WildAid World Oceans Day Challenge 2018

WILDAID’S OCEANS WEEK CHALLENGE

Happy World Oceans Week!

With your support, WildAid is answering the call to protect our oceans from the threat of illegal fishing and ghost fishing gear by strengthening enforcement of the world’s marine protected areas – designated sanctuaries that are vital for mantas, sea turtles, sharks and other marine animals.

A WildAid donor will match online contributions up to a total of $25,000 through June 8 to support marine protection in Ecuador, which is under threat from illegal fishing and ghost fishing gear.

WildAid supports Ecuador’s Ministry of Environment to protect Ecuador’s network of marine protected areas — a series of pristine coastal habitats that harbor an amazing diversity of marine life including 20 kinds of whales and dolphins, hammerhead and whale sharks, and countless species of fish, corals, and mollusks. We have helped Machalilla National Park rangers to:

  • Recover hundreds of ghost fishing nets and longlines (abandoned fishing gear that entangles marine life) over the last two years;
  • Rescue 15 humpback whales entangled in longlines and nets since 2013;
  • Increase patrols by 162% since 2016;
  • Successfully rehabilitate 75 injured sea turtles and release them back to the sea.

In honor of this year’s World Oceans Day focus on plastics, we will tackle ghost fishing gear, which accounts for over 100,000 dolphin, whale, sea turtle and sea lion deaths every year. A recent study found that gill nets specifically, trap and kill over 40,000 sea turtles every year in Ecuador alone. The rangers at Machalilla National Park patrol their waters every day and recover abandoned fishing gear during their patrols. As they work, they release marine life trapped in nets or longlines, including sea turtles, sharks, and mantas. To support the rangers, we need your help to:

  • Renovate their ranger station with the installation of plumbing and electricity, which would allow rangers to stay there during multi-day patrols. This would decrease operating costs for the park and increase time on the water to defend against illegal and ghost fishing gear.
  • Install a second surveillance camera to monitor 100% of the reserve to better detect poachers leaving their fishing gear and deter them from entering the protected area.
  • Fund ranger patrols around Machalilla’s abundant waters to defend them from the threat of illegal fishing.

Please help us meet our goals this year with your donation of just $100, which will pay for one patrol. We thank you in advance!

ABOUT MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK

In the heart of Ecuador’s coast, Machalilla National Park and its famous Isla de la Plata, host the largest population of giant manta rays in the world with over 1,500 individuals, feeding zones for humpback whales, aggregations of thousands of nesting and hatchling sea turtles, pristine coral reefs, crabs, and tropical reef fish.

“Isla de la Plata is the undiscovered jewel of the Pacific. Lying just offshore of the mainland of Ecuador […], this little diamond in the rough boasts some of the most spectacular manta ray diving in the world and unforgettable up-close encounters with massive mature individuals.” — Dr. Andrea Marshall, Ray of Hope expeditions and “Manta Queen”

Unfortunately, its extensive biodiversity also attracts illegal fishing. Species, such as giant mantas, that swim slowly and near the surface are particularly at risk for entanglement in illegal long lines and gill nets.

“Ghost gear has become a huge but overlooked threat to marine life, and 640,000 metric tons of it are added to the oceans each year – a rate of more than a ton every minute.” — The Independent

We are committed to protecting the unique ecosystem at Machalilla National Park from the threat of ghost gear and illegal fishing for years to come.

A New Ranger Station to Protect Sharks in Galapagos

Home to nearly 3,000 marine species the Galapagos Islands encompass a truly unique ocean environment, hosting humpback whales, sea turtles, manta rays, and a 2016 National Geographic Pristine Seas study found that the northern area of the Galapagos, around the small islands of Darwin and Wolf, was home to the largest shark biomass in the world. The Ecuadorian government announced the creation of a new 15,000-square-mile marine sanctuary — an expansion of the “no-take” zone of the Galapagos Marine Reserve — to protect the area surrounding Darwin and Wolf in March 2016.

Unfortunately and despite sharp declines, illegal fishing is still a problem given the Reserve’s abundant marine life. Most of these commercial fishing infractions take place at the borders of the reserve, which requires trips as long as 575 miles to Darwin and Wolf from Santa Cruz and last as many as five days. WildAid together with Galapagos National Park has developed a plan to reduce patrol distances and decrease operating costs for the park by more than $2.4 million annually, all while providing greater coverage for the reserve and investing in a new patrol fleet for the park.

A crucial part of this project is the construction of a new ranger station at Pinta Island, which is inside the Darwin and Wolf and will allow rangers to quickly intercept illegal fishing infractions at the Darwin and Wolf Marine Sanctuary. You can help us achieve this goal and protect sharks and other marine species in the Galapagos.

A canine unit to prevent invasive species in Galapagos

Invasive species pose one of the greatest threats to the conservation of the Galapagos Islands. That’s why WildAid helped the Galapagos Biosecurity Agency form a specialized canine unit to protect these unique islands from illegal products that may contain invasive species.

Last year, we selected and trained one dog, Rex, and three handlers, and built kennels and offices for the unit. Rex spent three months training in the identification of nine odors prohibited from entering the Galapagos, but commonly found on passengers attempting to smuggle them onto the islands. Their handlers were selected using a variety of personality and aptitude tests, and trained on canine care and handling.

