexico. The gillnet was entangled in a longline. As the ship's crew began to separate the illegal fishing gear, they noticed live totoaba bass in the net, embarking on an unprecedented rescue operation.
It is the height of totoaba bass spawning season in the Upper Gulf of California, when the endangered fish migrate directly to an area inhabited by the vaquita porpoise. The vaquita is currently the most endangered marine mammal in the world, and continues to be threatened as bycatch in the illegal totoaba trade.
Tensions are rising in the Upper Gulf of California. Poachers have become more aggressive towards Sea Shepherd vessels, using firearms to shoot down drones and incendiary objects to intimidate the crew. Thanks to the addition of armed Enforcement Agents, and an emboldened pact with Mexico's Environment and Fisheries Ministries, Federal Environmental Attorney's Office and Federal Police, security has drastically improved, allowing Sea Shepherd to continue its important work protecting the Vaquita Refuge.
The totoaba bass is highly sought after due to its valuable swim bladder. Much like shark fins or rhino horns, totoaba bladders are sold in Asian markets as medicinal quackery. One totoaba bladder can sell for upwards of $10,000 in Asia.
Although poachers in the Gulf of California see only a fraction of the street price, they do well by local standards, which has consequently pushed the vaquita porpoise to the brink of extinction as a tragic side effect.
All seemed normal the evening of March 25 as the Sea Shepherd M/V Sharpie patrolled the protected vaquita area looking for illegal activity. The ship's captain, Fanch Martin from France, spotted a net by deciphering the ship's sonar data, a new method developed by Sea Shepherd in recent months.
"It was a challenge to maintain the ship's position in the strong current while the crew pulled the net and saved the fish quickly and efficiently, while at the same time keeping the longline tight enough so it would not entangle my propeller," said Captain Fanch, adding, "The coordination of the crew and the authorities on board was intense. Everyone was involved and focused—it was an all hands on deck moment, and the crew did an amazing job, with the extraordinary outcome of saving every single totoaba in that net; this has never happened before."
The M/V Sharpie's bosun, Willie Hatfield, who coordinated the deck activities stated, "This is a quintessential moment for Operation Milagro, saving a whole school of spawning critically endangered totoaba at once means so much." After the two intense hours it took to save all the fish and remove the illegal fishing gear from the Sea of Cortez, he added. "As we were leaving, we saw a skiff coming to retrieve the net.
"Those fish were five minutes away from death and we saved them—it was a miracle."
Sea Shepherd operates two former Island Class U.S. Coast Patrol ships in the area protecting the vaquita as part of Operation Milagro IV, the M/V Sharpie and M/V Farley Mowat. Each ship hosts five enforcement officers from the government of Mexico on board, with the ability to make arrests, prevent poaching in the Refuge and assure the proper disposal of dead totoaba fish. The officers were essential in saving the totoaba, as they tirelessly helped the Sea Shepherd crew, both in keeping the fish alive while being freed from the net, and ensuring the vessel's safety from armed poachers.
To date, Sea Shepherd has removed 596 pieces of illegal fishing gear from the Sea of Cortez since starting its effort to protect the vaquita porpoise in 2015, saving 2661 animals in the process. That accounts for more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) of nets removed, which is the distance from Earth to outer space and the height of nine Everest mountains. Sea Shepherd works with members of its partner network to ensure these illegal nets will be recycled responsibly and never find their way back into the ocean.
Notorious Toothfish Poacher Arrested by Liberian Coast Guard, Assisted by Sea Shepherd https://t.co/4pFoQ8Q1xc… https://t.co/TB4JJUSd7B— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1521652939.0
With a growing market for vegan makeup and cruelty-free cosmetics, more and more beauty brands are ditching animal ingredients and animal testing. While many luxe animal-friendly companies have high prices, there are a number of cruelty-free makeup brands producing affordable personal care products as well.
In this article, we'll recommend 11 essential beauty products that have drugstore price tags and cruelty-free certifications. An easy switch to make in your day-to-day makeup and skincare routine is to invest in cruelty-free cosmetics that work to protect the most vulnerable among us — animals.
Our Picks for Best Cruelty-free Makeup Products
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. Learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn a commission.
- Best Foundation: Milani Conceal + Perfect 2-in-1 Liquid Foundation
- Best Concealer: NYX HD Studio Photogenic Concealer
- Best Pressed Powder: IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Pores Pressed Finishing Powder
- Best Blush: Milani Baked Blush
- Best Highlighter: Pacifica Beauty Ice Baby Hydrating Highlighter
- Best Eyeshadow Palette: e.l.f. Mad for Matte Eyeshadow Palette
- Best Eyeliner: Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eyeliner Pencil
- Best Cruelty-Free Mascara: Essence Cosmetics Lash Princess False Lash Effect Mascara
- Best Vegan Lip Balm: Eco Lips Mongo Kiss
- Best Lipstick: IT Cosmetics Pillow Lips Lipstick
- Best Setting Spray: Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray
What to Know About Cruelty-Free Makeup
While vegan products are great for the environment, they aren't always cruelty-free — nor are cruelty-free products always vegan. "Vegan" means that the product's formula doesn't contain any animal-derived ingredients, while "cruelty-free" means that it was developed without animal testing.
No product we recommend in this article is tested on animals at any point during the production process. They come from ethical, cruelty-free makeup brands, which can be hard to find in the massive beauty industry.
Full Reviews of Our Top Picks
Best Foundation: Milani Conceal + Perfect 2-in-1 Liquid Foundation
The Milani Conceal + Perfect Foundation comes in over 40 shades, so there is a color for just about every complexion. The appeal of this foundation is that it combines a liquid foundation with the power of concealer to create smooth, even, flawless-looking skin in one step. The waterproof foundation has a natural-looking satin matte finish for all-day wear.
Customer Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars with about 15,000 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: Milani Cosmetics is both Leaping Bunny Certified and a PETA Beauty Without Bunnies brand. The company's focus on inclusivity and affordability makes it one of the best cruelty-free makeup brands for any shopper.
