Costa Rica / Panama MPA Patrols (2019-2022)
In 2019 we purchased the former US Navy / USCG ship Modoc, and converted her into a conservation vessel. We were also sponsored by Schiebel and Trakka who sponsored an S100 UAV to assist in locating vessels at sea, as well as providing surveillance over terrestrial national parks. We signed a 3-year agreement with the Costa Rican Minister of Environment that now sees us supporting government Ranger teams in offshore and jungle patrols. We are now extending these efforts to support the Panamanian government with fishery patrols in their CMAR and coastal MPAs (MORE). We provide a Belgian Malinois security dog that is used on various patrols. He tracks people in the jungle, as well as locates hidden firearms. We maintain a good relationship with Costa Rican and Panamanian governments and will continue to support them in protecting what are some of the world’s greatest National parks. HERE is the full playlist of videos from Costa Rica
Chasing the Chinese Squid Fleet (2022)
In the middle of 2022 we took our ship and film crew West of Galapagos into international waters to monitor the Chinese squid fleet. This massive fleet of vessels, many of them involved in illegal fishing in the past, lurks just outside Ecuadorian waters, and our job was to document their activities, the material of which is coming out later in the year in a TV Documentary. Below are a couple quick videos we edited ourselves.
Earthrace World Record (2004-2009)
In 2004, Captain Pete Bethune had an idea to change the world’s perception of bio-fuels, by building a radical new boat to set a new world record for circling the globe running biodiesel fuel. It took a year to raise sponsorship, and a year to then build the vessel, which was quickly dubbed “The World’s Coolest Boat”. The team made an initial attempt in 2007 that failed, but then in 2008, they returned for a second attempt that was ultimately successful. A time of 60 days 23 hours and 49 minutes was recorded, smashing the old record by over 2 weeks. The record was ratified by UIM, and still stands today. The team also took the vessel on an extensive outreach tour, visiting 186 cities over 3 years, and had over a quarter million visitors walk aboard her. Below are 2 videos about the record attempt. Here is a playlist of videos covering this extraordinary vessel, the world record, outreach tour and much more.
Earthrace in Antarctica (2009-2010)
In 2009, Earthrace partnered with Sea Shepherd. The vessel was sold to Ady Gil, and as part of the deal, Captain Bethune and his team would crew her to Antarctica and disrupt Japanese Whaling. In an event that shook the conservation world, Earthrace was controversially rammed by Japanese security vessel the Shonan Maru 2. Sea Shepherd made the decision to scuttle and abandon the vessel. Captain Bethune subsequently boarded the Shonan Maru 2 in the middle of the night from a jetski. He presented the Captain with a bill for US$3m for the damage to Earthrace. He was taken back to Japan, and incarcerated for 5-months in a maximum security prison. In many ways the ramming, and Captain Bethune’s court case galvanized public opinion against whaling, and it led to significant protests, especially in Australia and New Zealand. The Australian government eventually buckled, and just prior to Captain Bethune’s release from prison, announced court action in the International Court of Justice in the Hague, over their illegal whaling program. Japan lost the case, which eventually saw them withdraw from all whaling in Antarctica. In many ways Captain Bethune, and the crews of Earthrace and Sea Shepherd were part of an historic period in the anti-whaling movement that eliminated whaling in Antarctica. Below is a video on Earthrace being converted to the Ady Gil, as well as the full final Episode of Whale Wars Season 3 that covers Captain Bethune’s daring mission to board the Shonan Maru 2, and his incarceration and release. Here is a playlist with lots of videos covering our time in Antarctica and Japan.
