Operation Milagro III Campaign Summary

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 Mowatalong 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 5 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 1195 dead animals - among them sharks, dolphins, whales, turtles and sea lions -  and released 795 live ones. Watch the end of campaign video detailing facts and figures.

Removing Illegal Gill Nets

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.”

When the Sam Simon departed the Mexican waters at the end of May, it summarized its stay in the vaquita reserve with a video:

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.

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 crewmembers 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 MinutesCNN 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.

Donate Now
Shop to Support
Campaign Updates
FacebookTwitterGoogle PlusYouTubeInstagram
Sea Shepherd is the world's leading direct-action marine conservation organization.

Milagro III

Op Milagro V Episode 9 - NEW KID ON THE BLOCK
Watch the new episode of Operation Milagro's web-series. Share it with your friends and stay tuned every Wednesday morning for new episodes. #OpMilagro is Sea Shepherd's campaign to protect the most endangered marine mammal in the world - Mexico's V...
57 Dead Sharks In One Gillnet Found by Sea Shepherd
The MV White Holly finds 57 dead sharks, along with dozens of other species in the Upper Gulf Of California while on Operation Milagro V. Help save a species: https://goo.gl/wJqxyh
Op Milagro V Episode 8 - GHOSTBUSTERS
Watch the new episode of Operation Milagro's web-series. Share it with your friends and stay tuned every Wednesday morning for new episodes. #OpMilagro is Sea Shepherd's campaign to protect the most endangered marine mammal in the world - Mexico's V...
Op Milagro V Episode 6 - RIDE OR DIE
Op Milagro V Episode 6 - RIDE OR DIE Watch the new episode of Operation Milagro's web-series. Share it with your friends and stay tuned every Wednesday morning for new episodes. #OpMilagro is Sea Shepherd's campaign to protect the most endangered m...
Op Milagro V Episode 7 - TOP GUN
Op Milagro V Episode 7 - TOP GUN Watch the new episode of Operation Milagro's web-series. Share it with your friends and stay tuned every Wednesday morning for new episodes. #OpMilagro is Sea Shepherd's campaign to protect the most Endangered marin...
Sea Shepherd's White Holly joins the fight to save the vaquita porpoise
The M/V White Holly has arrived in the Upper Gulf of California. The M/V Farley Mowat and The M/V Sharpie celebrated the arrival of the White Holly by performing a water salute! Three Sea Shepherd ships fighting to protect the most endangered marin...
Op Milagro V Episode 5 - "WHALE WARS"
Op Milagro V Episode 5 - "WHALE WARS" Watch the new episode of Operation Milagro's web-series. Share it with your friends and stay tuned every Wednesday morning for new episodes. #OpMilagro is Sea Shepherd's campaign to protect the most endangered m...
Op Milagro V Episode 4 - TWO SHIPS ONE TEAM
Watch the new episode of Operation Milagro's web-series. Share it with your friends and stay tuned every Wednesday morning for new episodes. #OpMilagro is Sea Shepherd's campaign to protect the most endangered marine mammal in the world - Mexico's V...
Op Milagro V Episode 3 - RIGHT BEFORE OUR EYES
Watch the new episode of Operation Milagro's web-series. Share it with your friends and stay tuned every Wednesday morning for new episodes. #OpMilagro is Sea Shepherd's campaign to protect the most endangered marine mammal in the world - Mexico's V...
Op Milagro V Episode 2 - WORTH ITS WEIGHT IN GOLD
Watch the new episode of Operation Milagro's web-series. Share it with your friends and stay tuned every Wednesday morning for new episodes. #OpMilagro is Sea Shepherd's campaign to protect the most Endangered marine mammal in the world - Mexico's V...
Op Milagro V Episode 1 - HOUSE OF THE VAQUITA
