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Commentary by Sea Shepherd CEO Captain Alex Cornelissen

dolphin by-catch

Over the past five years Sea Shepherd has focused on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing (IUU fishing). Our campaigns, primarily in West Africa, have given us a wealth of information regarding the impact of both IUU fisheries as well as large scale industrial fisheries on the ocean.

It’s clear that mankind is killing all life in the ocean, and for some reason that goes largely unnoticed.

Life forms in the ocean continue to be objectified:

  • Species of fish are being referred to as “stock”
  • Extraction of life forms is being described as “harvest”
  • Quantities are measured in weight instead of individual organisms
  • All species are simply referred to as “seafood”
  • And most importantly, the myth that fish don’t feel pain

Obviously, this is carefully chosen language so potential consumers don’t question the way we extract fish and other creatures from our ocean. But our crew out on the water see this destruction every day when they interact with fishing vessels.

We see the amount of bycatch of species that aren’t commercially exploitable simply killed and discarded back into the ocean.

We see sharks killed by the thousands by tuna boats that are so-called “dolphin friendly”.

We see dolphins killed by many fishermen who considered them a pest for eating “our fish”.

We see seals sharing the same fate as the dolphins because they’re competition for our fisheries.

There is something fundamentally wrong with the way we look at the natural world, the way we have separated ourselves from the very ecosystem we are part of. This particularly applies to the way we see the ocean. We dump our waste there because we think it’s large enough that no one will notice. We take whatever we want because we think the ocean is an infinite source of protein.

Our appetite and demand for fish is now so great that we stop at nothing to get the deliverables. Habitat destruction and species extinction seems to be acceptable in this process.

But even global fisheries are beginning to see the end of the industry, they are well aware of the fact that if we continue at our current rate of extraction, we will have emptied out our ocean in less than three decades. Pressure is on the industry to keep up with demand and to keep the prices low, but with dwindling fish populations it is increasingly hard to maintain supply. Prices are kept artificially low through global subsidies favoring industrial large-scale fisheries. These then compete illegally with coastal subsistence and artisanal fisheries, causing further problems in regions already at risk due to food scarcity. Other operators don’t shy away from forced unpaid labor to lower their cost, treating workers as expendables.

And of course, there’s the perpetual lie that eating fish is a healthy choice for people’s diet. We have polluted the world’s ocean to the point that it affects the entire food chain, with pollutants concentrating as you move higher up the chain. For years, pregnant women have been warned not to eat tuna or swordfish due to the high levels of mercury, a situation that is only getting worse the more we pollute our natural world.

We are at a point in history where we will need to make a choice:

Do we stop supporting the destructive and unsustainable industry that is destroying our ocean or do we continue down our current path and find our ocean empty within our lifetime? Either choice leads to the same result: we will stop eating fish either now or in 30 years. Only the longer we wait, the more irreversible the situation will become. Our “infinite” source of protein has reached its limit, so it’s time we make the necessary choices to restore the balance in our ocean.

We are seeing the results of our campaigns to stop IUU fishing in West Africa, with fish populations bouncing back and ecosystems recovering only after a few years. But these areas are not big enough to repopulate entire regions. Enforcing regulations and expanding the areas under protection against IUU fishing and large-scale industrial fishing are the base of Sea Shepherd’s current campaigns. Together with our government partners we are shutting down dozens of illegal operators every year, and in the process we are saving millions of lives.

It’s a matter of survival to stop the war against the ocean. It’s a fight that we cannot afford to lose. A fight that will intensify in the coming years when fish populations continue to decline. But also a fight that – with your support – we intend to win.


Txori Berri Boarding

Inspection Lian FengYu

On Vessel Hauling




Commentary by Vijay Kritzinger, Senior Volunteer with Sea Shepherd UK

COVID 19 and our Marine Debris Campaign

Due to the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions across the nation which were implemented in March, Sea Shepherd UK had to cancel group and public participation beach cleans. However, Sea Shepherd volunteers across the UK have continued the campaign by using their daily exercise time to safely conduct solitary, family group or socially distanced beach cleans close to their homes around the coast.

