By Sean Olson

Sean Olsen. Photo: Carolina A CastroI had no idea what to expect when I made the decision to work with Sea Shepherd. Some people said that they were pirates, some called them eco-terrorists, and others dismissed them as “dirty hippies.”  Looking back, I suppose that all of those groups sounded good to me, so I caught a plane to Mexico to save a porpoise on the brink of extinction, and maybe, something else.

On my first day here we freed a humpback whale that was caught in a fishing net, two weeks later we pulled up a similar net that had trapped and killed both a white shark, and a bottlenose dolphin. In the few weeks between, we removed a dozen illegal nets, several long lines, and resuscitated quite a few dying animals.  

The Vaquita porpoise has taken the worst hit from the nets, it is estimated that there are less than one hundred Vaquita left in the world.  I think of every net we remove as a small relief, a slight breath towards the greater breeze. It can be hard work. The nets are full of and all manner of sea life and rotten fish; and these missions usually take place in the middle of the night on very little sleep. Despite all this though, the work somehow doesn’t seem that bad, maybe it’s because of our sense community, or a belief in what we are doing, but with Sea Shepherd, it seems that some rather miserable jobs, when done with good company, can be more than tolerable.

Since I have been onboard, I haven’t seen any piracy, and eco-terrorism is such a relative term, as for the hippies; well, it seems strange to call one that when you see them on an industrial machine that is full of welding, sparks, diesel smoke, and all the while pushing 5000 horsepower. But then again, maybe they are hippies, hippies in the original sense of the word; a group of like-minded, yet independently thinking people who love nature and genuinely believe that their actions can change the world. Isn’t that how it all started? What I see here is a group of passionate and enthusiastic human beings, who care deeply for this planet and all its creatures, but they are not sitting around and talking about it, they are taking action. We are using the tools of our time to combat that which is killing the Earth's greatest treasures, and right now, time is of the essence.

The image of the white shark and the dolphin dying together in the same net is telling. These two animals perfectly represent the duality of the ocean, and in doing so, they represent the paradox of the human experience as well. The dolphin is playful and intelligent, a companion that is easily loved by humanity; while the Great White inspires fear and admiration for its strength, size, and of course-its teeth.

The ocean is the last frontier, the place where the wildness isn’t tamed, and the edge is still out there. That is why I am here. I don’t want to live in a world where the great white isn’t down in the deep, inspiring imagination, wonder, and fear; or in a world that doesn’t have the dolphin to rescue us from that fear, to inspire joy and help us all to laugh like children again. The natural world is us-every part of us, we need it physically, emotionally, and spiritually, but right now, it needs us too. That is why I am proud of what Sea Shepherd is doing. I feel that wildlife conservation is a noble goal, but sometimes it doesn’t have the necessary impact--Sea Shepherd is conservation with teeth.

Dead dolphin. Photo: Carolina A Castro

Dead dolphin. Photo: Carolina A Castro

Sean Olsen. Photo: Carolina A Castro

Photos: Carolina A Castro

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

Milagro III

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 - 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...
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:
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:
#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:
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: 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...
Sea Shepherd Works with Legal Fishermen to Protect the Vaquita
Sea Shepherd recycled Branded Dive Weights are AVAILABLE NOW at: Operation Heavy Metal is a Sea Shepherd effort to address the materials from illegal fishing gear we retrieved during #OpMilagro. We have been working with...
Operation Milagro IV: Sea Shepherd’s Most Successful Vaquita Defense Campaign
Operation Milagro IV has come to an end, but Sea Shepherd will be back in the vaquita refuge soon. This has been one of the most effective Sea Shepherd campaigns to date. We removed more fishing gear than all previous #OpMilagro campaigns combined. T...
Miracles happen: Sea Shepherd Crew saves a Smalltail Shark
Milagro means Miracle in Spanish. Sea Shepherd named Operation Milagro this way because a Miracle was needed to save the vaquita porpoise. It has been 4 years and there is still hope. Sea Shepherd will not give up. Over the past 4 years we have se...
Thank you Mexican Navy
Today is Mexican Navy Day! We thank these brave man and women for their service and for protecting the vaquita porpoise. Learn more about our partnership at Hoy es el Día de la Marina Nacional en México. Sea Shepherd ag...
Mexican Government Enforcement Officers start joint operations on board Sea Shepherd vessels, bolstering chances for survival of endangered vaquita porpoise and addressing security concerns in the region. Read more at:
The crew of Sea Shepherd's Sharpie finds a shark delivering babies on a net. This is the gruesome result of by-catch. Join the fight to protect the oceans at:
OPERATION MILAGRO IV - Retrieving illegal nets and saving lives.
Milestone for The M/V Farley Mowat May 10th 2018 150 Pieces of Illegal Fishing Gear 596 Entangled Animals TOTAL COUNT FOR #OpMIlagro IV is currently: 364 Pieces of Illegal Fishing Gear 1701 Entangled Animals 747 LIVES SAVED On the evening of May 10...
Sea Shepherd Saves Leatherback Turtle on Earth Day 2018
Sea Shepherd crew saves the life of an adult leatherback turtle entangled in illegal gillnet in the Upper Gulf of California, Mexico - a Federally Protected and UNESCO listed Area Read more at: Support us at:
On the night of April 10th, 2018, SHOTS WERE FIRED AT SEA SHEPHERD'S The M/V Sharpie Operation Milagro IV 31 27.31 N 114 45.63 W At 7:46 pm on the night of April 10th, while retrieving an illegal gillnet approximately 8 nautical miles off the Baja...
Conservationists intercept and remove illegal gillnet minutes before recovery by poachers, saving entire school of totoaba bass from black market trade. Read the full article at: Help us protect the oceans:
Sea Shepherd Improves Techniques to Save the Vaquita Porpoise.
Sea Shepherd is always improving techniques to better protect our oceans! Learn more about Operation Milagro at: Donate at:
Three Ships, One Mission: To Save a Species.
Sea Shepherd has 3 vessels in the Sea of Cortez to protect the #VaquitaMarina porpoise. This is the first time in the history of #OpMilagro that we have 3 vessels in the area dedicated to removing nets. Removing the illegal gillnets is the reason wh...