Commentary

Jairo Mediterraneo Campaign: The action that doesn't turn a blind eye

Monday, Aug 28, 2017

Sea Shepherd Italia Director Andrea Morello writes about the everyday "direct actions" that all of us -- even a small boy -- can take to save the oceans and marine wildlife.

Land volunteers on Jairo Med Campaign with crew from the Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn. Photo Sea Shepherd Italia.

During a trip to Siracusa with Patrizia Maiorca I witnessed the hatching of a Caretta Caretta (loggerhead) turtle nest thanks to a child who had reported the presence of the nest on the Arenella beach. We managed to locate the nest because that child and his father decided not to limit themselves to just watching how those baby turtles, which had hatched on the beach in daytime under a scorching sun, were no longer able to find their sea. Instead, they acted to save those turtles' lives and saw the results.

That's how, during the night, we managed to locate the nest under tightly-pressed sand that was hardened by people walking on it and by a flattening machine -- used to make the beach smooth for tourists – that had passed over the nest several times. As if they felt that their surroundings were finally protected, 15 wonderful baby turtles hatched from that sand to immediately set out for the sea. They survived in the middle of beach lounges, and they survived the night-time lights that mislead them, luring them away from their natural path until they would have died on land. That night, the action that young boy undertook made the difference.

Sea Shepherd is exactly this: action making a difference.

A baby loggerhead turtle safely reaches the sea. Photo Sea Shepherd Italia.

Every day, when the dawn illuminates the blue horizon, 25 people who set sail from the La Spezia harbor on the M/V Sam Simon patrol the waters of southern Tyrrhenian Sea to take action in order to defend the sea and the lives dwelling in it, and they act under the flag that flies on the ship's bow: the Jolly Roger.

07:20 AM: the first sighting takes place: a FAD (fishing aggregating devices) is spotted. These are floating conglomerates made of plastic pieces tied together with thin nylon ropes and anchored by means of a weight to very deep seabeds. We start to individuate and to map in the GPS, one after the other, two, five, dozens of FADs. They constitute a real danger specifically for turtles, which get tangled in them and at times have no way to untangle themselves, thus being condemned to death with no chance of avoiding that fate.

The action undertaken by that youth in Siracusa, together with the action undertaken by the 25 volunteers from six different countries and the action undertaken by the Maritime Department of Catania that coordinated this patrolling activity with us, led to immediate results already in the first four days:

3,500 meters of thin nylon ropes recovered from the sea; 1,500 meters of thick fishing line without hooks recovered from the Mediterranean; 29 illegal FADs and countless plastic bottles, balloons, cans still containing paint, and jerrycans still containing pollutants are now on board the M/V Sam Simon.

The M/V Sam Simon retrieving an illegal FAD in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Photo Sea Shepherd Italia.

These illegal FADs damage both life in the Mediterranean and local, legal fishing. The local management plan for the Aeolian Islands archipelago regulates the use of the FADs (or “cannizzi”): “In the zone to be managed, specific areas shall be individuated, in which the “cannizzi” shall be anchored, and their number shall be previously determined (maximum number: 20), along with the positioning and the use (measure 1.4 of the 2007-2013 EFF). They shall be assigned to fishers by means of random draw and they shall bear initials that shall make them recognizable. Moreover, in order to fight the fact that, in the last few years, common dolphinfish are caught earlier and earlier, it is ordered that the “cannizzi” shall be placed starting from September, 15th, and that the beginning of the fishing of common dolphinfish shall start on October, 30th”**. The fact that the FADs in question could not be recognized and their complete lack of trackability of makes them a part of Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported fishing (IUU).

Sea Shepherd fights against IUU fishing, against the use of plastic and against illegal fishing nets, employing ten ships on almost all the seas of our planet. Yet the most important weapon that makes a difference is passion; the passion of individuals, which leads to not turning a blind eye to illegal actions and cruelty, and instead to fighting them by means of direct action.

Millions of tons of plastics are discarded every year in the ocean. Billions of fish are caught illegally and they are re-introduced on global markets through transhipments we can hardly imagine. Even governments, such as the Japanese, still travel nowadays to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in order to hunt whales, thumbing their nose at international laws and in spite of the verdict that the International Court of Justice issued against them.

In spite of the level of illegality that is present in the sea, and of the horrific numbers at a global level with reference to the devastation that our civilization is causing, turning a blind eye when these facts are proven, there is an ever-growing number of people and ships equipped with cameras, passion, coherence, and the support of those who help on land, taking action every day for the most important thing one can fight for: Life.

Inspired by 40 years of direct action undertaken by our Founder, Captain Paul Watson, and by the volunteers from all over the world on land and at sea, who don't turn a blind eye, today once again the Sam Simon sets “our bow Seawards”, as Enzo Maiorca was wont to say, to defend, conserve and protect the sea, in partnership with authorities and governments that do not turn a blind eye and act concretely together with all the Shepherds of the Sea, stopping illegal fishing and leaving, after their passage, neither cruelty nor pollution, but sharing and respect for all lives.

Four years have gone by since that tragic 31st May of 2013, when Jairo Mora Sandoval was murdered at the young age of 26.  "Jairo was a young Costa Rican conservationist who was brutally murdered by poachers while he was doing what he loved most: protecting nesting sea turtles,” remembered Captain Paul Watson in a long commentary written about the activist.“The poachers killed this activist by leaving him to suffocate in the sand before shooting him in his head. A few days before he died, Jairo had asked the Costa Rican government for help, but the government refused to intervene. Shortly after that, he lost his life and public pressure was the only reason why the poachers were arrested. They were then released because the police stated there was no evidence. The poachers went back to jail only because public opinion demanded it, and only a few of them were given a definitive sentence." Sea Shepherd Conservation Society launched Operation Jairo, aimed at protecting sea turtles, to honor him. The Italian Chapter wanted to honor Jairo as well and, in June, the Jairo Mediterraneo Campaign began along the Italian coasts of the Cilento, to protect Caretta caretta turtle nests. Direct action by Sea Shepherd Italia's volunteers is undertaken for the turtles and in remembrance of Jairo, so that his sacrifice may be transformed into direct action undertaken by many on every sea.


** Translator's note: this passage from the Management Plan was translated by the translator, as an official English translation of the Plan in question could not be located despite in-depth research.

Translation by Barbara Abatti

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