Best Concealer: NYX HD Studio Photogenic Concealer
This medium-coverage concealer goes on smoothly to help cover blemishes, skin discoloration and under-eye circles. NYX's concealer wand comes in 23 shades including color-correcting green, yellow and lavender.
Customer Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars with over 30,500 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: NYX Professional Makeup products are certified cruelty-free by PETA. This product is also vegan and doesn't contain any gluten, soy or parabens.
Best Pressed Powder: IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Pores Pressed Finishing Powder
This translucent pressed setting powder is good for any skin tone, and its formula helps to blur the appearance of pores and imperfections. The Bye Bye Pores pressed powder can be useful for touch-ups throughout the day. It can also double as a blotting powder.
Customer Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars with over 2,100 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: This formulation was developed with insights from plastic surgeons and dermatologists and uses an anti-aging mix of peptides, silk, hydrolyzed collagen and antioxidants that may help skin look more youthful. IT Cosmetics is PETA Beauty Without Bunnies certified. This product is also free of parabens and propylene glycol.
Best Blush: Milani Baked Blush
Milani's Baked Blush is available in 16 different shades, adding a pop of color to any complexion. The color range includes rose and peach tones with satin or shimmery finishes. Each high-quality Milani blush is sunbaked on Italian terracotta tiles to ensure it gives your skin a warm glow.
Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 21,500 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: This Milani product is certified cruelty-free by both Leaping Bunny and PETA Beauty Without Bunnies standards. It is vegan and is made without paraben preservatives.
Best Highlighter: Pacifica Beauty Ice Baby Hydrating Highlighter
Made with coconut water and exuding a cool pink tint, Pacifica's Ice Baby Hydrating Highlighter may be a good choice for those looking for a lush, glowy look. The formula creates a velvety powder that's easy to apply to the cheekbones, nose, upper lip or anywhere else you want to shine.
Customer Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars with over 200 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: The formula for this highlighter is 100% vegan and cruelty-free to the standards of PETA's Beauty Without Bunnies program. The formula does not include parabens or phthalates.
Best Eyeshadow Palette: e.l.f. Mad for Matte Eyeshadow Palette
This e.l.f. Cosmetics palette includes 10 matte shadows that are great for shading, highlighting and defining the eyes. The palette's diversity allows you to mix and match colors to achieve both natural and more bold looks.
Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with over 350 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: All e.l.f. Cosmetics products are vegan and endorsed by PETA's Beauty Without Bunnies program. This eyeshadow palette is also paraben-free and doesn't use phthalates, nonylphenol, ethoxylates, triclosan, triclocarban or hydroquinone.
Best Eyeliner: Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eyeliner Pencil
Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eyeliner Pencil is designed to make application a breeze. It has a long-lasting, creamy formula that makes drawing beautiful, precise lines simple and smooth. Or, it can be smudged out for a smokey-eye look.
Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 3,500 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: Urban Decay's 24/7 eyeliner pencil utilizes moisturizing and hydrating ingredients such as vitamin E, jojoba oil and cottonseed oil. Like all of Urban Decay's products, this eyeliner is certified cruelty-free by PETA. It also doesn't contain any fragrances, parabens, gluten or soy.
Best Cruelty-Free Mascara: Essence Cosmetics Lash Princess False Lash Effect Mascara
This mascara utilizes a cone-shaped fiber brush that helps to separate and coat each lash, creating a voluminous look without clumping. Essence's Lash Princess mascara formula helps to prevent flaking and fading, so it's good for all-day wear.
Customer Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars with over 202,000 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: Essence is a PETA Beauty Without Bunnies cruelty-free makeup brand, so you can be sure it never tests on animals. The formula doesn't include gluten, parabens, soy, propylene glycol or other harsh irritants.
Best Vegan Lip Balm: Eco Lips Mongo Kiss Lip Balm
This USDA certified organic product uses ingredients like mongongo oil and cocoa butter that help soothe and moisturize dry, cracked and chapped lips. It can be used as a base for lipstick or lip liner.
Customer Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars with over 3,500 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: Eco Lips vegan beauty products are earth-friendly and cruelty-free. The lip balm container is made from over 40% post-consumer recycled material. The formula doesn't include any parabens, lanolin, gluten, soy, propylene glycol, corn, chemicals, petroleum, dyes or irritants. It is certified non-GMO, Fair Trade, Leaping Bunny and PETA Beauty Without Bunnies.
Best Lipstick: IT Cosmetics Pillow Lips Lipstick
This IT Cosmetics lipstick comes in a variety of shades with both cream and matte finishes, so there is something for everyone. The lipstick includes collagen to help create a plumping effect, making lips look fuller. Its high-impact color and pigment can be applied in a single swipe.
Customer Rating: 4 out of 5 stars with about 150 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: Along with collagen, this lipstick's PETA-certified cruelty-free formula includes hyaluronic filling spheres, shea butter and beeswax. The ingredients are helpful in minimizing the look of lip wrinkles.
Best Setting Spray: Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray
Urban Decay's award-winning setting spray uses temperature control technology to help makeup stay on for up to 16 hours. It is oil-free and suitable for all skin types, including oily, normal and dry skin.
Customer Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars with over 5,000 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: The All Nighter Setting Spray is one of Urban Decay's vegan beauty products. It's also certified cruelty-free to PETA Beauty Without Bunnies standards. The formula includes no parabens gluten, dye, soy or oil.
FAQ: Cruelty-Free Makeup Brands
Is L'Oréal cruelty-free?
L'Oréal is not cruelty-free. Its products are sold in China, where the government requires animal testing for foreign cosmetics.
Is Maybelline cruelty-free?
Like its parent company L'Oréal, Maybelline is not cruelty-free. Its products are sold in China, where the government requires animal testing for foreign cosmetics.
Is Kylie Cosmetics cruelty-free?
Kylie Cosmetics products are not tested on animals, but the brand's parent company,Coty, Inc, is not cruelty-free.