I have been doing beach cleans near my home in Sunderland before and after the restrictions have been eased. On one occasion I did a socially distanced clean with two fellow volunteers Iain and Tracy Rowan at Hendon beach, where we also encountered fly-tipping items such as tiles and meters of rubber insulation tubes. Whilst I had hoped that the pandemic would have seen a reduction in the amount of marine debris, quite the opposite has happened. More recently, with the weather being much warmer, and with large numbers of people gathering on the beaches as lockdown, some individuals completely disregarding social distancing, the litter problem has escalated to a shocking level – with heaps of litter left on beaches, posing a serious threat to marine and wildlife.

The following lists just some of the items I have collected on Seaburn, Whitburn, Roker, Hendon, Seaham and Potato Garth beaches respectively recently:

  • Plastic bags
  • Dog foul bags
  • Plastic and latex gloves
  • Protective masks
  • Aluminium cans
  • Plastic and glass bottles and bottle caps
  • Polysterene, plastic and cardboard food packaging and cutlery
  • Balloons
  • Nitrous oxide canisters (little silver gas canisters)
  • Children’s and dog toys
  • Clothing items, shoes and towels
  • Sanitary products, baby wipes, dirty diapers
  • Barbecue foil
  • Ghost fishing gear and monofilament lines
  • Broken bottles
  • Tyres
  • Plastic ear bud stems

…and many other foreign objects.

There are a few local residents and a group of swimmers who also pick up litter when possible and many local residents who care about the environment are understandably fed up by the growing amount of trash left by visitors.

Local councils are doing what they can with limited resources amidst lockdown restrictions. However, with people staying out later in the summer, bins are left overflowing after hours and if the gulls don’t get there first, and especially when it is windy, this litter is blown out of these bins, off the promenade, straight onto the beach where it has been carried into the sea with the incoming tides.  

If you see the bins are full, please take your litter home and correctly dispose of it, recycling materials where you can.


Marine Debris collected by Sea Shepherd UK volunteers during lockdown at Little Fistral and Fistral Beach and Watergate bay in Cornwall, and at Seaburn, Whitburn, Roker, Hendon, Seaham and Potato Garth beaches on the Nothumbrian coast’


How you can help:

I believe that positive changes start with little steps. Yes, it is heart-breaking and frustrating to go down to the beach and see it covered in litter and marine debris. However, we ALL have the power to make a difference and beach cleans and our Marine Debris campaign is direct action for the oceans that everyone can join!

Apart from the obvious practise of taking your litter home with you if no bins are available, beach cleans are another way to help. Until it is safe to go about things ‘normally’, and while we need to adhere to government regulations, there is nothing stopping you from doing your own beach cleans, keeping social distancing and good hygiene practises in mind.

Remember to wear protective gloves, use a litter picker where possible and wash your hands afterwards. If you come across suspicious objects for example munitions, contact the coastguard on 999. Please keep clear of seals resting, put your dogs on a leash if necessary and be aware of bird nesting areas amongst sand dunes and rocks. If you do suspect a marine animal is in distress contact British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) and provide them with as much information as possible.

Make sure you alert the council if there a large number of refuse bags needing taken away to prevent these from being reopened, sometimes days later by curious animals or birds.

It’s nice of people to say things like, “well done” or you’re doing a good job”, but at the end of the day, a little help would be even more appreciated. I have been asked by youths, why do I “waste my time if I am not being paid to do beach cleans” and I’ve had to explain, “imagine if everyone thought that way?”  - “The best payment I could get is knowing I have potentially protected an innocent animal from harm or even death by entanglement, ingestion or suffocation. We all need to keep the oceans healthy as it is home to some amazing wildlife. It also provides the majority of the oxygen we breathe thanks to tiny single-celled plants called phytoplankton and the ocean also absorbs around half of man-made climate warning CO2 / carbon emissions.

