New Vaquita art

Here is a poem that I wrote for an upcoming poetry competition focused on ocean pollution:

THE NETS WE FORGET

The dark gray sky casts its shadow on the sea,
The sea swells with the wind, whipping up froth.
Thunder booms among the rolling clouds;
Lightning flashes in the distance,
But underneath, it is calm.
The muffled sound of the storm above dances off the coral.
Small reef fish swarm in and out of nooks and crannies.
All seems fine at first, but there is something wrong here.
A ghost enters the scene.
A nearly invisible drifter.
A gillnet.
But this fishing net does not belong to anybody.
It has been abandoned,
But its job is not done.
This ghost still has lives to take.
First comes a shrimp,
A puny pink prawn:
Gone.
His life ends and is doomed to drift away,
Trapped forever.
Next is a fish.
A huge one at that.
He swims right into the net,
And in the blink of an eye,
The life leaves his body.
A little porpoise swims through the shallows,
Bubbles dancing down her side.
She’s teaching her baby how to fish.
They happen upon a juicy meal,
But as the mother darts towards the target,
She is struck by a web of death.
The fish they were chasing
Was already a victim.
The baby, terrified, watches as her mother writhes in agony.
And the ghost has taken yet another life.

Here is a double exposure image, made from a Vaquita photograph and an ocean sunset photograph that I combined using digital software:Vaquita Double Exposure

And here is a mosaic of a Vaquita made out of hundreds of photographs taken during International Save the Vaquita Days 2014 & 2015:

ISTVD Mosaic

International Save the Vaquita Day has become a huge event, and one that has been—and will continue to be—making a legitimate difference for the Vaquita and its survival. Showing the people and government of Mexico that the world cares about the Vaquita and appreciates their efforts to date will hopefully inspire them to follow through with their promises and actually save this species. To make ISTVD 2016 the biggest one yet, help ignite the buzz and donate to the event by buying a cool ISTVD 2016 t-shirt!

https://www.booster.com/international-save-the-vaquita-day-2016

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World Oceans Day 2014

Happy Memorial Day!

Sunday, June 8th, is World Oceans Day 2014! Like last year, my family will be hosting a table in Boston’s New England Aquarium for their World Oceans Day celebration! Please join us between 11:00 am and 4:00 pm for a day of fun, learning, and conservation!

World Oceans Day Vaquita

The New England Aquarium is big on ocean conservation, and has created the live blue™ Initiative, a project that protects endangered marine species and their habitats. I look forward to educating the public on one of the planet’s rarest and least-known species, the Vaquita, at this wonderful aquarium.

Please check out this really neat website about bycatch, with great statistics and graphics: http://www.bijvangst.org/en/home

Elaborating on my last post, Project #ChangeOurPerception, here is Anthony Bourdain’s blog, which talks a lot about the evolving food culture of Mexico, and The Truth About Mexico, a great Facebook page showing the positive truth about this extremely misunderstood and under-visited country.

Below are some photos of the Vaquita-related things that I have gotten in the past few months:

My dad’s Vaquita calf carving, to go with the mother he made earlier:

Calf Carving

Stephen and Anthony Palumbi’s book, The Extreme Life of the Sea, which contains a few pages about the Vaquita:

The Extreme Life of the Sea cover

The Extreme Life of the Sea interior

Jean-Pierre Sylvestre’s Dolphins & Porpoises: A Worldwide Guide, which we found in an old book shop:

Dolphins and Porpoises

Dolphins and Porpoises interior

Beach Bar Radio and Save the Whales/VIVA Vaquita’s awesome shirt from their Booster campaign:

Save the Whales back

And this cool t-shirt from Vince Radice’s Vaquita documentary Indiegogo campaign:

Vince Radice Shirt Front

Point Vicente Interpretive Center

My book is now being sold in the Point Vicente Interpretive Center! The Center, located in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, adjacent to the Point Vincente Lighthouse, is dedicated to teaching its visitors about the history of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. They hosted one of Muskwa’s Vaquita tables on July 6 for National Save the Vaquita Day, and have been a very useful ally in our efforts. They will now be holding my book in their gift shop!

