On January 1st, conflict in the Upper Gulf of California intensified following collision of a vessel of the Sea Shephard environmental organization with a fishermen’s panga.
The Secretary of the Mexican Navy (SEMAR) detailed on the morning of January 1st, the “Sharpie” and the “Farley Mowat” of the Sea Shepherd non-governmental-organization were working to remove illegal fishing nets from within the polygon meant to help protect the endangered vaquita marina. Fishermen aboard smaller panga skiffs started throwing homemade explosives at the two larger vessels.
According to the report, during the Farley Mowat’s defensive maneuvers to leave the area, a small panga intentionally crossed in front of the larger boat, leading to a collision and subsequent injury of the two fishermen on board. Sea Shepherd’s “Sharpie” took part in rescue efforts of the injured fishermen, though one of the fishermen has since died from his injuries. Both fishermen were from San Felipe.
The event, along with subsequent protest and fires in San Felipe, has furthered a call from a local governmental representative for Sea Shepherd to leave the Upper Gulf in the Sea of Cortez. Representative Jesús Salvador Minor Mora of Baja California presented the Permanent Congressional Commission of the Union with a Point of Agreement, calling for the Ministry of the Navy and the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources to immediately assume responsibilities concerning sustainable and security preservation and ecological protection in the Upper Gulf of California.
A 2019 agreement between Mexico’s Federal Protection Agency (PROFEPA) and Sea Shepherd is currently in place through September 30, 2024, encompassing the provisions of technical resources as well as material and staff in helping to release or rescue sea species from trafficking practices or that have been caught in illegal nets.
This is just the latest in a series of attacks perpetrated against the Sea Shepherd recently. Lorenzo García, chair of the San Felipe Coastal Fishermen’s Federation, expressed there are deep-rooted feelings toward monitoring efforts of the Sea Shepherd, which many feel can be done by the Mexican authorities. At the same time, Garcia noted, the Navy and other authorities must act firmly against illegal fishing as it impacts the entire community and the fishing sector in particular.