ALFREDO AZCARATE VARELA
THE BAJA POST/EDITOR
Miguel García Toledo died in Mexicali, he was one of the injured fishermen whose boat had collided against the ship Sharpie form the NGO Sea Shepherd, an accident that caused a violent break out las Thursday in San Felipe, the Sharpie, had run over a fishing boat in the Sea of Cortez, according to local anglers, the ship had done it on purpose, while other versions state that it was the fishermen who attacked the Sharpie with rocks and Molotov explosive cocktails and set course for an intentional collision, what many people have called a “kamikaze” attack from the desperate anglers.
This incident provoked a violent reaction from the locals who support the fishing activities that have been banned by the Federal Government to protect the Vaquita Marina incidental vaquitas capture that is the consequence of using the so-called “ghost nets” that cause harm to the marine mammal, which is also an endangered species.
According to a press release issued by Mexico´s Navy, the anglers attacked the ship and one of the boats got in the ship’s way, so it ran over the small boat and two fishermen were injured, and were taken to the Naval Clinic in San Felipe, and the last reports are that they are hurt but not seriously, even though some San Felipe locals said that one of them had been seriously harmed in the incident.
An angry mob, supporters of the fishermen burned boats and protested in front of the Naval facilities in San Felipe, they were sure that there had been an aggression against the fishing boat, but the environmentalist NGO Sea Shepherd, reported that it was the fishermen who crashed against the ship and the fishermen had attacked the boat´s occupants, throwing rocks and other objects.
The central point of this conflict is the Vaquita Marina and the illegal fishing of Totoaba fish, whose swimming bladder is sold at very high prices in the black market, the US Government has requested Mexico´s authorities to ban the use of the kind of nets that have caused harm to both species, but it is the Vaquita that they want to protect, so commercial fishing, an important activity for San Felipe´s economy, has been banned.
The US Government has warned of commercial sanctions and penalizations if the ban is not observed by the fishermen, but they argue that they have no other way to make a living and there´s been little or no financial aid for them so they can’t compensate the economic loss they have been suffering due to the prohibition, so this is not the first time that violence breaks out.
Many people feel that the presence of the two NGO Sea Shpeherd boats in Mexican waters goes against Mexico’s sovereignty and they think that the preservation of the vaquita marina can´t be more valuable than the life of the San Felipe community, since the fishing activities were banned, this has had a very negative impact on their lives and they have been struggling hard to make a living, in this situation.
The problem is not only the Vaquita but the illegal Totoaba bladder traffic, which has become very profitable for some criminal organizations, it has even been called the “cocaine of the sea”, and this illegal traffic throws away huge amounts of Totoaba fish meat, wasting good quality fish that may be turned into a profitable fish packing operation, but the Vaquita protection seems to be more relevant for this NGO and the US Government who has warned Mexico that there would be commercial “counter measures”, that is penalizations if authorities fail to inforce the fishing ban on San Felipe fishermen.