Saturday, July 20, 2024

Fishing industry leader murdered in Ensenada following threats

A top official in Mexico’s fishing industry was murdered in Baja California on Monday, apparently for her history of speaking out against the illegal fishing and extortion that is hurting the state’s fishing business.

Minerva Pérez Castro, president of the Baja California delegation of the National Chamber of Fishing and Aquaculture Industries (Canainpesca), was gunned down in Ensenada just hours after declaring that the illegal fishing of lobster, abalone and other marine animals was harming business owners in the sector.

Baja California Governor Marina del Pilar condemned Perez’s murder in what she termed a “cowardly” attack.

“Illegal fishing reaches the same market as legal products but without all the production costs [and taxes paid by a] legally constituted company,” Pérez said in an interview in Tijuana recorded by Imagen Televisión.

Baja California Governor Marina del Pilar, condemned what was reportedly a commando-style attack and said that the State Attorney General’s Office (FGE) is investigating.

“I send my sincere condolences to the family and loved ones of Minerva Pérez Castro,” del Pilar said. “I am committed to working tirelessly so that what happened does not go unpunished.”

Pérez, 53, was the first woman president of fishing industry organization in Baja California, taking office in June 2023. 

Pérez was reportedly shot multiple times on Monday night by armed assailants shortly after getting into her pickup truck outside of her company, Atenea del Mar (Athena of the Sea). Her vehicle then continued moving and collided with a cargo truck.

Canainpesca’s national president, Miller Alexander Longoria, described the “execution” as a direct attack against the fishing industry.

totoaba
Illegal fishing in Baja California for the endangered totoaba fish, seen here, is often driven by organized crime groups. While that problem is well-documented, Pérez had been working in recent months to publicize the effects of cartel-backed illegal fishing and extortion on the state’s commercial fishermen. (Photo: G.K. Silber)

“It is not isolated. It is not unique. It has nothing to do with Minerva personally,” he said. “It is a general issue for the industry.”

For months, Pérez had been denouncing the illegal fishing and extortion suffered by the fishing industry in Baja California, particularly in Ensenada. She had recently launched a campaign to bring attention to the situation.

After her murder, reports surfaced that Pérez had received threats before, but Longoria said that that’s not out of the ordinary. 

“Many of us have received threats in one way or another,” he said.

Canainpesca’s president since 2022 said Pérez’s murder was the result of the “disorder and insecurity” in the Mexican fishing industry, a “very serious” situation that has even drawn ire outside Mexico.

He noted that members of the Latin American Alliance for Sustainable Fisheries (ALPESCAS), a body of 11 fishing industry chambers and associations from 10 countries, “are expressing their concern and saying, ‘What is happening in Mexico with this?’”

In a statement on its website condemning the murder, ALPESCAS noted: “The alliance is concerned about these acts, which may be linked to cartels or mafias that operate in illegal fishing, and is therefore urging governments and authorities to focus on combating and eradicating this scourge.”

“After drug and arms trafficking,” it added, “illegal fishing is the third most lucrative illicit activity in the world. It is estimated that around 26 million tons of fish and other marine resources are caught illegally every year to supply a black market worth up to US $23 billion.”

With reports from Aristegui Noticias, Zeta Tijuana, Al Día Dallas and Infobae

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