What makeup doesn't test on animals?
There are plenty of makeup brands that don't test on animals. When looking for products, keep an eye out for cruelty-free signals such as Leaping Bunny Certified or PETA Beauty Without Bunnies logos.
Is "cruelty-free" makeup really cruelty-free?
The term "cruelty-free" is currently not regulated by the U.S. government, so you can't trust every product or company that advertises this. Some brands contract other companies to do their animal testing but claim to "not test on animals" because they are not doing the testing themselves. The best way to be certain a company or product is actually cruelty-free is to look for certifications such as Leaping Bunny or PETA Beauty Without Bunnies.
A notorious Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish poaching vessel, famous for plundering the Antarctic, was arrested on March 13 in waters belonging to the West African state of Liberia by the Liberian Coast Guard, with assistance from the marine conservation group Sea Shepherd.
The F/V Hai Lung, known to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) by its previous name "Kily," was transiting through Liberian waters when it was boarded and inspected by a Liberian Coast Guard team working alongside Sea Shepherd crew on board Sea Shepherd's patrol vessel M/Y Sam Simon.
Operating under a long list of different names, including "Yele," "Ray," "Kily," "Constant," "Tropic" and "Isla Graciosa," the F/V Hai Lung is an infamous fishing vessel that has been blacklisted by several regional fisheries management organizations including CCAMLR, SEAFO and NEAFC.
As a result, the vessel has been denied port access in Togo and Angola, and unofficial sources state that it was detained in Nigeria for entering Nigerian waters without authorization last year.
Once on board the F/V Hai Lung, the Liberian Coast Guard boarding officer was presented with forged documentation alleging that the F/V Hai Lung was flagged to the Republic of Indonesia as a fishing vessel.
The Certificate of Nationality was allegedly issued on Aug. 8, 2017 in Jakarta, Indonesia by a senior Ministry of Transportation official who had long since been transferred to another government position. The Indonesian Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries has no record of the vessel in their databases.
The forged Certificate of Nationality makes the F/V Hai Lung a vessel "without nationality," subject to seizure anywhere, including on the High Seas.
"On those grounds, including a long list of other violations, not least of all suspected absconsion from justice in Nigeria through bribing Maritime Security Police, the Liberian Coast Guard has decided to arrest the F/V Hai Lung, detaining it at the Liberian Coast Guard Base in the Port of Monrovia pending further investigation," said Daniel Ziankahn, Liberian minister of national defense.
The owner of the F/V Hai Lung is believed to be Argibay Perez of Spain, a notorious toothfish poacher belonging to the "Galician Mafia" who has been convicted of crimes in both La Réunion (France) and Australia. In 1999, the Supreme Court of Western Australia, on fining Mr. Perez, concluded that "the applicant committed six offences that are of a serious nature and where the level of criminality was high."
Perez is also linked to the F/V Viking, a vessel that was issued an Interpol Purple Notice in 2013 before being arrested and sunk by the Indonesian Navy in 2016.
"On board the F/V Hai Lung, the Liberian Coast Guard team uncovered a contact registry that included over a dozen infamous toothfish poachers including two of the rouge toothfish poachers known as "the Bandit Six": F/V Viking and the F/V Thunder, both subjects of Interpol Purple Notices before they were destroyed. The latter was a vessel that my crew and I chased for 110 days before it sank in the Gulf of Guinea in April of 2015. Since Indonesia has been a world leader in cracking down on illegal fishing, it is equal parts audacious and insulting, that the F/V Hai Lung attempted to forge Indonesian documents," said Sea Shepherd global director of campaigns Peter Hammarstedt.
About Operation Sola Stella
Since February 2017, under the name Operation Sola Stella, Sea Shepherd has been assisting the Government of Liberia to tackle IUU fishing by providing the use of a civilian offshore patrol vessel and crew operating in Liberian waters, under the direction of the Liberian Ministry of National Defense. Operation Sola Stella has resulted in the arrest of eleven vessels for illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Developing countries are particularly vulnerable to IUU fishing, which accounts for up to 40 percent of the fish caught in West African waters.
In 2016 Sea Shepherd partnered with the government of Gabon for Operation Albacore, resulting in more than 80 fishing vessel inspections at sea and the subsequent arrest of five IUU Congolese fishing trawlers and one Spanish longliner.
In 2018, Sea Shepherd began Operation Jodari with patrols against IUU fishing in the waters of Tanzania in partnership with the Tanzanian Deep Sea Fishing Authority, Tanzanian Navy, Tanzanian Drug Enforcement Agency, the Multi-Agency Task Team (MATT) and Fish-i Africa.
Operation Sola Stella is a continuation of Sea Shepherd Global's commitment to work actively with national governments and their law enforcement agencies in the fight against IUU fishing. Read more about the campaign here: https://www.seashepherdglobal.org/our-campaigns/operation-sola-stella/
Only 30 Left in the Wild: Saving the Nearly Extinct Vaquita https://t.co/juHLPGXtiR @seashepherd @LeoDiCaprio @CoveGuardians @seashepherd_uk— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1498575723.0
From January through March, an average of 6,000 dolphins are killed each year on France's west coast by large industrial trawlers and vessels fishing in pairs (nets dragged between two trawlers). That number could be as high as 10,000, according to the Pélagis Observatory, based in La Rochelle. That's more than the number of dolphins killed each year in the Danish Faroe Islands and The Cove in Taiji, Japan, combined.
These vessels fish mainly for sea bass, targeting spawning grounds during the breeding season. This practice not only threatens sea bass populations, but is also deadly to dolphins trapped and drowned in the nets as by-catch. While on patrol in the Rochebonne plateau this weekend, Sea Shepherd's vessel the Bob Barker filmed the trawlers Jeremi Simon and Promethée pulling up their nets with two dolphins trapped inside.