Beach cleans help improve coastal and the ocean’s ecosystem by ensuring trash does not harm or kill marine life and upsetting the marine life cycle. Beach cleans are also a great way to get your friends, family and community involved to focus on protecting the environment together. It’s great for physical and mental wellbeing - a meaningful positive activity for all ages.

You can also help by educating friends and loved ones and by living responsibly, doing some research and helping reduce our planet’s plastic footprint. Plastic is choking our oceans. Tonnes of plastic end up in the sea, killing and harming marine life. This plastic can be accidentally eaten by marine life. Turtles mistake plastic bags for jelly fish. Seabirds stomachs end up full of plastic waste like bottle caps and as a result are unable to absorb any real nutrition. Marine wildlife could get entangled or strangled by debris and ghost gear.

  • Avoid using single use plastics, use re-usable cups or bottles instead
  • Use re-usable eco-friendly bags instead of plastic
  • Avoid plastic straws, go without or use paper alternatives
  • Stop chewing gum, this is made from plastic
  • Say no to plastic and polystyrene packaging and cutlery

(write to your local seafront businesses encouraging them to use eco-friendly takeaway packaging.

  • Recycle – light plastics that are not properly recycled, could fly off bin trucks and clog drains, eventually ending up in the river and the sea.
  • Do not litter in the streets. Even if you live miles away from the sea, rain and wind can carry litter into streams, rivers and drains which eventually lead to the ocean.
  • Do not flush plastic and foreign items down the toilet. This includes baby wipes, sanitary products and cotton buds.

Once plastic ends up in the sea, it decomposes very slowly, breaking down into microplastics which damage sea life. Microplastics are ingested by plankton and passes the problem up the food chain.

Lost or discarded fishing gear (ghost gear), must be removed along with any other marine debris as ghost gear is made from plastic and can take up to 600 years to break down.

Thank you to all who participate in beach cleans and litter picks on the coast and inland. By doing so, you are defending, conserving and protecting our oceans and ultimately future generations.

For the oceans…


To report marine debris or information on collaborating with Sea Shepherd UK beach cleans – please email:

For more information on our Marine Debris Campaign visit:

To report lost or discarded fishing gear, please email: or complete the online reporting form at:

For more information on our Ghostnet Campaign visit:

Commentary by Captain Paul Watson

The Serial Killers of the Danish Faroe Islands have murdered 536 Long Finned Pilot Whales and 7 Atlantic White Sided Dolphins so far in 2019.

Murder Most Foul in the Faroe Islands

Why do I call this murder?

First the slaughter is actually called the Grindadráp. In old Nordic this literally translates as the murder of pilot whales. The old Nordic word dráp means murder. It is not used today and the modern Nordic word for murder is morð.

Secondly dolphins and whales are highly intelligent, socially complex, self-aware, sentient living beings. It is my considered opinion that killing a cetacean is an act of murder. Not homicide, but cetacide.

The killings in the Faroe Islands are brutal. The pilot whales or dolphins are driven onto beaches after long chases that are extremely stressful. They are killed with knives and lances and contrary to the ridiculous claims that the whales die within seconds, the fact is, and we have observed this each and every time, the slaughter is gruesomely long and the cetaceans suffer horrendously, thrashing, screaming, convulsing with their hot blood spurting from the vicious gruesome wounds into the cold sea. They die in agony, hearing the painful screams and smelling and tasting the blood of their family members. Mothers seeing their calves slain, pregnant females desperate to escape and many dying while fruitlessly trying to help others to escape.

The Faroese ask why do we call them barbarians? To anyone who has witnessed this slaughter, the answer is simple. Because the slaughter is barbaric. We have seen the crazed looks and heard the laughing as the killers gleefully plunge their lances and knives into the defenseless bodies of their victims. It is savage, cruel and the animals suffer an agonizing death.

The Faroese call this a tradition but humanity needs to evolve from traditions that torture and kill. The Vikings once sacrificed human beings to their gods. That was a tradition.

Murder Most Foul in the Faroe IslandsMany Faroese claim that they must do this for subsistence. That claim is laughingly false. The Faroese have one of the highest per capita incomes on the planet. Anything you can buy in a supermarket in Copenhagen, you can purchase in the Faroe Islands and they have the money to do so. There is no homelessness or poverty in the Faroe Islands.

