Oona Isabelle Layolle grew up travelling the world with her French seafaring family on board different sailing boats and living on different Pacific Islands. During her travels she witnessed many underwater places and island paradises turn to dead zones with terrifying speed. Because of this she has always wanted to fight against the destruction of the planet due to human behavior. Read more about her incredible journey to become a veteran Sea Shepherd captain and Campaign Leader by the young age of 30.
Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Oona Isabelle Layolle and I’m French. I grew up travelling the world with my seafaring family on board different sailing boats, and living on different Pacific Islands. During my travels, I witnessed many underwater places and island paradises turn to dead zones in a short lapse of time. Because of that I always wanted to fight against the destruction of the planet due to human behavior.
Can you tell us how you got involved in Sea Shepherd?
I am qualified as a 500 T Captain, and while I was looking for a ship on which to work during the Mediterranean summer season 2011, I crossed paths with the Brigitte Bardot crew in France. I jumped on this perfect opportunity to finally use my skills and experience to do something that matters.
They needed someone to navigate the ship, and I had all the qualifications and experience to be that person. I was supposed to go for two months, but it has now been five great years. Sea Shepherd has been the perfect organization, because the sea is the place where I grew up and where I can put my skills and experiences to the best use to fight for life and serve our planet.
I am now a veteran of 9 Sea Shepherd missions which include three trips to Antarctica on operations Divine Wind, Zero Tolerance, and Relentless to fight illegal whaling.
I’ve also been on a mission to the South Pacific to protect sharks against shark finning, to the Faeroe Islands, and in the Mediterranean to protect the endangered Bluefin tuna. Lastly I was on a campaign in the North Pacific to study ocean pollution due to micro plastic
Since 2015 I am the Director of ship operations at Sea Shepherd USA.
Currently I am Campaign Leader and Captain for Operation Milagro II.
What is life like on board a Sea Shepherd boat?
Life aboard is a challenging, but extremely rewarding experience. Each day brings new obstacles, and ensures that we are never bored or complacent. Some days are calm, and we are able to tackle ongoing projects to keep the boat in optimal shape – maintenance and housekeeping are always happening, and it takes the full crew’s attention to keep on top of it. Other days can bring rough weather, which makes even the simplest tasks a challenge while at sea. And then of course there is the constant work of the campaign – tracking illegal fishing boat through day and night, keeping 24/7 watches on the engine room and on the bridge.
There are many forces working against your efforts to save the oceans, how do you stay focused on your objectives, even when things don’t seem to be going your way?
I am and want to be a positive person. I want to believe that humanity can change any bad habit. I feel saddened by all the forces that are working against our efforts to save the ocean. I think they are due to a huge lack of education and understanding that blinds these people about the importance of our natural world. Without nature we die. The oceans produce more oxygen than forests so we need them alive to be able to breathe!
Depending on who and what is working against our efforts, I’ll try to ignore it, find a way to go around it, or convince the hindrance to stop. And if there is no way around, then I will definitely fight the obstacle to keep going forward.
The best thing to do is to learn about your enemy as much as possible to be able to drive him to the right path or fight it better. It is a challenging task to deal with situations that are not going the way I want. But I know I am committing myself to what is right.
The magic about Sea Shepherd is that when working for a great cause, time and challenges don’t matter, what really matters is keeping the oceans safe from our destructive habits towards life. There is nothing else that could make me prouder, no matter the obstacles. I know I am doing the right thing and that makes me unstoppable.
A lot of people ask us how they can get involved in Sea Shepherd, how can someone become a volunteer on one of the ocean missions?
They can fill out the crew application to volunteer for Sea Shepherd on our web page. If they have specific skills that are required to run a ship like, cook, engineer, management, have maritime licenses or experience at sea, it will be a plus to join our ships.
You can also follow Operation Milagro on: