Yesterday after work, I noticed that an unusually decorated old U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat was docked along the Embarcadero, just north of the Maritime Museum of San Diego. Naturally, I had to investigate!
Turns out the renamed boat, M/V Farley Mowat, is now owned and operated by an organization called the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, whose stated mission is to defend, conserve and protect marine ecosystems and species. They use direct-action tactics to expose and confront the illegal slaughter of marine wildlife at sea. I’d seen their exhibit aboard the steam ferry Berkeley during Earth Day on the Bay, where their representative explained that Sea Shepherd was like Greenpeace on steroids.
I spoke to a friendly crewmember near the Farley Mowat and learned they would be offering the public free tours on Saturday. The vessel has just returned from its second mission in the Sea of Cortez off Baja California–the wildlife defense campaign was titled Operation Milagro II. For a number of months, Sea Shepherd worked with the Mexican government in a marine refuge near San Felipe to identify and intercept illegal gillnet fishing which has reduced the population of the rare Vaquita Porpoise over the decades to just about 100 animals. This is commendable work! Sea Shepherd not only has permission from the Mexican government to patrol for poachers and pull up illegal fishing nets when encountered, but they are making observations concerning this endangered marine species. They are doing similar work to protect another rare fish in the region: the Totoaba Bass.
Working within the law in a positive way to protect these species is commendable and extraordinary! After doing some research at home, however, I learned that the organization is quite controversial. Some say they go too far. Some, including other environmental activists and organizations, have called them eco-terrorists. I don’t know enough to comment, but I do know that sometimes people with enthusiastic agendas and a sense of urgent purpose can lose their sense of humanity. The people I met yesterday and this morning when I walked again along the Embarcadero seemed like very nice people. I will say no more.
Do you like to read short pieces of thought-provoking fiction? You might enjoy checking out Short Stories by Richard.