Why is it that even in the Faroe Islands, you can’t sell pork, beef, or chicken if tainted with heavy metal toxins, yet meat, highly contaminated with methyl-mercury is allowed to be fed to children.

These excessively high contaminant levels have been documented in the area of the Faroe Islands (Dam and Bloch 2000, Nielsen et al. 2000, Sonne et al. 2010). The meat is  considered a health hazard for human consumption. (Simmonds et al. 1994).

The Faroese say that pilot whales are abundant and there is no danger of them going extinct. There is no scientific evidence to back this position. On the contrary, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature states that the current population of Long Finned pilot whales in the North Atlantic is unknown. The Long-finned Pilot Whale is listed on the IUCN Red List as Data Deficient  and the species remains data-poor As such the precautionary principle should apply.

The IUCN notes however, the large takes in the Faroes that have occurred over many centuries may well have caused a significant reduction in abundance that has gone undetected in this highly social and wide-ranging species.

The other species regularly slaughtered slaughtered in the Faroe Islands is the Atlantic White Sided dolphin. The IUCN lists the population as unknown.

Sea Shepherd has opposed the Grindadráp since 1983. We have sent numerous ships and sponsored numerous ground campaigns for decades and we will continue to do so. It took three decades for us to realize the banning of seal products from Canada in Europe. It took fifteen years to drive the Japanese whale poachers from the Southern Ocean. These campaigns require both patience and determination and Sea Shepherd has demonstrated to ability to be extremely patient and unwaveringly determined in our opposition to the abuse and destruction of marine species.

Why do we oppose the Grindadráp? We do so in order to defend and protect the species. We do so because it is an excessively cruel and grossly inhumane slaughter. We do so because we are ecologically aware and compassionate towards these incredibly unique and wondrous sentient beings.

Murder Most Foul in the Faroe Islands

Did you give up eating fish for “Plastic Free July”? Chances are you probably didn’t, because no one told you the truth about where most of the plastic in our oceans comes from, and how our meal choices have contributed to it.

Commentary by Sea Shepherd Global

Plastic marine debris is choking our oceans and their inhabitants. Photo by Susie HolstPlastic marine debris is choking our oceans and their inhabitants. Photo by Susie Holst

This July, we were all reminded about the same messages we’ve already heard: invest in reusable water bottles and coffee mugs, swap out plastic shopping bags for a cloth “bag for life”, and refuse single-use plastics, especially straws. The list goes on.

Of course, all of these efforts are worthwhile to incorporate into your daily lives. Plastic waste is clearly one of the most pressing – and visible – issues affecting our oceans and marine wildlife. Humans produce so much plastic each year that it weighs as much as the entire human race combined. And, despite our best efforts to “refuse, reduce, reuse, and recycle,” 91% of plastic waste never gets recycled.

Instead of decomposing or biodegrading as many claim, plastics in the ocean in fact break up into smaller and smaller pieces, eventually becoming microplastics so small the human eye can no longer see. There is no "away" with plastic; every piece of plastic ever produced is still on the planet today. More than 90% of seabirds have plastic in their guts, and researchers are predicting the ocean will contain more plastic than fish in weight by 2050 unless we act now.

But despite what most people think, common consumer plastics like cotton ear buds, throwaway cutlery, and shampoo bottles aren’t actually the biggest culprits.

The single biggest single source of plastic choking out the life in our oceans is made up of purposefully or accidentally lost, discarded, or abandoned fishing nets, ropes, FADs (fish aggregating devices), long lines, and plastic fishing crates and baskets.

Most Dangerous Plastic in Oceans

“At least half of [...ocean plastic waste] is not consumer plastics, which are central to much of the current debate, but fishing gear,” states George Leonard, chief scientist at the Ocean Conservancy.

Approximately 46% of the 79 thousand tons of ocean plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is made up of fishing nets, some as large as football fields, according to the study published in March 2018 in Scientific Reports, which shocked the researchers themselves who expected the percentage to be closer to 20%.

