Environmental organization Sea Shepherd has issued a statement saying that one of its crews has rescued a fisherman in Mexico’s Gulf of California.
During a night patrol on Wednesday, January 25, 2017, Sea Shepherd vessel Farley Mowat spotted a panga boat with four men fishing illegally in Mexico’s Gulf of California.
When the Farley Mowat shone a searchlight on the panga to identify the vessel, the fishermen immediately fled at a speed of over 30 knots. The Farley Mowat kept the spotlight on the panga but did not pursue it, claims Sea Shepherd.
According to Sea Shepherd crew, the panga stopped suddenly in the distance. A splash behind the panga was seen, although the crew was not able to identify what occurred. When the Farley Mowat approached to see if assistance was needed, one man from the panga was overboard in the water.
The Farley Mowat crew tossed him two life rings and brought the man on deck.
The fishermen on the panga told Sea Shepherd that one other member of their group had also gone overboard but was nowhere to be found.
The Mexican Navy arrived on the scene and continued the search, which has now been called off.
“Every year illegal fishermen risk their lives by fishing at night without lights, in the cold, and hiding from the authorities,” said Sea Shepherd’s Captain Oona Layolle. “Many die when they fall overboard without life jackets, and some don’t even know how to swim. They are willing to risk their lives, attracted by the lucrative black market of the totoaba swim bladder. They know the risks of their illegal activities, but they still do it for the money.”
The Farley Mowat and the Sam Simon are currently in the Gulf of California to protect the endangered vaquita porpoise. Known as the world’s smallest and rarest marine mammal, the vaquita is facing a real threat of extinction. The most recent population estimates show that there are fewer than 60 vaquita remaining.
The biggest threat to the vaquita’s survival is poachers using illegal gill nets to catch the totoaba. The totoaba, which is also threatened by extinction, is a fish found only in Mexico, whose swimming bladder is smuggled mainly through the U.S. border, for its consumption in China. Vaquita often become entangled in the nets and are unable to reach the surface of the water to breathe, causing them to drown.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.