Back in November 2012, Sea Shepherd–which is among the world’s most radical anti-whaling organizations, which they translated into the Animal Planet reality series Whale Wars–opened an office on Maui. At the time, organizer Deborah Bassett told me that they were still working out their campaign focus, though it would obviously deal with saving marine life. According to a press release Sea Shepherd’s Hawaii office sent out today, they’ve decided to focus on the degradation of Hawaii’s coral reefs, which they say is largely due to the aquarium fish trade.
“With the oceans of the world under attack from commercial extraction and pollution, our mission remains steadfast to defend marine habitat and wildlife to the fullest extent—from the smallest of reef species to the largest marine mammals and apex predators,” Bassett says in the news release. “Time is running out for these great rain forests under the sea, so we must act now.”
According to the Sea Shepherd news release, overfishing and “destructive fishing practices” are destroying coral across the globe:
• “Nearly 95 percent” of reefs in Southeast Asia are threatened;
• In Hawaii, “the top ten sought-after species of fish for aquariums have decreased by 59 percent over the last 20 years, while the most popular aquarium fish has declined in abundance from 38 to 57 percent;”
• In Jamaica, “almost all of the reefs are dead or severely degraded from overfishing and coastal pollution.”
Robert Wintner, known in Hawaii for his chain of Snorkel Bob’s dive shops, is also Sea Shepherd’s vice president. There was nothing subtle about his denunciation of the aquarium fish trade.
“Sea Shepherd is very much concerned for this wildlife and needs public support to translate these concerns into action,” WintnerA said in the news release. “We may lose support from people who keep captive marine wildlife for a hobby, but as Captain Paul Watson has stated—our clients are the creatures of the sea. We hope that all people who are concerned for the oceans will recognize the importance of protecting reef eco-systems worldwide, and that if any of our supporters do keep marine wildlife in an aquarium, they will care for the wildlife they have and refrain from purchasing any more.”
The news release adds that Sea Shepherd will “collaborate with Hawaiian dive shops and the surfing community to bring light to the destruction happening beneath the waves.” Given that such a campaign lacks the excitement of fouling whaling ships’ props on the high seas from high-speed craft, it’ll be interesting to watch how far Sea Shepherd’s high profile name can take them when television cameras aren’t rolling.
Photo of Goatfish getting cleaned by two Wrasses off Kona: Brocken Inaglory/Wikimedia Commons