Fishing nets lost, abandoned or discarded at sea – also known as “ghost nets” – can continue killing indiscriminately for decades and decades, entangling or suffocating countless fish, sharks, whales, dolphins, sea turtles, seals and marine birds every year. An estimated 30% percent of the decline in some fish populations is a result of discarded fishing equipment, while more than 70% of marine animal entanglements involve abandoned plastic fishing nets.

A sea lion strangled by fishing gear. Photo by Sea Shepherd.A sea lion strangled by fishing gear. Photo by Sea Shepherd.

Sea Shepherd crew and volunteers on campaigns around the world are daily witnesses to the devastation caused by this fishing gear. On Operation Icefish in 2014, while Sea Shepherd’s Bob Barker chased down the notorious toothfish poaching vessel Thunder for 110 days until they scuttled their own vessel, the crew of the Sam Simon stayed behind in the freezing Southern Ocean, spending weeks hauling in the 72km-long gillnet abandoned by poachers as they fled. On five consecutive campaigns for Operation Milagro in the Sea of Cortez, our crew retrieved over 180km of ghost nets in addition to the illegal fishing nets responsible for killing the critically endangered vaquita porpoise. In 2015 Sea Shepherd France launched Operation Mare Nostrum to remove ghost nets from the Mediterranean Sea, where they even recovered an abandoned trawling net in a protected marine area just off the coast of France where all fishing is prohibited. Last year Sea Shepherd UK launched Operation Ghostnet, an ongoing campaign using small fast boats and divers to remove hazardous ghost nets and other abandoned fishing gear from coastal areas around England, Scotland, and Wales. Operation Siso, Sea Shepherd’s campaign to confiscate illegal fishing gear found off Italy’s Mediterranean coast, was named for the young sperm whale whose migration past the Aeolian Islands ended when he became entangled in a driftnet and died. In August last year, around 300 endangered sea turtles were discovered dead off Mexico’s southern coast, trapped in a single abandoned fishing net.

Sea turtles are doubly affected by abandoned fishing gear because when it washes up on their nesting beaches the mother turtles get trapped when coming to lay their eggs, and their babies can’t climb over the debris to reach the sea once they hatch. Sea Shepherd’s Bob Barker recently helped clear over four tons of marine debris from a remote West African island in Cabo Verde, the third most important nesting beach in the world for loggerhead turtles.

 Abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear continues killing marine wildlife. Photo by Csaba Tökölyi.

What Can You Do to Take Action?

Your generous donations help Sea Shepherd continue these vital campaigns to remove this deadly fishing gear from our oceans. You can also participate in beach clean-ups (Important note: never try and retrieve abandoned fishing gear from the water yourself, it can be extremely dangerous for you and even harmful for the wildlife trapped in it; alert your local authorities if you spot one).

But wouldn’t it be better to stop this industrial fishing gear from polluting our waters in the first place? We’re working to stop plastic bottles from reaching the waters by finding alternatives and reducing plastic bags by banning them at the supermarket checkout. So how do we stop the flood of abandoned fishing gear in our oceans? Is there really any other way to stop fishing gear from suffocating our seas than by stopping it at the source? Governments can (and should) take all kinds of measures to prevent fishing gear from further polluting the oceans, and Sea Shepherd will continue to hunt down and help stop illegal fishing operations while pulling up illegal fishing gear wherever we encounter it. But each and every consumer has the power to make a difference.

The UK’s Guardian newspaper recently noted the hypocrisy in media condemnation of single-use plastic while “the most important factor… we talk about least.” Is this silence due to mainstream media not wanting to upset the economic interests of the commercial fishing industry, or because by addressing the issue it means consumers will connect the dots…back to themselves?

Is there really a better way of cutting down the demand for fish – and the massive industry it supports – than by reducing or completing cutting fish from our diets? It might be hard to discuss, it might feel like you’re swimming upstream, but it may be the best way for each individual to make the most impact in addition to avoiding single-use plastics. If we really care about the problem of plastic in the oceans, we need to address the issue of fishing gear. And until we come up with better options, that means dropping fish from the menu.

