From Sea Shepherd UK’s foundation in 2005 the charity’s primary purpose has remained that of supporting Sea Shepherd’s fleet of conservation vessels on campaigns around the world. However, growth in recent years has also allowed our charity to start campaigns around the UK and to other countries both independently and in cooperation with other Sea Shepherd entities such as Sea Shepherd Global based in the Netherlands. Sea Shepherd UK has also worked with UK based charities such as the Cornwall Wildlife Trust (Cornwall Marine and Coastal Code Group), the SSPCA, Fathoms Free, The Seahorse Trust and supporting where we can British Divers Marine Life Rescue with our UK based RHIBs.
Seal Defence Campaign 2014-15 (Scotland)
Sea Shepherd UK completed in late August 2015 the second year of our ‘Scottish Seal Defence Campaign’ monitoring the activities of Wild Salmon Netting companies and fish farms to discourage or directly prevent the illegal killing of common and grey seals which are protected species in the UK and European Union. The campaign crew also engaged in seal monitoring expeditions to the Hebrides, Orkney islands, South West Scotland, North West England and North Eastern England.
Sea Shepherd UK’s Seal Defence Campaign over the two years utilised 71 volunteers from 12 countries utilising three of Sea Shepherd UK’s boats ‘Spitfire’, ‘Mermaid of Makaha’ and ‘Joker’ together with a privately owned fast boat ‘Togs’, while land patrols included our first use of a dedicated 4x4 vehicle ‘Koyah’ and an amphibious drone ‘Kuiper’ which had both been kindly donated by Sea Shepherd UK supporters.
The campaign generated significant media attention and has documented several potential illegal shootings of protected grey seals as well multiple cases of allegedly illegal killing of protected UK seabird species by UK fishermen at multiple locations.
The Seal Defence Campaign also reduced the numbers of seals shot (by fishermen and associated persons monitored) decrease from around 120 (in 2013) to less than 10 (in 2015) and to less than 30 (in 2016) with no discernible affect to legal fishing activities. The campaign also reported multiple cases of illegal fishing outside of permitted hours to River Bailiffs which resulted in illegally set nets being cut from the water by River Bailiffs in Dunnet Bay.
Accounting for local reports and estimates of illegal shootings of seals - the numbers of seals saved during the campaign is likely in excess of 200 animals as well as resulting in many protected seabirds being freed from coastal fixed engine nets which otherwise may have been left to drown or be killed by salmon netsmen.
Operation Grindstop 2014 (Faroe Islands)
Sea Shepherd UK loaned our largest RHIB ‘MV Spitfire’ to the Sea Shepherd Global campaign ‘Operation Bloody Fjords’. Spitfire and her crew made an unprecedented open sea crossing of 230nm direct from Scotland overnight in rough weather from where the boat joined the campaign fleet. Around a month later Spitfire was used to potentially save a pod of over 200 Atlantic white sided dolphins driving them away from a grindadráp killing bay near Torshavn before the vessel was seized by Danish Special Forces and the Faroese Police. It took over 2.5 years until finally in November 2016 a Danish court heard the case in the Faroese capital and ruled to release Spitfire back to Sea Shepherd UK with no charges.
Operation Bloody Fjords 2016 (Faroe Islands)
Sea Shepherd UK placed two covert filming and drone teams in the Faroe Islands during the summer of 2016 in order to document the killing of Pilot whales and dolphins in the grindadráp hunts and the close association with fish farm sites around the islands.
Great Australian Bight Alliance 2016 (Australia)
Sea Shepherd UK joined the ‘Great Australian Bight Alliance’ in June 2016 to apply public pressure in the UK and overseas to prevent the hazardous deep sea drilling for oil in the Great Australian Bight, one of the last pristine ocean areas in the world and breeding area for many threatened marine creatures including cetaceans and unique shark species. As part of this partnership Sea Shepherd UK organised a major demonstration in London Docklands which we believe helped influence shareholders of oil giant BP into persuading the company to pull out of the Great Australian Bight – which in turn may influence other oil companies to change their plans in the same ocean area.