One of the dolphins seemed already drowned, but the other, still alive, emitted whistles of distress that can be heard on the video. Instead of discarding the dolphins back into the water in front of the Sea Shepherd crew, the two dolphins were brought aboard one of the two vessels. This macabre scene is repeated every night, all year round along the French coast, peaking between January and March.
Will Dolphins Soon Disappear Completely From the French Coastal Waters?
The Pélagis Observatory has been publishing alarming reports about the declining dolphin populations for several years, without being heard. In a 2016 report signed by the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), Pélagis and the University of La Rochelle, it is clearly stated that the mortality inflicted on dolphins by fishing vessels jeopardizes the survival of the population in the medium term.
Marine mammals are particularly vulnerable. With low fertility rates and a high sensitivity to chemical and plastic pollution, they also face food scarcity due to overfishing. It is therefore urgent to take immediate measures to protect them. However, the French State has not yet responded to all the scientists' warnings on the subject, and the fishermen involved are taking advantage of the general public's ignorance.
The Hellish Journey of Captured Dolphins
Dolphins that typically live alongside sea bass are caught in fishing nets that capture everything in their path indiscriminately. From there follows an agonizing death as the trapped dolphins are drowned in the net. Any dolphins that are pulled up alive usually die from wounds inflicted by fishermen onboard the vessels. The corpses regularly washing up on French beaches show fractures, broken tails and flippers, and deep incisions cut into their skin by the nets.
Intentionally Opaque Reporting of By-Catch Numbers That Are Hardly 'Incidental'
"By-catch" is the nondescript term used to describe the hecatomb of dolphins taking place each year along French coasts, a slaughter that takes place in total and tightly-guarded opacity.
In fact, although the law requires fishermen to declare their dolphin catches, in practice the State has not designated any regulatory body to receive this data. This vacuum prevents any monitoring of the mortality inflicted on marine mammals by trawlers. The Pélagis Observatory is qualified and capable of receiving this data but has not obtained the authorization to do so.
Furthermore, no funds have been allocated to the implementation of more selective fishing techniques, even though these funds exist. Industrial fishing is heavily subsidized in France, but reducing dolphin mortality is not one of the priorities of the State's fisheries policy.
How Can the Dolphins Be Saved?
Sea Shepherd France President Lamya Essemlali has called on the French State to:
1. Prohibit trawling vessels from fishing in sea bass spawning grounds. France gives authorizations for particularly destructive fishing in sensitive areas, but does not apply adequate surveillance measures in parallel.
2. Establish better monitoring of fisheries and effectively prevent the sale of juvenile fish. France has already been fined several million euros for its tolerance to the sale of undersized fish, banned by the European Union, with the obvious aim of preserving populations.
3. Finally, designate an organization (like Pélagis) to receive data related to dolphin by-catch in fishing gear.
What the General Public Can Do
1. Eat less fish.
2. Avoid undersized fish completely.
3. Boycott fish from trawling vessels, sticking exclusively to line-caught fish.
On the night of Aug. 3 two ships collided south of Hong Kong in the approach waters to the Pearl River Delta. According to information obtained from the Tradewinds News, the Japanese GMS chemical tanker Global Apollon and the Pacific International Lines containership Kota Ganteng had a collision but details remain very slim. Details of the damage is also unknown however the Kota Ganteng containership has since sailed onwards to Singapore. The Global Apollon remains at anchor in the waters near the Chinese Guishan Islands just to the South West of Hong Kong's Soko Islands.
The Global Apollon was carrying 9,000 tons of raw palm oil and a substantial (unknown) amount of this was spilt into the surrounding waters. The Guangzhou authorities dispatched nine vessels to assist and contain from reports we have seen, yet the Hong Kong government claim that they were not told of the spill until Aug. 5. By the time the Hong Kong government found out, large amounts of this palm oil began washing up on Hong Kong's southern beaches.
Sea Shepherd became aware of the spill on Sunday after concerned citizens started asking what the white goo was and was it hazardous. The Hong Kong government had posted some very small (A4) printed notices at the Gazetted beaches but to this date has not issued any stronger public warnings. In fact the new Under-Secretary for the Environment, Tse Chin-wan has claimed that everything is under control and the spill poses no concern to public health.
11 Beaches Closed in Hong Kong After 9,000-Ton #PalmOil Spill https://t.co/tj8OkCeu4s @RnfrstAlliance @Waterkeeper @seashepherd @RAN— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1502117612.0
Concerned members of the public disagree with this statement after witnessing first hand on their beaches, so they have mobilized to clean what the government should be cleaning. In 2012 there was a huge spill of plastic pellets that covered the beaches of Hong Kong after a ship lost six containers in a typhoon. The Hong Kong public are very much aware of the limitations any government has when faced with an accident of such a scale, and are keen to volunteer their help.
On Aug. 8, Sea Shepherd Global's Asia Director Gary Stokes wrote an open letter to the director of the Marine Department and other government departments to offer assistance similar to what was offered in 2012. So far Sea Shepherd has only received a "thank you, we'll get back to you" reply.
During one of the patrols on the Amberjack vessel, Sea Shepherd documented fish feeding on the palm oil, almost in a "state of frenzy." It is still unclear as to how the palm oil will affect fish, however there have been an increased amount of dead fish washing up on the beaches.
While the palm oil itself is not hazardous to humans, the issue is the bacteria it collects that grows on it. The palm oil has a melting point of 35˚C so in the water remains in a solid form. When it hits the beaches or rocky coastlines it melts. We have found it seeping 4 inches into the sand where it then cools and regains a solid form. This does not bode well at all as it will then take 30 days or so to break down. Much is washed back out to sea, creating an oil slick that reduces oxygen levels in the water in much the same was as "red tide" events.
Similar spills in the UK resulted in the UK Government issuing a public warning to all small children and dogs to avoid the beaches. "In Hong Kong we have witnessed kids playing in amongst the palm oil. Parents said that they have heard it's 'perfectly safe' from the government," said Gary Stokes. "The sad reality is our addiction to palm oil that is wiping out rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia to supply our addiction to processed snack foods. As a double environmental hit, this palm oil likely cost rainforest species their habitat and now pollutes the marine habitat, threatening the ocean life of Hong Kong."
