by Corey Dahlquist
Today is a Sea day – we are almost complete with our transit from the Vaquita refuge near San Felipe, Baja, Mexico to San Diego, California. It’s cloudy, windy, and a bit bumpy. I imagine that everything I am feeling is like unto what thousands of Sailors felt before me and that thousands more will feel after.
Operation Milagro is the most unprecedented success for Sea Shepherd as well as in global conservation history. As our mission comes to a close I am overwhelmed with all of the accomplishments that I share with this extraordinary crew – from the Captain to the media to the newest deckhand. Everyone contributed immeasurably to the partnership with the Mexican government, the Mexican Navy, the local community, and to removing 42 illegal nets and 16 illegal long-lines from the Vaquita refuge and the gillnet exclusion zone in the Sea of Cortez. We destroyed over 100 net and long-line anchors, collected and destroyed over 2000 long-line hooks, and created 10 variants of our signature “Phantom Ray” net and long-line catcher three of which we presented to the Mexican Navy to carry on operations during our brief departure. Most importantly, the sea life saved from those nets, lines, and hooks may be measured in numbers but can never be measured in their continuing contribution to the earth and the marine ecosystem.
I didn’t join Sea Shepherd because I have a degree in environmental management. I didn’t join Sea Shepherd because of its Vegan policy. I joined Sea Shepherd because of one thing only. Direct Action. If you are a person, organization, or government that indirectly supports the illegal and wholesale slaughter of endangered marine wildlife for profit and gain or is unmoved by the slaughter of sea life improperly and coldly categorized as “by catch” in support of your legal fisheries then we will arrive, we will find you, and we will stop you. We will do everything within our power, aside from violence, to protect our oceans for future generations and ensure that endangered sea life will have a fighting chance to recover and prosper.
When belief and action transcend money or any type of personal gain and a group of those individuals are organized and provided with the right tools they become unstoppable. There is, however, one caveat. Too often we measure success incorrectly. People want to see the bottom line and that bottom line is usually depicted as numbers. No one can measure the pure and raw emotion felt when you save a life – whether it be a mammal, fish, or simple crustacean. You can only experience it for yourself.
To enjoy that feeling on a team that is just as dedicated as you are to the same mission, task, purpose, and cause, is likewise immeasurable. The team assembled for Operation Milagro II are my friends. They will be lifelong friends because we engaged in operations that, just like my service in the United States Army and the friendships I made there, brought us to the pinnacle of the meaning of life and the meaning of saving lives and then took us on the emotional journey of experiencing it for ourselves. There is no substitute for this feeling and it cannot be replicated artificially.
I am deeply and profoundly grateful for the opportunity to serve with Sea Shepherd and with two of the best crews ever assembled in the M/V Farley Mowat (2) and the R/V Martin Sheen for this operation. There is something to be said for a group of individuals from all over the world with various backgrounds, beliefs, and ages to come together and work as professionals. We are not professionals. But, our leadership, teamwork, work ethic, and beliefs would convince any of you that we had been working together for years, not to mention receiving a substantial amount of pay or salaries for our effort. That type of unit cohesion doesn’t happen often and, even more rarely, does it ever happen with a group of volunteers. There is not one person more important than the other. There is not one person who believed they contributed more than another. Everyone did what he or she could when they could and then did more. That is success and in my mind every leader’s dream come true when he or she sets out on a just cause or mission and asks people of like mind to follow him or her.
To our crews, I salute you. To our supporters, I thank you. You all are truly what makes Sea Shepherd great and what makes this world and all of its life worth fighting for.
Deckhand and Medical Officer