Commentary

Sea Shepherd and Threatened Species Day – A Fight We Fight Every Day

Sunday, Sep 06, 2020

The Sea Shepherd movement sees the key threats to the oceans as illegal fishing, ocean plastics, climate change and threats to vulnerable, threatened and endangered species. If we are serious about protecting our oceans, we must play a key and active role in each, and we are.

- Commentary by Sea Shepherd Australia's Managing Director Jeff Hansen

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There are three laws of ecology; the most sacred of all laws that are key to the survival of biodiversity on the planet, and therefore, also critical to the survival of the human species. No species can survive outside of these three ecological laws.

The law of diversity: The strength of an ecosystem is dependent upon the diversity of species within it.

The law of interdependence: All species are interdependent with each other.

The law of finite resources: There are limits to growth and limits to carrying capacity.

As we lose species, not only have we lost something so beautiful, so unique, so remarkable, a life, an individuality, a culture, we also break the laws of diversity and interdependence. This weakens the strength of an ecosystem and has flow-on impacts to all other species within it. A classic example of this is the wolves in Yellowstone. That ecosystem had collapsed, until the wolves were re-introduced, causing a trophic cascade of ecological change, helping to increase beaver populations, bring back aspen, and vegetation. The beaver dams had multiple effects on stream hydrology, provided cold and shaded water for fish. The more robust willow stands provided habitat for songbirds. If we had no wolves to re-introduce, there would be no Yellowstone as we know it today. You can learn more about the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone here

Sperm whales seen during Operation Zero Tolerance in 2012. Sperm whales are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN red list.

Sea Shepherd takes the protection of threatened, vulnerable and endangered species very seriously. Over the past 43 years, we have made many stands for marine animals on the frontline. Here are a few recent examples:

- Since 2015, Sea Shepherd’s fleet: the M/V Farley Mowat, M/Y Sam Simon, M/V White Holly and M/V Sharpie have all been on patrol to protect the vaquita refuge to save this critically endangered marine mammal in the Upper Gulf of California.

- Since 2017, Sea Shepherd has been patrolling the south-eastern coast of New Zealand’s South Island to assist in the protection of endangered hector's dolphins (Pahu) from illegal fishing.

- For over a decade, Sea Shepherd victoriously defended the whales of the southern ocean whale sanctuary from the illegal operations of Japanese whale poachers, directly protecting protected minke and endangered fin and humpback whales. 

- Since 2016, our collective efforts with the Great Australian Bight Alliance has seen all Big Oil cease their plans to put at risk one of the last grand marine wilderness areas on the planet, home to endangered blue whales, endangered fin whales, humpbacks and one of the world’s most significant southern right whale nurseries. 85% of marine life in the Bight's is globally unique and it is also a critical nursery and feeding ground to beloved endangered Australian sea lions.

- Since 2017, our volunteers have been on the frontline cleaning up Australia's coastline from the scourge of marine debris. To date, we have removed over three million pieces of marine debris. We even conducted two large scale remote clean-ups of Djulpan beach in north-east Arnhem Land, proudly working alongside Dhimurru indigenous rangers and cleaning up sacred Aboriginal land and critical nesting grounds for endangered sea turtles.

- With as many as 100 million sharks being wiped off the map each year, we have been a fierce defender of an animal that is critical to our ocean's health and ultimately our own survival. Whether it be playing a vital part in stopping the WA shark cull and our ongoing Apex Harmony campaign, facilitating the arrest of the deep sea shark poacher the Labiko 2 off Liberia or stopping 18 illegal Chinese shark poachers off Timor Leste with our vessel the M/V Ocean Warrior.

Worldwide, six of the seven sea turtle species are classified as threatened or endangered due to human actions. Photo: Ingo Miller

"In 2020, it’s hard to believe that we still have to bang on about the importance of the natural world; the importance of biodiversity."

- Jeff Hansen

The fact that we even need a Threatened Species Day is inconceivable to me, however, the sad reality is that humankind is threatening and destroying species every single day. What needs to change is that we all redevelop the love of the natural world and that we understand the priceless ecological importance of nature. 

The oceans, sharks, forests, plankton, beavers, whales and even the ants, maintain the life support systems of our planet. The air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink and our liveable climate, all comes from nature. With every single species we lose, forest we cut down or marine ecosystem we pollute, we further weaken the life support systems that make it possible for us to live here.

When we bring life into this world, and we connect with our son or daughter for the first time as they open their eyes, we would lay our lives on the line in a heartbeat for them. Yet, all the very basic needs they have is love, clean air, food, water and a liveable climate. 

It’s time we get our priorities right by putting a halt to species loss. Putting nature first is actually putting a real future for humanity first. For all the cures in the world for people will be for nothing if we don’t look after the life support systems of the planet.

On this Threatened Species Day, we ask you all to join the fight. We all need to be defenders of nature and shepherds of the sea, for if we continue to lose these battles to save biodiversity, we all lose. Join us in making a stand today, and every day after.

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