25 Endangered Totoabas Were Saved Just Before Poachers Got to Them

Sea Shepherd is celebrating an unprecedented rescue after saving 25 endangered totoaba bass in the Gulf of Mexico who were moments away from falling into the hands of poachers.

Totoaba have been increasingly targeted by poachers because of the demand for their swim bladders, which are used in Chinese medicine and are also considered a delicacy. According to Sea Shepherd, just one swim bladder can sell for more than $10,000 on the black market.

Unfortunately, not only is illegal fishing for totoaba pushing them closer to the brink, it’s also seriously threatening vaquita porpoises, who are being killed as bycatch in illegal nets. With fewer than 30 individuals left in existence, vaquita porpoises are now considered the most endangered marine mammal on earth.

Despite escalating tensions and violence in the area, Sea Shepherd has continued to patrol the Sea of Cortez in partnership with the Mexican Navy in an effort to stop illegal fishing and remove gear from the water as part of Operation Milagro IV.

Now the crew of the M/V Sharpie, one of three ships Sea Shepherd has in the area, is celebrating another successful rescue operation that saved the lives of 25 endangered totoaba at the height of their spawning season.

The totoaba were discovered after Sea Shepherd found a gillnet that was entangled in a longline. The crew saw they were still alive and immediately began working to set them free.

“It was a challenge to maintain the ship’s position in the strong current while the crew pulled the net and saved the fish quickly and efficiently, while at the same time, keeping the longline tight enough so it would not entangle my propeller” said Fanch Martin, captain of the M/V Sharpie. “The coordination of the crew and the authorities on board was intense. Everyone was involved and focused, it was an all hands on deck moment, and the crew did an amazing job, with the extraordinary outcome of saving every single totoaba in that net; this has never happened before.”

“This is a quintessential moment for Operation Milagro, saving a whole school of spawning critically endangered totoaba at once means so much,” said the M/V Sharpie’s bosun, Willie Hatfield, who coordinated the deck activities. “As we were leaving, we saw a skiff coming to retrieve the net. Those fish were five minutes away from death and we saved them, it was a miracle.”

Since 2015, Sea Shepherd has removed 596 pieces of illegal fishing gear, which has saved 2661 animals, while countless other injuries and deaths were prevented. Hopefully the totoaba who were saved will thrive, and continued efforts to protect imperiled marine life in the area will keep paying off.

Photo credit: Sea Shepherd/YouTube

58 comments

Marie W
Marie W6 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

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KimJ M
KimJ M10 months ago

tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M10 months ago

tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M10 months ago

tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M10 months ago

The Chinese have no respect at all. Please view-
Thousands of Sharks Found on Boat in Huge Illegal Haul
The confiscation of the Chinese ship and arrest of its 20 crew in the Galápagos show just how hard it is to protect marine sanctuaries.
https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/08/wildlife-watch-galapagos-illegal-shark-fishing/

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KimJ M
KimJ M10 months ago

The Chinese have no respect at all. Please view-
Thousands of Sharks Found on Boat in Huge Illegal Haul
The confiscation of the Chinese ship and arrest of its 20 crew in the Galápagos show just how hard it is to protect marine sanctuaries.
https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/08/wildlife-watch-galapagos-illegal-shark-fishing/

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HEIKKI R
HEIKKI R11 months ago

thank you

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Leanne K
Leanne K11 months ago

Ten thousand dollars for their bladder. No wonder. Chinese medicine has a lot to answer for. If we could get china to implement and stringently monitor what is and isnt allowed than we would be talking. With those sums of money and high demand, there isnt much hope.

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Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson11 months ago

Thank you.

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Carl R
Carl R11 months ago

Thanks!!

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