Families on the beaches in Hong Kong despite the lumps of palm oil everywhere. Andy Stokes / Sea Shepherd
Clean up operations continue with volunteers from all over Hong Kong hitting the beaches of Lamma Island where the effects were worst felt. "At times like this everyday heroes appear from the midst and step up when needed and a special acknowledgement must go out to Robert Lockyer, Keilem Ng and Julia Leung amongst many who have been working every day on the beaches coordinating volunteers," said Stokes.
Dr. Alexandra Morton
The wild and remote coast of British Columbia Canada is the perfect habitat for making wild salmon. Rain-soaked watersheds, clean gravel for spawning, 1,000s of km of kelp forested nursery areas in food-rich green coastal waters. Sea birds, seals and whales follow the massive silvery schools preying on the weaker fish keeping the runs strong and healthy and the whole coasts from indigenous cultures to bears and eagles set their clocks to the return of the salmon in the fall—an abundance of food that nourishes everyone through the lean winter months. Salmon feed the trees that make the oxygen we breathe, they are one of the power lines that fuel our world.
In the 1970s, Norsk Hydro in Norway began farming salmon in pens in the ocean and today a farmed salmon is worth more to Norwegians than a barrel of oil. The industry has become as rapacious as the oil industry. With more than 900 farms dotting their coast, they have now spread across temperate coastlines worldwide and unfortunately they took their prize livestock with them, the Atlantic salmon.
Biologists, fishermen, indigenous leaders and senior Fisheries and Oceans Canada bureaucrats warned that allowing Atlantic salmon into BC was a dangerous game of "Russian Roulette." Every farm fish carried the potential for a disease that could spread among Pacific salmon. Importing exotic species is one of the greatest causes of the global loss of biodiversity. A member of the Norwegian Parliament, Jon Lilletun, warned the Canadian Senate:
However, caution was tossed aside and three Norwegian companies now use the coast of BC to farm millions of Atlantic salmon, with most of the attending environmental damages attributed to the industry at home sea lice, disease, drugs, pollution. As a biologist studying whales as the industry moved in, I have witnessed the crushing impact of this industry first hand; unprecedented toxic algae blooms, the whales were displaced by high-amplitude "seal scarers," escaped Atlantics in Pacific rivers, sea lice eating the majority of wild salmon to the point of death and today I am tracking salmon farm viruses plaguing the industry worldwide. The industry had become the dominant "user group" of the BC coast. There was no touching them. The Norwegian scientists I turned to for help suggested I look the other way, they said the industry and the Canadian government would make life difficult for me.
I have now published more than 20 scientific papers on the impact of salmon farms; but like all the papers on the impact of salmon farms, they have been ignored. It's like climate change science or the tobacco industry.
The year that salmon farms were placed on the Fraser sockeye salmon migration route, the largest salmon run in the world, the decline began. Mysteriously millions died in the river just before spawning. When a Canadian government scientist pinpointed a virus flourishing in the farms (salmon leukemia virus), she was muzzled and prohibited from attending meetings on the collapse of the Fraser sockeye salmon. Last year was the lowest return ever recorded, while Alaska, which prohibits salmon farms continues to have enormous returns.
Recent scientific paper reports orcas in BC are starving, increasingly unable to carry their young full term and threatened to extinction because Fraser River salmon have declined so precipitously. Despite this, the Canadian government has not reported any further on the virus thought to be killing Fraser River salmon.
The lab I work with was stripped of its North American reference lab status when he detected the notorious farm salmon virus ISAV in the samples I sent to him for testing. Infectious salmon anemia a member of the influenza family, is internationally reportable which means it can impact trade as countries close their borders to protect their fish. In 2016, we published on the presence of this virus in BC in a leading virology journal and yet Canada continues to ignore the evidence and so the farmed salmon market remains unperturbed.
I am currently being sued by the largest salmon farming corporation in the world, based in Norway, for touching a farm with a teaspoon to collect a bird dropping for testing.
This spring, 17 years after I discovered sea lice from Atlantic salmon farms are eating wild salmon to death, the epidemic continues. The number of young salmon heading to sea in my research area is so low I have to wonder did I see them off into extinction?
However, there are other runs of wild BC salmon that might still be saved and the good news is that a very simple action by the public could make all the difference for the 100 species that wild salmon feed along the eastern Pacific Ocean. Don't buy farmed salmon. How can you tell if it is farmed? Farmed salmon has bright white stripes of fat due to its docile captive life.
The orange coloring is selected by the grower and added to the feed.
In 2016, Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd sent me a ship and crew (see video below) and together we pulled away the curtain of secrecy this industry cloaks itself in. This led to the first images of wild fish trapped in the pens where they were attacked by the farm fish, diseased farm salmon and the large schools of herring behaving like trained dogs hurrying to the farm nets every time the feeders went on.
Alexandra Morton is an independent biologist who has worked to protect wild salmon from farms for 31 years.
Less than two weeks after publishing the graphic images of poached sea turtles on the French island of Mayotte, Sea Shepherd's conservation team interrupted another slaughter on the night of July 7, and this time—as captured on video footage shown above—it turned violent.
When the volunteers arrived at the beach known as Moya 1, one of the most popular tourist beaches on the Petit Terre island, they spotted a 4x4 vehicle, its lights switched off as it waited to pick up poached turtle meat. The guards, who should have been there to protect the turtles who come to lay their eggs, were nowhere to be seen.
Down on the beach, the volunteers found two turtles ripped open with their eggs scattered in the sand. There was no sign of the guards who were supposedly there to patrol the beaches, so Sea Shepherd alerted the local gendarmes. The poachers, who had run to hide on a hill overlooking the beach, began throwing large rocks at the volunteers and police from above, barely missing their heads. No one was hurt, however the poachers also set the Sea Shepherd volunteers' car on fire.
