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  • A vaquita in the foreground with fishing boats in the background.

    A vaquita in the foreground with fishing boats in the background. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Published 29 March 2019

SEMAR released a statement that said NGO boat "Sharpie" was attacked by fishermen who were trying to recover prohibited fishing nets.

A clash between a group of fishermen and sailors from the Mexican Navy took place Thursday in the protected area of the endangered vaquita marina in the municipality of San Felipe, Baja California.

RELATED: 22 Remaining Endangered Vaquita Threatened by Fish Trafficking

The Mexican Navy (SEMAR) tweeted that "this institution reports that, in regard to the events that took place today in San Felipe, B.C., it is still gathering the necessary information in order to communicate in a truthful and timely manner."

Hours after posting the tweet, SEMAR released a statement that said the boat "Sharpie", which belongs to the non-profit organization Sea Shepherd, was attacked by fishermen on another boat who were trying to recover prohibited fishing nets that had been removed by the organization.

Once the fishermen recovered the illegal nets, their vessel reportedly fled to San Felipe.

In response, SEMAR deployed interceptor patrol and infantry personnel to the number one fishing ground in San Felipe. The fishermen had already arrived at the location and attached their vessel to a vehicle in a bid to further evade the authorities.


"This Institution reports that, with regard to the events that took place today in San Felipe, B.C. It is currently gathering the necessary information to communicate in a truthful and timely manner."
 

During SEMAR's attempts to secure the vehicle and the boat as well as make arrests, their vehicle was struck.

During the actual encounter, the offenders resisted arrest and a struggle ensued with naval personnel, which resulted in the "unfortunate result of the accidental firing of a firearm that caused injuries to one person. The attackers of the Sea Shepherd vessel eventually withdrew to avoid further confrontation."

The restrictive fishing ban measure to protect the vaquita, which has some support from the Mexican government, inadvertently caused the confrontation between fishermen and naval forces. At 7:00 a.m. local time, a security radio frequency reported an alleged armed attack by members of the Navy against a fisherman, identified as Enrique Garcia Zandez.

The man, known as "Kiki", was detained by the Armed Forces.

Currently, only 22 vaquitas remain in the region due to gill nets intended to catch totoaba fish, which cause whales to drown. 

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