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Smoke in San Felipe after clash between fishermen and the navy. Smoke in San Felipe after clash between fishermen and the navy.

3 injured in confrontation between fishermen, navy over illegal fishing

Fishermen were allegedly fleeing the navy after recovering illegal nets seized by an environmental group

Three people were injured in a confrontation yesterday between the navy and suspected illegal totoaba fishermen in San Felipe, Baja California.

The Secretariat of the Navy (Semar) said in a statement that a man was accidentally shot yesterday morning as he tried to escape in a vehicle that was towing a boat that had allegedly attacked a vessel operated by an environmental organization.

Occupants of the first boat recovered illegal fishing nets that had been removed from the vaquita porpoise reserve in the upper Gulf of California by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society activists and then returned to San Felipe, said the navy.

There, they boarded a pickup truck and attempted to flee navy personnel but collided with a navy vehicle. One person was shot in the confrontation that ensued, Semar said.

According to local media, the wounded man was 37-year-old Enrique García Sandez. He was taken to a local clinic but later transferred to a hospital in Mexicali with serious injuries.

The news website El Imparcial reported that a 65-year-old woman and a 17-year-old were also injured in the confrontation. The latter, Ricardo Zúñiga, was treated at a Mexicali hospital.

Rosa María Zaragoza González was in the street during the clash and grazed by a stray bullet . She was treated for the injury at a San Felipe clinic.

After the confrontation, Semar said, a group of people protested violently in front of navy facilities. A vehicle and two small boats were set on fire and navy facilities were attacked with Molotov cocktails and other objects.

Yesterday’s confrontation occurred a week after the federal government announced that it will strengthen the fight against illegal fishing and use buoys to mark the reserve of the vaquita porpoise as part of a new strategy to protect the highly-endangered mammal from extinction.

Although their use is prohibited, fishermen have continued to use gillnets to catch totoaba, whose swim bladder is a delicacy in China and commands high prices.

The vaquita marina, the world’s smallest porpoise, often become entangled in the nets and die.

Scientists estimate that only 10 vaquitas likely remain in the upper Gulf of California, the only place in the world the species lives.

Source: El Imparcial (sp) 

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