One fishboat was destroyed Thursday during an attack on vessels operated by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in an area of the upper Gulf of California designated as a refuge for the endangered vaquita porpoise, the society reported.
Crew aboard the vessel Farley Mowat were retrieving a gillnet from the water when fishermen aboard at least five pangas began throwing lead weights and molotov cocktails at both the crew and military officials who were on board.
As the vessel began to leave the scene, the society said, one of the pangas swerved in front of it and smashed into the hull. The smaller vessel broke in two and its two passengers were thrown into the sea.
A second Sea Shepherd vessel, Sharpie, recovered the two men, who had been rescued from the water by one of the pangas, and took them aboard where they were given emergency first aid. Doctors with the Mexican navy arrived at the scene and treated the two, one of whom wasn’t breathing when he was brought aboard.
While the men were being treated, the society reported, two other fishermen boarded the Sharpie, threatened the crew and officials on board and smashed a camera that was filming the incident.
Other pangas threw projectiles and fuel, setting the Sharpie’s bow on fire.
The fire was extinguished and the two fishermen removed from the vessel.
The injured men were transferred to two nearby navy vessels and subsequently airlifted to a hospital.
The incident didn’t deter the fishermen, who have been at odds with government policy intended to protect the vaquita, of which an estimated 10 remain.
The society said they continued to attack the Farley Mowat with molotov cocktails, setting fire to a pile of fishing gear that had been collected on the ship’s deck. On shore, meanwhile, a truck belonging to the society was set on fire.
One of the government’s measures is a prohibition on the use of gillnets in the protected area. But conservationists have long criticized the government for lack of enforcement.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is working with Mexican authorities to patrol the area and deter illegal fishing.
Mexico News Daily