Conservationists Used a Night Vision Drone to Bust Poachers in the Gulf of California
Steve Mollman - Quartz
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April 19, 2016

Totoaba Poachers Caught on Camera (Sea Shepherd Conservation Society)

On land, catching wildlife poachers in the act is difficult. On the vast open seas, it’s even harder - especially at night. A small boat using illegal gillnets can easily escape detection while indiscriminately killing all manner of marine wildlife - including endangered species - just to acquire a fish part that fetches a high price because it happens to be prized in Chinese medicine.

Sea Shepherd, a ocean conservation group known (and sometimes criticized) for its aggressive tactics, recently deployed what might be an ideal weapon for catching such poachers red-handed: a quadcopter drone equipped with a thermal night vision camera. Last week the group used such a drone to record nighttime poachers in the act with an illegal gillnet in Gulf of California waters belonging to Mexico.

The poachers quickly fled, but the conservationists, from their own boat, used the drone to track them, relaying coordinates and headings to the Mexican Navy. Once the latter took over the chase, the Sea Shepherd crew investigated the scene of the crime. In the poachers’ left-behind nets (which snag the gills, spines, or other body protrusions of a fish, causing it to become entangled) they found a variety of creatures, including four live crownose rays and two dead hammerhead sharks.

Read the rest at Quartz

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