We are happy to announce that the #OpMilagro Vlog (Web-series) is back! Join the Sea Shepherd crew and watch our work to save the most endangered marine mammal in the world - Mexico's vaquita porpoise. Watch all episodes at http://tinyurl.com/y2bjs4...
SEA SHEPHERD DISCOVERS DEAD VAQUITA CAUGHT IN GILLNET
On March 12th, 2019 Sea Shepherd ship The M/V Farley Mowat crew discovered a dead vaquita trapped in a totoaba gillnet. Recently, scientists revealed there are at most 22 vaquitas left in the Sea of Cortez. This is a devastating discovery, but Sea S...
IT REALLY IS A MATTER OF LIFE, DEATH, AND EXTINCTION.
IT REALLY IS A MATTER OF LIFE, DEATH, AND EXTINCTION. We must not and we cannot allow the poachers to intimidate and threaten us. We have secured some defensive gear but we still need more. We are halfway there. Please help us achieve our goal of ke...
FULL VIDEO - SEA SHEPHERD ATTACKED BY POACHERS Jan 31, 2019
FULL VIDEO - On January 31st, 2019, Sea Shepherd’s MV Farley Mowat was attacked by poachers while patrolling the Vaquita Refuge for Operation Milagro. For English subtitles click on CC, on the bottom right. Posing as fishermen, these criminals la...
SEA SHEPHERD SHIP’S WINDOWS SMASHED AND HULL SET ON FIRE BY POACHERS
Hope shattered for vaquita survival as Sea Shepherd ship violently attacked by poachers in the Gulf of California, suffering damage from projectiles and Molotov cocktails while protecting world’s most endangered marine mammal: the vaquita porpoise....
SEA SHEPHERD Crew Update on Attack in Vaquita Refuge
SEA SHEPHERD CREW UPDATE ON ATTACK IN VAQUITA REFUGE Help us bring a second vessel to Op Milagro and give hope for the survival of a species. DONATE NOW at: https://goo.gl/1B931Z
SEA SHEPHERD SHIP ATTACKED INSIDE VAQUITA REFUGE
Sea Shepherd Vessel M/V Farley Mowat was conducting maritime patrols inside the Vaquita Refuge in the Upper Gulf of California, and had recovered three illegal gillnets that morning, when at 1:00 PM the crew noticed approximately 35 skiffs operating ...
Op Milagro V - Saving the First Totoaba of the Season and More...
Saving the First Totoaba of the Season and More... Take a look at some busy days on The M/V Farley Mowat The Sea Shepherd crew has been working day and night to protect the vaquita refuge from poachers. This season is already starting to shape up l...
Op Milagro V - Sea Shepherd Finds First Totoaba Nets of the Season
Operation Milagro V started a few months ago and Sea Shepherd has been removing Ghost Nets and other kinds of illegal fishing gear from vaquita refuge. On the night of 10th of December while patrolling the vaquita refuge, the crew of Sea Shepherd's...
Op Milagro V - Update Video 2
Take a look at the life of the crew onboard The M/V Farley Mowat and Sea Shepherd's work to protect the vaquita porpoise. Support our mission at: https://goo.gl/wJqxyh
#OpMilagro V Video Update
#OpMilagro V Video Update. Check out the life aboard The M/V Farley Mowat. This is a compilation from the early days of campaign. Enjoy. Support our mission to save the most endangered marine mammal in the world at: https://goo.gl/rWY1cM
SEA SHEPHERD JOINS SEARCH AND RECOVERY OF MEXICAN NAVY HELICOPTER
During the late afternoon of Saturday, October 20th, 2018, a Mexican Navy helicopter crashed into the ocean while engaged in anti-poaching patrols over the Vaquita Refuge in the Upper Gulf of California (a.k.a. Sea of Cortez). The reason for the cras...
Sea Shepherd's Operation Milagro V Launch
#BREAKING #OpMilagro V started! Sea Shepherd Initiates Early Patrols to Safeguard Survival of Critically Endangered Vaquita Porpoise Sea Shepherd vessel The M/V Farley Mowat has arrived in the Upper Gulf of California to start Operation Milagro earl...
Sea Shepherd Recycled Dive Weights
Sea Shepherd recycled Branded Dive Weights are AVAILABLE NOW at: https://shop.paulwatson.com They were made from illegal fishing nets captured in the Sea of Cortez. Limited amount available so get them while you can in 2lb, 3lb and 4lb. This ensure...