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

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...
Sea Shepherd Works with Legal Fishermen to Protect the Vaquita
Sea Shepherd recycled Branded Dive Weights are AVAILABLE NOW at: https://shop.paulwatson.com 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 www.seashepherd.org/milagro Hoy es el Día de la Marina Nacional en México. Sea Shepherd ag...
STRENGTHENED PARTNERSHIP WITH MEXICO BRINGS RENEWED HOPE FOR VAQUITA
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: https://goo.gl/UK4cM6
OPERATION MILAGRO IV - By-catch
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: www.seashepherd.org
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: https://goo.gl/Z976Hz Support us at: https://goo.gl/CK7N...
SHOTS FIRED AT SEA SHEPHERD'S M/V SHARPIE
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...
SEA SHEPHERD SAVES 25 CRITICALLY ENDANGERED TOTOABAS IN THE HEIGHT OF SPAWNING SEASON
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: https://goo.gl/DJYxj6 Help us protect the oceans: https://goo.gl/YyLcv...
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: www.seashepherd.org/Milagro Donate at: https://goo.gl/2sAS9r
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...
Nets
How many destructive nets will it take to understand that If the Oceans Die, We Die. Support #OpMilagro at: https://goo.gl/1XLQD4 Learn more about Operation Milagro at: www.seashepherd.org/milagro
Every Single Life Matters.
We fight for life, for biodiversity, #ForTheOceans Every single life matters. Because in the end "If the Oceans Die, We die" Captain Paul Watson. To learn more about Operation Milagro please visit: www.seashepherd.org/milagro To support us: https://...
To Save A Species
Poachers threaten our crew and shot at our drone one more time. WE WILL NOT GIVE UP ON THE VAQUITA. Join us by supporting our mission at https://goo.gl/2sAS9r
We Are Together
TO ALL PARENTS, CHILDREN AND LOVED ONES: Sea Shepherd has 32 extraordinary people in the waters of the Gulf of California, Mexico. The crew members on board The M/V Farley Mowat and The M/V John Paul DeJoria have one mission: To save the smallest, r...
EXTINCTION IS FOREVER - The Totoaba Fight
The totoaba bass is a critically endangered species. Totoabas share their waters with the vaquita porpoise, the most endangered marine mammal in the world. Both face this dire situation because of the illegal trade of totoaba swim bladders. Due to ...
SEA SHEPHERD FREES ENDANGERED TOTOABA FOLLOWING SECOND DRONE SHOOTING
#BREAKING SEA SHEPHERD FREES ENDANGERED TOTOABA FOLLOWING SECOND DRONE SHOOTING Despite gunshots being fired at its drone again,Sea Shepherd, together with the Mexican Navy, drove poachers off the protected vaquita refuge and saved the life of an end...
SEA SHEPHERD NIGHT DRONE SHOT DOWN BY POACHERS
SEA SHEPHERD NIGHT DRONE SHOT DOWN BY POACHERS Tension rises in the fight to protect the critically endangered vaquita porpoise. On Chrismas eve, the crew of the M/V Jean Paul Dejoria was surprised by gunfire. Read the article: https://goo.gl/ULQ...
Operation Milagro IV: The Science Behind the Campaign
In the past four years, Sea Shepherd has removed thousands of illegal gillnets during our Operation Milagro campaign in Mexico's Sea of Cortez. These nets contain hundreds of animals, some dead, some alive. The video above shows a list of species our...
Operation Milagro IV: A Vaquita Defense Campaign
This campaign launch video illustrates the issues surrounding the vaquita rescue efforts. Sea Shepherd is continuing its relentless commitment to stop the imminent extinction of the endangered vaquita porpoise by is returning to Mexico’s Gulf of Ca...
Op. Milagro III: Sam Simon Campaign Summary
The history of the Sam Simon, and the facts and figures surrounding the work this ship has done during Operation Milagro III in the Gulf of California from December 2016 to May 2016.