The canine unit is a versatile and low-cost method to prevent the entry of invasive species on the islands. You can help us grow this unit with the addition of a new dog and specialized training to protect Galapagos ports.

Manta and Whale Shark Research in Lamakera, Indonesia

Lamakera village was one of the world’s top manta hunting site– previously landing over 1,000 mantas in a single season. In 2014, this small fishing village and all of Indonesia was declared a manta sanctuary. Together with WildAid, Misool Foundation has been working in Lamakera for the past three years to help manta fishermen find alternative livelihoods to ensure the success of the new sanctuary.

Since then, 80% of the former manta fishers have been trained as manta researchers, enforcement officials or in new sustainable fisheries. The new research program has helped educate the community on the benefits of mantas, whale sharks and other marine animals for the ocean and as a draw for ecotourism. We are currently building a research center and photographing and tagging these animals to identify them and track their migratory patterns to ensure their protection across the entire route.

You can help us in this crucial work with funding for additional equipment and training for new researchers and community rangers.

Rescue humpback whales snared by fishing gear in Ecuador

Every summer, humpback whales travel thousands of miles to mate and birth their calves near Isla de la Plata. Due to its productive waters and abundance of commercial fish species, it is also the site of rampant illegal fishing. The numerous illegal gill nets and longlines set by poachers can tangle and drown the whales.

Machalilla’s park rangers developed a humpback whale rescue program four years ago where specially trained rangers, upon finding an entangled whale, jump in the water to cut away the fishing lines. Through a combination of patrols and community outreach, the Machalilla rangers are notified of entanglements and have rescued 14 whales to date. You can help Machalilla’s park rangers rescue more humpback whales this year with increased patrols, the purchase of equipment to help during these daring rescues and community outreach.

Support Vaquita Conservation and Fishermen in Mexico

The world’s smallest porpoise is on the brink of extinction. The vaquita marina (little sea cow) is onlyfound in the Northern Sea of Cortez and fewer than 12 individuals remain (a dramatic decrease from last year). While fishermen do not target the vaquita directly, its numbers are decreasing due to entanglements in gillnets used to trap the totoaba fish.
Although Mexico enacted a gillnet ban in the vaquita’s marine habitat, illegal fishing runs rampant and the lucrative totoaba trade takes precedence to vaquita conservation for fishers in the area. Monitoreo Vaquita is a Mexican organization composed of local fishers that care about vaquita conservation. The group was founded in 2010 to monitor the vaquita population and remove gill nets from the water. Together with international scientists, Monitoreo Vaquita currently has 84 hydrophones in the vaquita habitat to acoustically monitor their population and last year removed 115 nets from the ocean.
With your help, we can continue tracking the vaquita population, provide a small salary for the Monitoreo Vaquita fishermen, and educate the community about the importance of the vaquita.

Sea turtle rehabilitation hospital in Machalilla National Park

Sea turtles in Ecuador face many dangers as they seek to nest along the country’s beaches. Since 2012, the Machalilla marine wildlife hospital has rescued more than 300 sea turtles suffering from various injuries including lesions and internal damage by fishing hooks and entrapment with marine debris, as well as fractures from boat collisions. Other patients include 10 sea lions and more than 300 sea birds over the last five years.
Food and medications are donated by the community or purchased by the Machalilla park rangers out of pocket. We seek to increase the number of sea turtles treated at one time from 25 to 35, improve operations and ensure better diagnosis and treatment of injuries, as well as purchase medications, a digital x-ray machine, surgical equipment and upgrade aging equipment.

Patrolling the seas in Ecuador

Thousands of sea turtle hatchlings make their way to the sea every year from Ecuador’s beaches, but unfortunately less than 1% survive to adulthood facing dangers from illegal fishing equipment, collisions with boats and ghost nets.
Sea turtles are an important part of a healthy marine ecosystem. We will protect sea turtles in the ocean by improving surveillance at sea to prevent fishing practices that often result in sea turtle deaths and injuries, such as long line and gill net fishing. A regular patrol schedule, improved training for park rangers and equipment purchases for safe and effective patrols can all increase the quality and quantity of patrols. During patrols, park rangers gather floating drift nets, and confiscate illegal fishing gear, which together are responsible for myriad sea turtle injuries and deaths as incidental bycatch. These activities encourage responsible fishing practices and compliance with regulations that protect sea turtles.

Sea turtle nest tagging and community outreach

Ecuador’s beaches provide an ideal nesting spot for four sea turtle species (Green Turtles, Leatherbacks, Olive-Ridley and critically endangered Hawksbill sea turtles). Sea turtles are an important part of a healthy marine ecosystem and generate more than one million dollars in tourism for Ecuador annually.
Last year, WildAid worked with park rangers in Pacoche Wildlife Refuge and Marine Reserve to mark sea turtle nests to protect them from predators, deter poachers and educate the community on the benefits of sea turtles to the marine ecosystem and tourism. We released more than 30,000 sea turtle hatchlings to the sea and complemented the patrols with environmental education for over 2,800 local school children. This year, we want to increase the number of sea turtle hatchlings rescued by patrolling and marking nests at two additional nesting sites at Santa Elena and Machalilla National Parks.