Fishing nets that trapped and killed more than 300 turtles off the coast of Oaxaca this week belonged to coastal fishermen, not a tuna or shrimp boat, federal authorities say.
The Environmental Protection Agency (Profepa) said in a statement yesterday that it reached the conclusion in coordination with the National Aquaculture and Fisheries Commission (Conapesca) after inspecting a net in which as many as 380 olive ridley sea turtles became entangled.
“In this event, the responsibility of tuna or shrimp boats was ruled out because their fishing nets and mode of operation don’t match with what was observed in this unfortunate incident,” the statement said.
“The kind of net found, of a length of 120 meters and made with six-inch nylon mesh monofilament, matches those used in coastal fishing . . . for the capture of species such as swordfish, bigeye scad and shark,” it continued.
“The presence of this net in sea waters might be due to an irresponsible fishing practice or an incident that forced fishermen to abandon it . . . Profepa urges fishermen not to carry out these bad practices, including the use of prohibited fishing nets.”
The statement also said that for a 15-day period leading up to the discovery of the dead turtles, Conapesca’s Fishing Vessels Satellite Monitoring System (SISMEP) had not detected any boats engaged in fishing in the area.
Oaxaca Civil Protection services located the turtles Tuesday in the Pacific Ocean three miles from Barra de Colotepec, a community near Puerto Escondido, after receiving an anonymous tip.
Later the same day Profepa said it was initiating an investigation to identify those responsible, who could face up to nine years imprisonment in addition to a fine.
Profepa said it will also file a criminal complaint with the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR) and that its personnel, in conjunction with members of the navy and Conapesca, would maintain permanent patrols of the area to avoid the repeat of any similar incident.
The newspaper Milenio reported today that more than 5,000 fishermen work for 235 registered cooperatives in Oaxaca but a further 22,000 operate illegally.
Finding the owners of the net that killed the turtles will be difficult, a Profepa official told Milenio, because most fishing boats don’t have GPS systems that allow them to be traced.
The olive ridley turtle, known in Mexico as tortuga golfina, is listed by the federal Secretariat of Environment as a protected species in danger of extinction.
Source: Milenio (sp)