In addition, the gift shop will be having a book signing this Saturday, November 9, from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm, where you can pick up a pre-signed copy of my book (I obviously cannot be there, considering I am 2,726 miles away). If you live in the area, please stop by to explore the Center and get a copy of the world’s first Vaquita book!

Also, please subscribe to TheMuskwaclub on YouTube. They have some great videos, including The Vanishing Vaquita. You do not need to have a YouTube account to subscribe. If they reach 100 subscribers, they can begin some awesome new projects that will be very entertaining and informative.

The big 3

According to leading Vaquita researcher Dr. Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, there are 3 initiatives that we members of the general public can participate in to legitimately make a difference in the Vaquita’s situation. They are:

1. Raise awareness
2. Convince restaurants to only buy their shrimp from safe sources
3. Raise money towards the switch-out program

The first one has so many different levels to it. This blog is an example of the online branch of public awareness, as is a Vaquita-related Facebook post. Another branch is face-to-face awareness, such as the tables manned by the Muskwa Club and ¡Viva Vaquita!, or a Vaquita speech at an event. Some other things that can raise awareness are books (mine is the only one so far), pamphlets, or public service announcements (especially on the radio). The online branch is the easiest and most effective, because you can instantly send information around the world with the click of a button. The hard part is getting the information to a large enough audience with the information being worthwhile enough that they will, in turn, pass it around to other people. Luckily, the Vaquita is a very worthwhile cause. So all you need to do is start a chain of posts about it, and those very posts could end up being read by every person on earth.

The second one is only for the dedicated Vaquita conservationist. It would require quite a bit of research and getting out of the house. For example, the next time you go to Red Lobster, ask your waiter where the shrimp comes from. If they don’t know, ask to speak with the manager. I honestly have never seen shrimp that was not farm-raised somewhere in Asia, but I always make sure. Always. Even though there is much debate as to how/where shrimp should be caught for maximum sustainability, anything other than gillnet-caught in the Gulf of California is fine from a Vaquita standpoint. It is most important to check restaurants and grocery stores for Vaquita-unsafe shrimp if you live near Mexico, in places like California and Arizona. There are many sites, including http://vaquita.tv/, that go into detail about sustainable seafood. After all, gillnet fishing is the only thing wiping out the Vaquita. Why not make sure that you aren’t supporting it?

The third and final initiative is raising money towards the switch-out program. The Muskwa Club and the American Cetacean Society Los Angeles Chapter have teamed up to create the only charity that sends money directly to the switch-out program, and nothing else. This is vital because the switch-out program is believed to be the best chance for the Vaquita, because it is unreasonable to think that the fishermen will just give up fishing for some unknown business that could get them nowhere financially. The switch-out is a best of both worlds situation, because the fishermen still can fish with the new nets that have proven to be as or more effective than gillnets, while the Vaquitas are put in little to no danger whatsoever. To donate to the new charity, please write a check to P.O. Box 1208, San Pedro, CA 90733-1208 and write Vaquita on the memo line. Yes, I know it is a cliché, but every dollar really does count. But the Muskwa Club has bigger plans. We are attempting to contact eco-conscious celebrities and billionaires as potential funding sources. Leonardo DiCaprio and Pierce Brosnan are both part of huge efforts to save tigers and whales, so why not the Vaquita? Warren Buffett just donated $2.6 billion to charity. Yes, you read that correctly. The entire switch-out program can be funded with, at most, $180 million. I am not necessarily saying we are going to get $180 million from Mr. Buffett, but it is exciting to think about what one human can do. He can literally save a species, in theory.

Maybe I will start playing the lottery.

