Conservationists and federal inspectors were assailed by fishermen who hurled Molotov cocktails and fishing net weights at them Tuesday as they carried out surveillance operations in a protected area of the Gulf of California.
The federal environmental agency Profepa said in a press release that fishermen in two skiffs known as pangas attacked the crew aboard the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society vessel M/V Sharpie while in the Upper Gulf of California Biosphere Reserve.
“Over 20 smaller boats gathered around the two skiffs, attacking and provoking [the authorities], first verbally, then physically, aiming to stop [their] efforts to curtail illegal fishing,” said Profepa.
“At first, the fishermen threw fishing net weights at the inspectors; later, Molotov cocktails. … after an initial pursuit, [the conservationists] decided to avoid confrontation but not before notifying the navy, which arrived aboard [a patrol boat] to provide security,” it added.
The inspectors and conservationists used anti-piracy tactics such as high-speed maneuvering and defensive water cannons to repel the attacks. The use of Molotov cocktails caused military on board to fire a warning shot, which convinced the fishermen to stop their attack and disband.
Profepa said that a second boat called the M/V Farley Mowat was also attacked. It was carrying 15 Sea Shepherd conservationists, two Marine infantrymen, two National Guard troops, one member of the National Aquaculture and Fisheries Commission and one Profepa inspector.
The conservationists reported seeing a minor among the attacking fishermen.
“Today on World Wildlife Day, I watched a young child throw lead weights at our ship during an attack,” said Sea Shepherd Captain Jacqueline Le Duc.
“Witnessing this firsthand was extremely sad. Sea Shepherd is here to save a species on the brink of extinction so that future generations can continue to enjoy the biodiversity this area has to offer. We should be teaching younger generations the importance of the conservation of nature, not the exploitation of it.”
The Upper Gulf of California Biosphere Reserve is a protected conservation area for the vaquita, a critically endangered marine mammal. The Autonomous University of Baja California Sur reported last year that only 22 vaquitas remained in the Gulf of California.
Tuesday’s events were the second such attacks by fishermen in less than a month. Suspected illegal fishermen attacked authorities and conservationists on board a Sea Shepherd Conservation society vessel on February 8.
Source: Reforma (sp)