Operation Infinite Patience 2016-17 (Japan)
Sea Shepherd UK coordinated Operation Infinite Patience and the international crew of ‘Cove Guardians’ in Taiji, Japan from October 2016 to April 2017. Sea Shepherd UK crew ran a successful campaign including obtaining drone and kayak footage which was used for an educational video as well as daily livestreaming of the hunting, trading and killing of small cetaceans.
Shetland Patrols 2017 (Scotland)
Sea Shepherd UK also engaged in three reconnaissance patrols by land and sea during 2017 using two of Sea Shepherd UK’s rigid inflatable boats (Siren and Dragon) and a small team of divers around Shetland to research issues affecting wild fish species and marine mammals from potentially illegal practises by the prolific aquaculture (Salmon farming) industry around the islands. The results of these patrols will provide a basis for future campaigns to monitor the aquaculture industry which is having such a negative impact on wild Salmon, seals and many other marine species.
Operation Bloody Fjords 2017 (Faroe Islands)
Sea Shepherd UK coordinated 10 teams of volunteers to the Faroe Islands as part of Operation Bloody Fjords 2017 to record and expose the killing of Pilot Whales and in particular Atlantic White Sided Dolphins in the Faroese drive hunts (known locally as the grindadráp) where an average 800 small cetaceans are killed each year in hunts which would be illegal and deemed animal cruelty (by their nature) in any EU nation, including the Kingdom of Denmark which owns the Faroe Islands. The campaign which ran from 1st June to 31st August was a huge success generating photos and reports which were reported extensively around the world by major media networks.
Ghostnet Campaign (UK)
In January 2018 Sea Shepherd UK announced ‘Operation Ghostnet UK’ our first campaign to remove hazardous ghost fishing gear from coastal areas around England, Scotland and Wales. Once lost or discarded, sections of fishing net and other fishing equipment can drift through the ocean or be left snagged on wrecks, rocks and reefs indiscriminately killing marine wildlife for decades.
SSUK’s ghostnet campaign as a long-term operation and we will work closely with the Marine Management Organisations and other relevant authorities in England, Scotland and Wales to ensure that ghost fishing equipment is removed safely, legally and without harm to the environment or wildlife. Sea Shepherd is cooperating on this campaign with the expert UK ghost gear retrieval charity ‘Fathoms Free’ based on the South coast of England.
To enhance our diver deployment capabilities for the new ghostnet campaign, SSUK obtained in November 2017 an ex-RNLI (and ex-Dorset Police) twin engine Atlantic 75 RHIB which has been renamed ‘GHOST’ in recognition of the boat’s first campaign with Sea Shepherd UK.
Other recent Sea Shepherd UK activities include:
- Supporting ocean going vessels used for conservation work which are owned and/or operated by Sea Shepherd Global (based in the Netherlands) by providing funds for their maintenance and fuel for active campaigns in coastal and high seas campaigns for marine wildlife.
- Supporting small boat crews by providing essential safety equipment such as helmets and survival suits to ensure the safety of volunteers on conservation campaigns.
- A dramatically increased program of beach cleaning activities as part of our ‘Marine Debris Campaign’ around the UK coastline including around 30 beach cleans during just March and early April 2018.
- Sea Shepherd UK has also been cooperating with The Seahorse Trust on investigations into the illegal importation into the UK of protected seahorse species from Asia, primarily as jewellery/decorations sold via international online auction/sales websites.
- Sea Shepherd UK offers a reward for information leading to the successful conviction of individuals or groups for specific crimes against marine wildlife set at £2500 for information leading to the successful prosecution of any individuals or companies who kill protected or endangered marine wildlife in UK territorial waters.
- The grant of Sea Shepherd UK’s ‘MV Spitfire’ 8.5m 400hp RHIB to Sea Shepherd Netherlands and the MY Bob Barker for IUU fishing patrols off the West coast of Africa.