Officer Marian on the M/V Farley Mowat. Photo by M.C.
Touring one of the Sea Shepherd ships is a rarity, one of the Los Angeles Chapter members says. The Marine Vessel Farley Mowat is docked in the San Diego Harbor for the Fourth of July weekend. Then the crew is off to Baja Mexico to have the small ship repaired. Marian, our tour guide and officer, said the ship isn’t expensive to buy, it’s the upkeep. Once the ship is repaired, they are back on the Sea of Cortez to help the vaquita porpoise and the totoaba bass.
The fishing villages lay gill nets in murky water, making it difficult for the vaquita to see. The Sea of Cortez is their only home. The totoaba bass gill nets end up with vaquita by-catch. The swim bladder is taken out of the bass, who are then thrown back into the sea. The bladder has purported medicinal and male virility enhancement value and is used in soup.
The Farley Mowat houses thirteen to eighteen crew members. Three of the crew left while three new members board. In the mess, Marian hugs one of the guys leaving. Comradery abounds from the volunteers on land to the crew. We get a private tour along with Kimberly, one of the new crew members. As an engineer is in the mess, I ask Marian about romance aboard ship. Passion is the first question of any good romance writer. Marian passes the question to the engineer who says, “Oh #@$%!” I take it as things haven’t always ended his way but then he says, “We’re a bunch of hippies.” I ask if the men and women sleep in separate areas. There is no privacy. The bunking is coed. Marian says, “We all know what each other looks like.” Ha!
We’re shown awesome footage of their 2016 Campaign Milagro in the Sea of Cortez. On the video the captain says, “Jacques Cousteau once called Mexico’s Sea of Cortez ‘the world’s aquarium.’” The stingrays leap out of the ocean. There are bass, humpback whales, sea turtles and dolphin. Then illegal nets are pulled out with some of these dead creatures. A female crew member on the video expresses that the marine mammals have been dead for days in the net, and it smells like nothing she’s smell before.
Up and down narrow ladders, we meander through the living quarters to the bridge to the stern where the panga boat is kept. Processed nets are in a bag. When on campaign they find the nets sometimes at night I believe then bring them in from the bow. They eventually cut the nets and bag them near the stern. Adidas make shoes out of the nets!
Sea Shepherd relies on generous donations from vegan food to money. The local San Diego and Los Angeles chapters are selling Sea Shepherd merchandise on the quay. There are books by Capt. Paul Watson, T-shirts, hats, stickers and more that will go to help with things like gas for the Farley Mowat and Sea Shepherd in general.
This is the warmest, most passionate group of people. One story the L.A. Chapter lady told me really stuck with me. She said the Sea Shepherd organization is all over the world. It’s not just about the whales. In Washington State, sea lions are being branded then shot the third time they are caught with salmon. This is legal for the fishermen to shoot the sea lions if caught. They catch the sea lions, cage them, brand them then eventually shoot them. (A reminder to not eat fish.)
Sea Shepherd is wherever they can be actively stopping the killing of marine life. If you’d like to donate to Operation Milagro, follow this link to Sea Shepherd or go visit the M/V Farley Mowat in the San Diego Harbor near the Star of India ship from 9 to 5 through Tuesday, July 4, 2017. Parking on the pier is $20 for all day, which will give you time to eat nearby, tour the U.S.S. Midway and walk Seaport Village or the Gaslamp District. Your donation is worth the entertaining tour. Happy Fourth of July!
Copyright 2017 Melissa Crismon