Do your part

Today, Saturday, July 6, is National Save the Vaquita Day. If there was ever a day to help the Vaquita, today’s the day. I am asking you to do your part to save the Vaquita, even if you only do something seemingly miniscule. For example, today I am riding my bike around my neighborhood, putting Vaquita flyers in people’s mailboxes (I couldn’t man the Virginia table due to travel reasons). To do your part today, you could attend a Vaquita table (click here for a list), donate through ¡Viva Vaquita!’s website, buy my book, post a status update about the Vaquita on a social network, fill out this survey with the Vaquita’s information and range (the northern Gulf of California, Mexico), ride your bike around your neighborhood with the printable, quarter-sheet flyers below, make a pledge to have a DVD (Daily Vaquita Duty), or any combination of those. I would love to hear your ideas about how you can help the Vaquita today and every other day, so please leave what you did today in the comments. Thank you so much for your participation in this vital new holiday.

Vaquita Flyers

World Oceans Day summary

Sunday, June 9, was the New England Aquarium‘s World Oceans Day Celebration. My family and I had a Vaquita table there, and it went better than well. We got the all-time Muskwa record of 438 table visitors, and combined with Muskwa’s other two tables in California and Connecticut, we directly educated 803 people about the Vaquita this weekend for World Oceans Day! Boston is a beautiful city and the aquarium is amazing, and combined with the perfect, non-windy weather right on the peaceful harbor, the stage was set for an amazing day.

We set up the table at about 10:15 am and the visitors started flowing in 15 minutes early at about 10:45. We got almost 20 people before the event even started. And for the rest of the day, we got almost 100 visitors per hour.

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At the table, we had a lot of things. Behind us was a beautiful, life-size Vaquita vinyl banner hanging via one of my mom’s photography backdrop holders. The table was covered in a nice black tablecloth and had comfortable chairs, both put there before we arrived. On the table we had:

1. About 250 paper Vaquita cutouts that kids got to color with markers and pastels. We then tangled up the Vaquita in the fishing net taped to the front of the table for the kids to rescue and take home. On the back of the Vaquitas were V-log and the Muskwa Club’s and web addresses for parents to visit.

2. A poster featuring some of my drawings and included information on the Vaquita.

3. Flyers with info on the Vaquita, with instructions on how to donate to the switch-out, a link to my blog, and more.

4. Examples of what a Vaquita looks like, including paper Vaquitas decorated by my siblings, drawings by various artists, and plush Vaquitas.

5. And of course, ourselves to engage and teach people of all ages about this tiny endangered porpoise.

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As the day went on, we got more comfortable with our “speech,” which was the guideline of what we said to every visitor of the table.  It explained the basics of the Vaquita’s situation and ended with telling them how they could help and giving them a flyer if they were really interested. We ended up giving away all but one flyer, and all of the paper Vaquitas. In fact, we gave away the last of 250 paper Vaquitas to a kid at 3:59, with one minute left of the event.  Everyone we talked to seemed very interested in the Vaquita’s situation, and the kids loved the craft. Because it would be difficult and unnecessary for all five of my family members to attend the table at the same time during the entire five-hour event, we took shifts where two or three of us walked around while the rest covered the table. While walking around, we checked out the other tables, which were all very interesting and worth spending some time at.

We also explored the New England Aquarium itself. The aquarium is probably the nicest I have ever been to. They are right on the harbor, and Boston is a very laid back city, which provided a very peaceful atmosphere. Inside the aquarium were some amazing animals and exhibits. They have Myrtle the Green Sea Turtle, who could be 85 years old, Atlantic Harbor and Northern Fur Seals, California Sea Lions, adorable Little Blue Penguins, and hundreds of species of fish and other marine life. But perhaps my favorite exhibit was Voices in the Sea. Voices in the Sea is a touchscreen exhibit (see blogroll) that features many marine mammals with information, videos, and more about the animal. I had suspicions that VITS would be at the New England Aquarium, so when I found it, I was pleasantly surprised. The best part is that VITS has the Vaquita! All of the information is 100% accurate, and there are three videos explaining different aspects of the Vaquita’s situation. I was glad to see that the aquarium was educating people about the Vaquita with Voices in the Sea.

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World Oceans Day was the best day of my life. I loved educating people directly about the Vaquita, because I was so used to just writing about it. It was a rewarding experience that I hope to duplicate on National Save the Vaquita Day, July 6.