Operation Milagro III, Sea Shepherd USA’s third campaign to protect the critically endangered vaquita porpoise, is receiving an impressive addition in the form of the 56-meter anti-poaching ship, the Motor Vessel Sam Simon. Thanks in large part to donations made by Stanley Tomchin, formerly the world’s most successful professional games player, the M/V Sam Simon has joined the M/V Farley Mowat for the first time on a Milagro campaign, doubling efforts to protect the vaquita marine reserve in Mexico’s Gulf of California. Tomchin, recognizing the importance of marine conservation and the global impact of Sea Shepherd’s initiatives, has given the society the full support of his charity, The Tomchin Family Charitable Foundation.
With an estimated population of less than sixty individuals, the vaquita porpoise, the world’s smallest and most rare marine mammal, faces a real threat of extinction. Through partnerships with the Mexican government, local biologists and other non-governmental organizations, Operation Milagro III Sea Shepard USA works to save the species by patrolling for poachers, collecting data, documenting issues facing the porpoise, and conducting outreach in the region. The largest threat to the vaquita’s survival continues to be illegal gill nets dropped by poachers, which often cause the porpoise to become entangled and unable to reach the surface for air. The Sam Simon, which has arrived to aid the Farley Mowat in the Sea of Cortez after tackling unlawful fishing in the Plemmirio Marine Reserve in Sicily, Italy, is equipped with the crucial modifications necessary to retrieve the harmful fishing gear while allowing any animals captured within to be freed safely.
A former Japanese weather survey ship, the Sam Simon was purchased by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in 2012 after being retired by the Japanese Government in 2010. The vessel served valiantly in four consecutive campaigns, combatting whalers and ending the notorious Bandit 6 Antarctic poaching ring, but was dry-docked in Germany in December of 2015 due to multiple damages sustained throughout that period. In the following months, generous contributions from Stanley Tomchin allowed for the Sam Simon to be completely repaired, repainted, and renovated to prepare for its voyage to the Gulf of California. Regarding Operation Milagro, Captain Oona Layolle believes the ship will have an invaluable impact on the efforts to rescue the vaquita,
“We are truly grateful for the $50,000 donation from Mr. Tomchin. There are less that 60 vaquita left in this world and he is helping Sea Shepherd save this species that’s on the brink of extinction. His donation enables us to patrol the vaquita refuge, look for poachers and remove the illegal gillnets that drown this small and elusive porpoise. His generous donation has made a huge difference in our efforts.“
Stanley Tomchin is a retired professional games player and charitable activist of over twenty years. As a young man, Tomchin travelled the world enjoying years of success as a chess, bridge and backgammon player. Today, the dedicated philanthropist resides in Las Vegas, seeking out and helping those less fortunate personally and with the help of his sister, Joy.