Despite the intervention of three police officers, who helped seize some of the turtle meat which was left behind by the fleeing poachers, no arrests could be made because the security on the beach that night was grossly insufficient compared to the scale of the threat.
"France seems to remain blind and deaf concerning the social and ecological crisis which is raging in Mayotte," said Lamya Essemlali, president of Sea Shepherd France. "France is letting its overseas department perish, a place which is home to one of the world's largest lagoons, rich in local biodiversity. The only law which seems to prevail on this island is the law of the jungle. This condition has caused social and environmental chaos which is hard to imagine in continental France. Once a true paradise, Mayotte has now become hell on earth."
Sea Shepherd launched Operation Nyamba at the request of the locals who don't want to see their island perish from indifference, and now work hand-in-hand with them to fight the poaching with direct action.
"Even though the circumstances on the ground turned out to be worse and more dramatic than we expected, the situation has only reinforced our determination," Essemlali said. "We will not give up on Mayotte. If we have often stated we would give our lives to protect whales, we are equally ready to do the same for turtles."
In one of the longest campaigns in Sea Shepherd's history, Operation Milagro III concluded its six-month operation in Mexico's Gulf of California to protect the near-extinct vaquita porpoise and the endangered totoaba bass.
Two Sea Shepherd vessels, the M/V Farley Mowat, along with the M/Y Sam Simon, spent the last six months patrolling the vaquita refuge in the upper gulf, retrieving illegal gillnets that trap and kill the vaquita and totoaba, along with other marine wildlife. Together, the two ships removed 233 illegal fishing gear including 189 totoaba nets, 27 shrimp and corvina nets and 17 long lines.
In February, scientists announced that only about 30 vaquita remained left in their habitat. This is half the amount that was previously recorded in 2015, making the vaquita the most endangered marine mammal in the world.
Sadly, during Operation Milagro III, Sea Shepherd discovered five dead vaquita. Their deaths are attributed to being caught in gillnets set up by poachers to trap the totoaba bass, whose swim bladder is prized for unsubstantiated medicinal properties in China and Hong Kong, where it sells for tens of thousands of dollars. Once vaquita become entangled in these gill nets, they are unable to reach the surface of the water to breathe, causing them to drown.
But the nets do not discriminate. During the campaign, the crew removed 1,195 dead animals—among them sharks, dolphins, whales, turtles and sea lions—and released 795 live ones. Watch this video detailing facts and figures.
Removing Illegal Gillnets
Throughout the campaign, Sea Shepherd used radar and drones to nab poachers in the act, contacting authorities who could then make arrests. The ships also gathered information on the location of the nets to retrieve them from the sea. The nets are subsequently destroyed, separated and then handed over to NGO Parley for the Oceans for recycling.
"If we had not been there, if we were unable to have removed those nets, the vaquita would now be extinct," said Milagro Campaign leader, Captain Oona Layolle. "Milagro means miracle and we intend to do all we can to perform this miracle because there is nothing more noble, more satisfying, and more important than to save a species from extinction."
Meanwhile, the Farley Mowat continued its presence through June, and will keep working in collaboration with local fishermen, the Mexican government, and marine scientists to retrieve all ghost nets from past fishing seasons. It is now headed to San Diego, California where it where it will offer free ship tours to the public from July 1 - July 4.
About Operation Milagro
Sea Shepherd's inaugural Operation Milagro brought much-needed attention to the plight of the vaquita, spawning groundbreaking efforts to protect this imperiled species. On April 18, 2015, Sea Shepherd crew members documented the first recorded sighting of a vaquita since 2013, shattering claims by some locals that the species is already extinct. The resulting video made national headlines in Mexico, prompting the government to reach out to Sea Shepherd.
The following month, a partnership between Sea Shepherd and the Mexican government was announced and since then, the two sides have worked together to protect the vaquita. Sea Shepherd's dedication to save this porpoise has garnered international attention and its work has been documented on 60 Minutes, CNN, Al Jazeera, The National Geographic Channel, Animal Planet, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, San Diego Union Tribune, NPR and more.
So far, Sea Shepherd's efforts clearing the bottom of the ocean of ghost nets has been effective in removing another 160 nets since October 2016, preventing them from actively killing marine life.
After Sea Shepherd's third consecutive year in the Gulf of California, the total number of illegal nets retrieved over the three campaigns is 452.
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society partnered with a group of Hollywood industry heavyweights and a middle school from the Los Angeles Unified School District on a student filmmaking contest.
The winner's film was released as Sea Shepherd's official PSA this morning for World Oceans Day.
Last December, the 7th and 8th grade Cinematic Arts Academy students at Millikan Middle School in Sherman Oaks, California, were challenged to create a short film about what World Oceans Day means to them.
"I have always maintained that the camera is our greatest weapon," said Sea Shepherd founder and CEO Captain Paul Watson. "These young filmmakers demonstrate the power of filmmaking and its ability to affect change. Carson's stunning visuals were beyond impressive and showed us how urgent it is to take a stand for our Oceans. Runner up Herschey's direct-to-camera message gave a personal viewpoint that hit right in the heart. Congratulations to both the first and second place winners."
Due to the close race, contest judge Karen Baker Landers of Hollywood post-production facility Formosa Group extended her part of the prize package to both filmmakers: having the two student short films sound remixed by Jared Marshak under Baker Landers' supervision on Formosa Group's stages in Hollywood prior to Sea Shepherd releasing the films.
"I'm absolutely blown away by how articulate both kids are as filmmakers," said Landers.
First place winner Strassman's prizes also include spending the day on the set of a commercial or music video produced by Supply & Demand Integrated. The bi-coastal company is behind music videos for such artists as Taylor Swift as well as commercials and promotions for brands like Tesla, Nike and Coca-Cola among others.
