Sea Shepherd has renamed its patrol vessel Sam Simon after the environmental foundation Age of Union, which has announced a $4.5 million grant to support Sea Shepherd’s environmental conservation work.
The funds are sufficient to cover the vessel’s cost of operations for three years and will support its work off France and West Africa.
The legacy of Sam Simon, known best as the creator of The Simpsons, will still be memorialized within the vessel’s interior. Simon’s donation made it possible for Sea Shepherd to purchase the former Japanese vessel in 2012. The ship, originally named Seifu Maru, was previously a meteorological observation vessel for the Japanese whaling fleet.
Currently docked in Portugal, the ship’s first mission will be to observe bycatch from the fishing fleet off the west coast of France. Bycatch in this region claims the lives of 6,000 – 10,000 dolphins per year – twice as many as in all other nations’ fisheries combined, according to Sea Shepherd.
The Age of Union will be off France until end of March, and she will then depart for the West Coast of Africa for a mission to protect marine wildlife for about three months. The support from Age of Union will keep the ship operational until the end of 2024.
“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,” said Dax Dasilva, Age of Union Founder.
A Canadian tech leader and environmental activist, Dasilva established Age of Union in October last year with an initial pledge of $40 million, which will go towards protecting ecosystems around the world. Sea Shepherd is the sixth global partnership that Age of Union has announced using funds from the initial pledge.
Sea Shepherd’s historical focus was on whaling, but it has broadened its efforts to include other issues, particularly IUU fishing. In West Africa, fish stocks are being depleted at an alarming rate. Countries like The Gambia and Liberia have established protected areas reserved for small-scale local fishers where industrial fishing is strictly prohibited, but enforcement is a challenge.
Working with West African host nations and their law-enforcement agencies, Sea Shepherd provides fully-equipped vessels, crews, fuel and other tools that enhance nation-states’ abilities to detect and deter IUU fishing. Over the past five years, the NGO has assisted law enforcement to arrest 73 vessels carrying out illegal fishing.