Commentary by Sea Shepherd Captain Alistair Allan of the M/Y Sam Simon

Why a Calm Day on Patrol is a Good Day on Patrol

Liberia, West Africa – It’s another cloudless day and the blue water shimmers under the relentless assault from the sun. There’s hardly a breath of wind to interrupt the endless turquoise plateau as I stare out my porthole. The internal phone rings in my cabin. An excited voice is on the other end: ‘’ORCAS! Orcas outside!’’ I hastily climb the stairs to the bridge and look  out the starboard side.

As I’m scanning to find them, a huge dorsal fin slices out of the water right near the ship. It’s the largest of the pod, the matriarch.  I realize that they’re all around the ship, a family of twelve or so. The crew delights as they swim around the ship, with younger members of the pod splashing and jumping.

The Sam Simon has been on patrol in Liberia for a month now, and on this particular encounter we’re positioned on the far eastern border of Liberia shared with Cote D´Ivoire. The Cavalla River empties out to sea here and the area is a hub of biodiversity. Just prior to the commencement of Operation Sola Stella in 2016, local artisanal fishermen in this area were complaining about daily incursions by foreign industrial trawlers in this exact area. They were coming across the border every single night, running over their nets, running over their canoes, and stealing the fish that they depend on for their livelihood. Fast forward to today, almost three years later, the Liberian Coast Guard, assisted by Sea Shepherd’s M/Y Sam Simon and M/Y Bob Barker, have completely halted these incursions.

It didn’t take three years to stop illegal ships crossing into Liberia’s waters. In fact, the incursions stopped almost immediately on the first ever patrol with the Bob Barker. But we remain vigilant and ever-present. Patrols at the moment are quiet. Our ever-spinning radars don’t show a vessel for miles, bar a few local canoes. When I stand out on the bridge wing at night, the fluorescent lights of industrial fishing vessels are now replaced by the stars. With one trawler able to catch up to five-to-ten tons of fish in a day, the absence of one vessel would be considered a victory, let alone the empty dark ocean I see now. Gone are the nights when unscrupulous operators used to plunder with reckless abandon.

With four illegal vessels having been arrested in this area alone and a total of thirteen arrests throughout Liberia’s waters, the foreign industrial trawlers now know if they dare cross into Liberia, the Liberian Coast Guard will be waiting. The lack of illegal activity is our proof of success, and -- more importantly -- that activity has been replaced by something else entirely: wildlife.

The sea here is teeming. We see massive pods of dolphins, sometimes numbering as many as 500; we see schools of tuna, we see whales, and on special days like today we see orcas. What was once an area full of illegal trawl nets and fishing boats has once again become a haven for life. Local communities report fish numbers returning to the spawning grounds close to shore. Life, both in the sea and for those who depend on it, is returning to normal.

Captain Alistair Allan. Photo: Sea ShepherdCaptain Alistair Allan. Photo: Sea Shepherd

When I started with Sea Shepherd, I joined in the days of our Antarctic whale defense campaigns. I was used to the high-octane engagements and constant clashes. I was proud of our mission; I wanted to save the whales from the harpoons. Eight years later, as I stand on the bridge deck of the Sam Simon and watch these orcas swim past, I feel the same sense of pride. With up too 300,000 whales and dolphins caught annually as bycatch due to industrial fishing, I feel that these campaigns to stop illegal fishing are the natural progression of what I started doing all those years ago. Only this time it’s not just whales that are protected: countless species of fish, sharks, rays and turtles also benefit from an ocean free of illegal fishing vessels.

So despite the lack of action, my crew and I take solace every day -- as we watch the pods of dolphins play, or the schools of tuna swim by -- that life in Liberia is returning, life in Liberia is protected and life in Liberia has security, both for animals and humans who both rely on a healthy ocean.


Sea Shepherd Commentary & Editorial articles from 2012 and earlier.

For articles from 2013 and newer, visit our Sea Shepherd Commentary & Editorials page.