From June 12-14th, Sea Shepherd participated in the second annual Olamau Race on the Big Island of Hawaii, placing 14th out of 19 teams — well done for Sea Shepherd's initiation into the paddling world! The ultimate Unlimited Outrigger Canoe challenge took place over three consecutive days over a 100-mile-course of rugged ocean terrain. Organized by Sea Shepherd Hong Kong and Sea Shepherd Hawaii, the 2013 Sea Shepherd Outrigger team consisted of paddlers from two competitive paddling clubs in Hong Kong — The Victoria Recreation Club (VRC) and the Lantau Boat Club (LBC). Hailing from 7 different nations, the international crew of competitive and passionate outrigger paddlers have raced in numerous competitions around the world including Hawaii, California, Tahiti, Australia, Guam, Singapore and China.
According to LBC team captain, Kevin Kelly, "As watermen with a connection and love of the ocean, we wanted our entry into the Olamau Race to be about more than just the race, so we teamed up with the most effective ocean conservation organization in the world, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society."
With the recent launch of the Sea Shepherd Hawaii chapter and our newest campaign, Operation Reef Defense, the race came at a momentous time to raise awareness about local issues — specifically the protection of Hawaii's coral reefs which are currently under attack from mass extraction of reef wildlife for the aquarium trade. Hawaii is the third largest exporter of reef animals in the world, losing over one million reef animals per year for the highly unsustainable and cruel industry. Hawaii's reefs, which are quite narrow in scope, are visibly suffering from aquarium trade exploitation.
Olamau Director and long-time opponent of the aquarium trade, Mike Nakachi, added, "We were stoked to have Sea Shepherd included at this year's Olamau Race. We completely support the Sea Shepherd mission and need more groups that are bold enough to stand up for what is right. Sea Shepherd is not afraid to draw the line in the sand. From defending the largest of predators in the sea to the tropical reef fish right here in our own backyard — it's about protecting the entire ecological system. Our resources in Hawaii are not infinite and what the aquarium collectors are doing to our reef system here is completely destructive.
With the majority of the team based in Hong Kong, ground zero of the shark fin industry, team members were also inspired to raised awareness about Sea Shepherd's ongoing efforts to stop this brutal practice. With more than 100 million sharks killed annually worldwide, the apex predator of our oceans is in critical need of protection now more than ever. According to Sea Shepherd Hong Kong Director, Gary Stokes:
"When the guys from LBC came to me and said they wanted to raise awareness about Sea Shepherd's ocean campaigns when they were paddling in the Olamau, I saw this as a great partnership opportunity. Coming from Hong Kong, they especially wanted to draw attention to the shark fin issue as well as promote the Reef Defense campaign that recently launched in Hawaii. I am so proud of what the team achieved. Olamau is the 'Formula One' of the paddle circuit and they did the oceans proud!"
Sea Shepherd would like to extend our warmest aloha and gratitude to the entire team who also generously donated 50% of proceeds raised through private fundraising efforts to Sea Shepherd's shark and reef campaigns. We look forward to paddling with you again in the future — Mahalo nui loa!
By Deborah Bassett, Sea Shepherd Hawaii/Reef Campaign Leader
Operation Reef Defense
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