Operation: Poseidon Clear II
Operation Poseidon Clear II was the second part of of this field project and the third visit for the Prometheus Design Werx Field Team to the Sea of Cortez in Baja, Mexico. Continuing their work in an official capacity with the Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas (National Commission of Natural Protected Areas) of the Mexican government, the PDW UET picked up where they left off to work with locals in the area to identify, locate and clear illegal fishing nets and trolling lines used by cartel-poachers that had been left behind in the waters and/or snagged on the seabed. These illegal nets placed by poachers to capture and harvest the endangered totoaba were proving to cause growing harm and damage to the populations of other marine species in the area. Their mission was to continue locating and clearing any of these poachers’ nets that could be found.
The PDW Field Team’s 1600 mile round trip on this route had now become more familiar on this third time out to and from to their command post in Baja. The Team’s well outfitted 4x4s were loaded up and dialed in for this now familiar journey.
By now, the Team had a good understanding of the area of operation and the poacher’s hotspots for setting their nets. The volcanic islands dotting the sea greeted them in their stark rocky silence and bore witness to the illegal activity around them. Conditions were near ideal with calm seas, light breezes, and mild currents. They were met with blue skies, warm weather with temperatures in the mid 80s and reports of good visibility underwater. Critical equipment was carried by each diver in their work here and the PDW Griffin™ knife and a pair of medical shears to cut away any lines and netting had become old friends. The full face dive masks with a comms system supplied by OTS based in Santa Ana, CA were indispensable in the work underwater.
The local Ranger from Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas accompanied the PDW Team on their boat to help navigate to the most recently identified hotspots and after entry into the water on the very first day of this project, the Team spotted and located one of the biggest poacher’s nets anyone in the area had ever seen.
Work began immediately to survey the span of the net which the team discovered to be approximately 125 meters long. It had been secured to the underwater rocky ledge of the island, extended as a tangent into the sea and ended at an old boat anchor on the rocky bottom. During the fly-by underwater the Team saw to their disappointment and sadness the carcasses of a seal, and a sea turtle trapped by this net. The sea turtle that was caught and had died in the poacher’s net looked fresh and couldn’t have been more than half a day old. The team members all discussed later how they wished if they could have been there just a little earlier, they might have been able to save this gentle marine animal.
The Team had their work cut out for them as they cut the netting loose from their anchor points and dragged parts of it to the surface to the members topside on the boat to haul it aboard. When the section with the sea turtle emerged, the carcass had to be cut free as well. Everyone worked in silence as the sea turtle’s body was freed from the net. It had to be set aside and later buried in a hidden location so its shell and other parts could not be harvested for other illegal trafficking. While an important find and clearance job was accomplished on the first day, the Team was already planning to continue on their mission for the next 2 days.
Smaller poachers’ nets of different varieties were located and found around other islands in the area. Of all the trips to this area in this anti-poaching capacity, this was the most “successful” in clearing these illegal nets. Conditions each day were ideal for this clearance work underwater and the Team was hopeful that their efforts were able to make a difference for the sea life there as well as the safety of the local and legitimate fishermen who make their living in this kind of work that is passed down from generation to generation. The might and force of the cartel operating in this area are nothing to be trifled with and their poaching activities are very difficult to stop, but the PDW Team’s field work here, combined with the efforts of the local rangers will hopefully help make a difference over time.
The final day the PDW Field Team took some time to explore the local areas on land and viewed the skeletal remains of the several whales whose bones had been bleached in the Mexican sun over many years. It was an otherworld experience and the bones resting in the sands reminded them of scenes from the desert planets in Star Wars movies. Each journey here also allows the PDW Field team to use, test, and evaluate their company’s products to great effect in the many challenging conditions and environments they find themselves using them in.
With each visit to this part of the world, the PDW Field Team makes new friends and are able to chalk up new experiences. Cervezas were had at the end of each dive day, good meals are had with locally caught fish courtesy of our dive leader Dale Pearson and colorful stories are told and shared by some of the locals. The Team always enjoys these journeys into the field and with objectives that they believe have value in the health and well being of our planet at large. It is also the human interactions experienced that are valued, enjoyed, and a common sense of adventure shared by all.
The anti-poaching work done here on a daily basis by the Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas continues and requires a passionate commitment by its rangers to protect the environment and many species in this region. The PDW Field Team is fortunate and honored to be part of that in some small way. The conservation work in the Sea of Cortez remains dangerous, overwhelming and done so with little resources, but they carry on because it is the right thing to do. PDW hopes to be able to participate in their efforts in the years to come. Shift your adventure paradigm. When the opportunities present themselves, or go out and make your own, PDW encourages you to seek adventure with a purpose.
Live wild, wise and free.
Team Members: Saruhén Avila Moreno (Área de Protección de Flora y Fauna Islas del Golfo de California and Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas), Evan Wong (PDW), Elias Fedorowski (Exploro), Agustin Bella III, Dale Pearson (Pearson Brothers Winery), Chris Van Loan (Chris Van Loan Photography), Patrick Ma (PDW).
Photos by: Chris Van Loan, Agustin Bella III, Patrick Ma
Story by: Patrick Ma (PDW)