Conservation Missions (2011-2012)
In 2011, Captain Bethune decided to develop a new team to focus on challenging conservation missions. He saw the areas of fisheries enforcement and anti-poaching needing new highly-skilled teams to be effective. He also recognized the opportunity to have his team partner with government units involved in fisheries and anti-poaching, giving him legitimacy of operation, and ensuring that criminals caught could be legally arrested, and prosecuted. Earthrace recruited former military personnel from various specialist units, including US Navy SEALs, US Marine Recon, French 1er (SAS), and US Army Rangers. Earthrace ran their first conservation campaign in 2012, and since then have run missions in all corners of the globe. Initially the team focused on fisheries, and this has seen them catch, arrest and prosecute countless crews involved in illegal fishing. The team ran campaigns to stop wildlife poaching, and successfully closed 2 wildlife smuggling rings in Asia. The team closed several illegal gold mining operations in Central America. In some cases the team has also worked on simply exposing illegal activities. Below are videos from a couple of these missions. You can see our various campaigns here.
“The Operatives” TV Show (2013-2016)
The first mission Captain Bethune and his team undertook after Japan was covertly filming the barbaric seal clubbing in Nambia. His team was inserted offshore by Zodiac, they swim over a mile into a heavily guarded De Beers diamond mine, and after a harrowing 3 days days of avoiding patrols and running out of food and water, they finally manage to film the massacre. Footage of the mission was later converted into a one-hour TV format which you can watch here. A full series was pitched to TV networks such as Discovery and National Geographic, however they were reluctant to take on the risk – Many of the proposed missions were extremely dangerous. Also, because the show is fully unscripted, it is expensive to make. Earthrace believed in the show however, and we persevered, eventually raising the funds to go and film the first series ourselves. Once completed, the show was renamed “The Operatives”, and was quickly picked up by Discovery, Pivot and many other networks, and our 2 seasons have now aired in over 90 countries around the world. Below is the original pilot episode shot in Namibia, as well as the sizzle reel we used in trying to first sell the show. For lots of videos, links, missions, trailers, and other information about “The Operatives”, click here.
Amazon Campaign (2017)
In 2017, we began a series of campaigns that saw smaller teams venturing into Asia, Africa and Central America. As an example, a team of just 6 spent 4 months travelling up and down the Amazon, documenting a whole series of illegal and suspect activities. The team stumbled into a wildlife smuggling operation, that saw Bethune following the trail from Requena in Peru, all the way down the Amazon to Macapa in Brazil. While investigating the illegal trade, Bethune was attacked by two men, with one of them stabbing Bethune in the chest. It was a salutary lesson in how dangerous wildlife conservation has become. A few days later Bethune returned to New Zealand and gave what he believes will be his best ever talk, at the TEDx event in Auckland. Below is the TEDx talk, as well as a typical video from the Amazon campaign. Click HERE for a full playlist of Amazon videos.
Asia Campaign (2018)
In 2018, we ran a series of Fishery patrol missions into Asia. The majority of these were run with local fishery enforcement teams. In the Philippines for example, they gave us 4 Navy SEALs, two fishery Officers, and a local Policeman. We begged, borrowed and chartered various vessels, and the end result was rather extraordinary. We caught people involved in dynamite fishing, cyanide fishing, illegal bottom trawling, and a whole array of boats fishing illegally in Marine Protected Areas. The most destructive team we caught was a team of 15 boats including 3 Purse seiners, fishing illegally in tribal waters north of Palawan. Below are a couple of videos from the Campaign. Click HERE for the full playlist of videos from this campaign.
Our Future – Earthrace-2
Our experience in Costa Rica with Modoc has highlighted the need for well funded vessels to support governments in monitoring their conservation estates. Naval assets are often fully deployed on security campaigns and narco traffic, and proactive governments such as Costa Rica and Ecuador are increasingly willing to partner with competent NGOs to help them monitor their marine areas. Our patrols on Modoc have shown how these partnerships can work – Non profits like Earthrace providing vessels, crew, and UAV surveillance, and the government providing officials to oversee operations. Modoc was built in 1944 however, and we will soon be looking to replace her with Earthrace-2 – a genuine marvel of naval architecture. Click HERE for project details. Earthrace-2 will initially be deployed in the CMAR Marine Area, encompassing Galapagos, Cocos, Malpelo and Coiba Islands, and in partnership with respective governments. She will also continue our support of Scientific Research projects to remote areas