MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada, January 10, 2022 (ENS) – The movement to protect marine wildlife took a giant a leap forward this week as a brand new nonprofit environmental organization, the Age of Union Alliance, announced a US$4.5 million donation to Sea Shepherd, the global NGO that partners with governments to patrol their oceans and fight illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing throughout the world.
“I have long admired Sea Shepherd’s unyielding efforts to protect our planet’s most sacred oceanic ecosystems,” said Dax Dasilva, founder of the Age of Union Alliance. “With these funds from Age of Union, we hope to help Sea Shepherd save the lives of endangered species, preserve their habitats, and support local communities disrupted by illegal poachers.”
“We must continue to shine a light on the important work organizations like Sea Shepherd do to keep our waters safe for the prosperity of critical marine wildlife,” said Dasilva, a Canadian entrepreneur, author, and LGBTQ rights activist. He serves as the chief executive officer of Lightspeed, a Montreal-based tech firm with offices in Canada and the United States.
The funding announcement follows Age of Union’s launch in October 2021 when Dasilva announced a pledge of $40 million toward protecting ecosystems around the world. Sea Shepherd is the sixth global partnership that Age of Union has announced using funds from this initial pledge, which he says will continue to grow in years to come.
Overfishing, climate change, ocean acidification, and habitat deterioration threaten fragile marine ecosystems, some on the verge of collapse. IUU fishing, in particular, is threatening oceans and their ability to survive. Fish populations are being devastated, endangered species are nearing elimination, and developing nations’ waters are being emptied of life.
To combat this degradation, the Age of Union donation will fund the operating costs of a 56 metre (184 foot) long Sea Shepherd vessel for three years, beginning January 2022, under the name Age of Union.
Currently docked in Portugal, Age of Union will embark on Operation Dolphin Bycatch in February in an attempt to draw international attention to the 6,000 – 10,000 dolphins killed as bycatch off the West Coast of France every year. The Age of Union ship will patrol to prevent this bycatch of dolphins. From there, the ship will journey to the West Coast of Africa to protect marine wildlife for three months.
Without the presence of a patrol vessel like Age of Union, industrial ships routinely fish illegally in West African communities, robbing them of their food source. Fish is the number one source of protein for local communities in these areas. At least 33,000 people in Liberia and 200,000 people in The Gambia depend on small-scale fisheries for their livelihood.
“Sea Shepherd is proud to have the support of Age of Union. Thanks to their passion and support, we will expand our operations, save more wildlife, and protect critical marine habitats that are crucial to the survival of our oceans,” said Alex Cornelissen, CEO of Sea Shepherd, who in 2014 took over from Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson, who started the NGO in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1977.
Cornelissen now directs the movements of the Sea Shepherd’s worldwide fleet, which now consist of 12 vessels and several smaller boats used in ocean conservation campaigns.
“Shoulder to shoulder, we stand in our fight against poachers in the larger effort to save our oceans,” Cornelissen said. “To honor the partnership with Age of Union, we will proudly bear their name on one of our flagship vessels.”
Marine Wildlife at Risk
● Every year, up to 10,000 dolphins are killed off France’s West Coast, twice as many dolphins killed as bycatch in all other countries combined.
● With populations of fish off the coasts of Europe and Asia collapsing, the waters of West Africa are a place where there have been recent depletion of fish populations. For instance, the Gulf of Guinea is a critical habitat for tuna, humpback whales and whale sharks, but IUU fishing is responsible for up to 40 percent of the catch in West Africa, requiring immediate action to prevent this.
● Fish is the number one source of protein for local communities in West African countries. At least 33,000 people in Liberia and 200,000 people in The Gambia depend on small-scale artisanal fisheries for their livelihood. To protect their interests, governments have established protected areas reserved for small-scale local fishers where industrial fishing is strictly prohibited.
Without the presence of a vessel like Age of Union, industrial ships illegally fish even these areas, stealing from local communities by robbing them of their food source and livelihoods, leaving little for their families.
Sea Shepherd’s projects off the coasts of France and Africa are the beginning of the Age of Union vessel’s plans for the next three years. Support from Age of Union will continue to keep the vessel operational until the end of 2024, helping to ensure worldwide protection of marine wildlife and threatened species.
Sea Shepherd operates in the intersection of illegal fishing and marine conservation. The group provides unique, at sea capacity to serve and support developing coastal and island nations in their protection of sovereign waters against IUU fishing.
As the only NGO operating in this space, the organization’s goal is to enhance a government’s capacity for monitoring, control, and surveillance at sea. Working under direct supervision and in complete partnership with host nations, Sea Shepherd provides fully-equipped vessels, professional crews, fuel, and other tools that enhance their ability to detect and deter IUU fishing.
Over the past five years, Sea Shepherd assisted law enforcers from our partner governments as they arrested 73 vessels resulting in numerous successful prosecutions. These efforts increased monetary recoveries for Sea Shepherd partners, reduced subsequent maritime crimes, and helped restore fish populations available to artisanal fishers.
The Age of Union Alliance started with projects across five countries. In addition to the Sea Shepherd, the Alliance currently backs a Nature Conservancy of Canada project designed to preserve Quebec’s Saint Lawrence River; a Junglekeepers-led Amazon Rainforest sanctuary and ranger program expansion; and a wildlife corridor expansion in the Democratic Republic of Congo focused on protecting the country’s endangered species.
Featured image: The new Sea Shepherd vessel, Age of Union, berthed in Portugal before its voyage to the West Coast of France. 2022 (Photo courtesy Sea Shepherd)