"These are two amazing shorts and hard to believe they were made by a 13 and 14-year-old; both films are passionate and moving," said Diane Weyermann, who, as an executive, has overseen the release of such Participant documentaries as the Oscar winning Citizenfour and An Inconvenient Truth.
"Watching Carson and Hershey's films was a great pleasure," added twice Oscar nominated editor Joe Walker, who is currently editing Sony's upcoming Blade Runner 2049. "Two film-makers responding to the issue with dynamically different styles but equally endearing personalities. I'm so encouraged that the environment has two great advocates in the making and that they used film so thoughtfully as their means of communication."
Strassman had this to say after finding out his film was chosen as the winning film and Sea Shepherd's official PSA: "I am really excited about winning this competition because it gives my film the opportunity to be seen and inspire people to help save the Ocean."
The judges for the contest included: Double Oscar winning sound editor Karen Baker Landers (Skyfall, The Bourne Ultimatum), Academy Award winning documentary filmmaker Louie Psihoyos (The Cove), twice Oscar nominated editor Joe Walker (Twelve Years A Slave, Arrival), Participant Pictures executive vice president of documentary films Diane Weyermann, Sea Shepherd founder and CEO Captain Paul Watson, documentary filmmakers and producers Gabriela Cowperthwaite (Blackfish), Kief Davidson (The Ivory Game), Kip Andersen (Cowspiracy), Ross McCall (The Grind of the Faroe Islands), Lesley Chilcott (An Inconvenient Truth) and Sea Shepherd youth ambassador and actor, Zach Callison.
Sea Shepherd's research vessel the R/V Martin Sheen returned to Mexico's Guadalupe Island to continue its study of Cuvier's beaked whales, capturing never before seen drone footage of these rare and elusive cetaceans.
During the two-week expedition, Mexican lead-scientist Gustavo Cardenas and American collaborator Jenny Trickey, deployed various acoustic devices to compare their effectiveness. The scientists will return and leave these devices for a longer period of time.
The acoustic instruments record the whales' echolocation clicks, helping scientists estimate the distribution and abundance of Cuvier's at the Island. Some of these instruments are also the same ones used by Cardenas in the northern Gulf of California to estimate the population trends of the near-extinct vaquita porpoise.
Guadalupe Island is a Mexican reserve famous for its large congregations of great white sharks between the months of August and December. However, according to Cardenas, "what most people don't know is that in addition to large numbers of sharks we can also find the rarely seen Cuvier's beaked whales here."
Cuvier's beaked whales are considered the most extreme mammal divers in the world, with the ability to dive down to almost 10,000 feet or 3000 meters—roughly the length of eight Empire State Building. They can stay under water for up to two hours and only need a few minutes of surface oxygen before going back down.
"Their exceptional diving ability makes them hard to study, in comparison to most whales which surface every 20 minutes or so," added Trickey.
On May 20, the R/V Martin Sheen captain and drone pilot Fanch Martin recorded the first ever seen drone images of a Cuvier's beaked whale.
"I have been recording many cetaceans for our 2017 research projects in Mexico," said Captain Martin. "We recorded migrating blue whales and many fin whales in the Gulf of California, but these beaked whales were a lot more difficult to capture. Because they take a very long time after each dive to surface, and only stay up for a few minutes, I had the drone ready at all times. It was launched as soon as a whale was sighted."
It took a few attempts, but Captain Martin was able to capture a mother and calf, and later, three more individuals of this species. The scientists on board the Sheen were thrilled with the achievement, "The drone footage gives you a new view into these animals' lives so we can see things we didn't know before, like how they are turning their heads a lot and looking at each other," said marine conservation scientist Dr. Barbara Taylor.
Potential Whale Breeding Ground
This expedition marks Sea Shepherd's return to Guadalupe Island with scientists. The sailing boat was there last year with a group lead by Cardenas, including Trickey of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. During the October 2016 expedition they reported the highest sighting rates of Cuvier's beaked whales ever recorded.
"I have studied Cuvier's in many places but this is the highest density of Cuvier's I have ever seen," commented expert in cetacean abundance and estimation, Dr. Jay Barlow, who assisted with the trials of the acoustic devices.
Sightings of a mother and her calf also show scientists that Guadalupe could be a breeding ground for these whales. The discovery of such a large number of Cuvier's beaked whales around the island both last October and now in May suggests to scientists that this could be a resident population, an idea that is supported by several matches in the photo identification catalog of the species for this island.
"This is the first effort to research Cuvier's in Guadalupe Island during the month of May," said Cardenas. "We had 24 sightings on this trip along with 2 pairs of mothers with very young calves, one of them born since we photographed the mother last October. The expedition has been a success. We were able to record individuals with our acoustic devices and the next step is to come back and leave them in the water for longer periods. We are excited about the possibilities of what there is still to discover."
Thanks to a swift response by the Mexican government, a potentially dangerous confrontation by hostile fisherman towards Sea Shepherd was averted on March 30.
A temporary restraining order issued against the fisherman on March 28 by the Attorney General's office was ratified by a judge on April 5.
Protesting fishermen, led by one of San Felipe's fishing cooperative leaders, held a demonstration on March 26 where they threatened to burn Sea Shepherd ships if they were still in the Gulf by, March 30 at 14:00 hours.
Sea Shepherd is currently in the Gulf, also known as the Sea of Cortez, for Operation Milagro III to protect the near extinct vaquita porpoise and the endangered totoaba bass. The campaign is in partnership with the government of Mexico.
At the demonstration, the fisherman and their leader took a small local fishing boat, known as a "panga," painted Sea Shepherd's name on it and burned it in the streets of San Felipe. The act served as a warning that they would do the same with the anti-poaching organization's ships, the M/Y Sam Simon and M/V Farley Mowat, if they did not exit Mexican waters. The demonstration ended with the leader promising to attack the Sea Shepherd crew with 200 pangas on March 30.
When that date arrived, Mexican Navy vessels acted as escorts for the Sam Simon and the Farley Mowat in case a clash occurred. Meanwhile, on shore police screened fishing boats before allowing them to launch in to the sea.
However, no more than 60 pangas managed to assemble in the harbor and none set sail towards Sea Shepherd. No one was hurt on either side and no property damage occurred.
Restraining Orders Placed on Fishermen
On April 5, a Mexican judge ratified a restraining order to the fisherman and their group leader, forbidding them to speak, threaten and harass campaign leader and Sam Simon Captain Oona Layolle and the Sea Shepherd crew aboard the Sam Simon and the Farley Mowat. The fisherman have been ordered not come near the ships and land base.
"Sea Shepherd very much appreciated the effective measures taken by the Mexican government to quell what was potentially a very explosive and violent situation," said Captain Paul Watson.
Illegal poachers who set the banned gillnets that trap the vaquita, totoaba and other marine animals—are angry that Sea Shepherd is working with their government to remove these nets and remove the animals caught in them, be they dead or alive. The totoaba bladders fetch $20,000 a kilo in China, a price that has attracted individuals tied to organized crime and drug smuggling to the trade.
This illegal fishing has caused the vaquita numbers to dwindle down to less than 30, leaving the world's tiniest porpoise on the brink of extinction. In March, Sea Shepherd found several dead vaquita floating in the Gulf.
The poachers' animosity toward Sea Shepherd is further intensified because the conservation society uses drones to locate the illegal fisherman and the promptly notifies the Mexican authorities of their coordinates, which has led to arrests.
"Sea Shepherd is not in the area to oppose legal fishing activities," said Captain Layolle. "Sea Shepherd's actions are focused on illegal fishing and the only fishermen who have any reason to be angry with the Sea Shepherd ships are those whose illegal activities are being disrupted and shut down by Sea Shepherd crews."
A Sea Shepherd team flew over the Gulf of St. Lawrence last week documenting an ecological disaster that very few people want to talk about—especially those in the Canadian government.
It has been 40 years to the month that French actress Brigitte Bardot first went to the ice floes in Canada to focus attention on the slaughter of baby seals at the behest of Sea Shepherd founder, Captain Paul Watson.
This year, actress Michelle Rodriguez—best known for her role as Letty Ortiz in the blockbuster franchise The Fast and the Furious—joined the all-woman survey team known as Operation Ice Watch. The group was led by Sea Shepherd Toronto coordinator Brigitte Breau and also included Yana Watson, the wife of Sea Shepherd leader Captain Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd advisory board member Clementine Pallanca and Canadian animal rights lawyer Camille Labchuk of Animal Justice.
The group was accompanied by a three-person documentary crew: French photojournalist Bernard Sidler, Australian videographer Jasmine Lord and Toronto-based Czech photographer Marketa Schusterova.
Since Captain Watson first founded Sea Shepherd 40 years ago in 1977, much has changed in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Not all whitecoat seals are clubbed to death on the ice (shotguns are also permitted now), the kill quota is almost twice what it was then. Since 2011, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans has been allowing the slaughter of 400,000 seals they define as "adult" although many are no more than six weeks old.
Canadian seal products are banned in Europe and in the U.S. Regardless of the quota that has allowed sealers to kill 2.4 million seals over the last six years, only around 350,000 have actually been slaughtered in total because of a scarcity of markets.
However, there is one very significant change that the world needs to know.
Where is the Ice?
Harp seals cannot give birth to pups unless there is ice for them to be born upon. The team of Operation Ice Watch had trouble finding any substantial ice during its investigation.
Earlier in the week, the Operation Ice Watch crew found a couple of small patches along the coast of Cape Breton containing a few hundred seals and their pups. Two days later that patch was gone, broken up by high winds. It was found again two days later, more broken up and with fewer seals. Most likely the seal pups drowned.
There should be more than 200,000 seal pups in the Gulf yet no one seems to know where they are.
What the Operation Ice Watch team witnessed is something that Sea Shepherd has never witnessed before—a completely ice-free and seal-free Gulf. This alarming sight means that without ice, seal pups cannot be born. They are being birthed into the sea, only to drown or forced up on land where they have little chance of survival.
Despite the lack of ice, the Canadian government has issued a kill quota once again of 400,000 seals for the year 2017. This is an astounding figure when tens of thousands of seals may have already perished in the Gulf of St. Lawrence this year due for lack of ice.
Captain Watson and Sea Shepherd feel this should be declared a national emergency and a clear warning that climate change is accelerating faster than authorities anticipate.
Brigitte Bardot and Michelle Rodriguez: Posing With Seals Then and Now
Captain Paul Watson sent the all-female crew to the ice to commemorate the courage of Brigitte Bardot when she went to the ice in 1977 to focus international attention of the slaughter of seals. A photo of Bardot posting with a seal brought world attention to the cause and the need to protect harp seals. It became a pivotal point in the fight to stop this annual Canadian obscenity of cruelty and mass slaughter.
Bardot and Seal, 1977.
In recognition of Bardot's famous picture, taken 40 years ago this March, Rodriguez posed with a whitecoat baby seal in her own 21st Century version of the iconic photo.
"People listen to celebrities," said Captain Watson. "Michelle has over 13 million friends on her Facebook page along with an international following. This helps to get the message out that now the seals are not just threatened by human hunting, but even more threatened by climate change and the loss of ice. Not content to kill the babies, mankind has now wiped out the nurseries."
However, unlike the ice conditions of 1977 which made Bardot's photoshoot a relatively safe one, it was not so easy to recreate the shot in 2017. The ice was so broken up and thin that Sea Shepherd's helicopter could not land. Rodriguez, along with Yana Watson, Sidler and Lord had to hop from one small pan of ice to another just to reach the seals.
Despite the challenges, Rodriguez was thrilled to meet the seals on the small patch of ice.
"Seeing these beautiful creatures and understanding their place in the ecosystem, I'm saddened the Canadian government has been so short sighted in failing to prevent a massive ecological catastrophe," said Rodriguez. "It's sad to know the truth and watch the world turn a blind eye."