The Pelagic Sardine populations in the Sea of Cortes and Eastern Pacific may be in big trouble. When the last head of Conapesca (Mex departemtne of fihseries) Ramos Corral left office he issued several new permits for the fishing of Sardines. These permits were going to allow companies to build new and more importantly larger vessels for the exploitation of Sardines.
I originally posted this on July 13th of last year on our other blog but I will repost it here and start following up on the issue again!!
There will be a more in depth report on this story after I get a chance to interview the owners of the boats that were filmed. Here are the facts from that day. On the 22nd of July I left San Carlos to travel north up the coast to a small fishing village named El Choyudo. There was little activity on the coast that day and I observed no commercial sardine vessels in the area. On the evening of the 22nd I anchored in front of El Choyudo. That evening lights on the horizon were noted. When we spotted the lights we decided to pull anchor and investigate them. The lights were approximately 5 miles off shore. Upon arriving we found several commercial sardine boats in the area. At least one of the boats was anchored. The area is close to punta bajo so you can be many miles off shore and still be in shallow water. The depth of the water was 50 feet. At this point we were sure we would see some commercial fishing in the morning. We then returned to El Choyudo, anchored the boat and waited until sunrise.
Many riberenos, artisanal fisherman in small pangas, would leave to go fishing at around 3 a.m. This time of year gill nets are set for sierra, and crab traps abound. Actually we found out that when the commercial sardine boats fish close to the beach many riberenos will approach the large sardine boats and ask for free bait. We observed this happening on several occasions and in the video above you will actually see a shot were there is a panga tied off to a sardine boat. That panga is owned by Miguel Angel and he is interviewed in this video. There is no money that changes hands. The riberenos simply ask for bait and the captain of the sardine boat either allows them to come aboard the boat and take a crate full or allows them to motor up to the boat and simply dip there crate into the net.
I spoke with several local fisherman and they all told me the same story. The commercial sardine boats take more than just sardines. If they do not find sardines then they will take corvina, sierra, chabela and other species that are not permitted under Norma 003. The local fisherman say that they have complained to CONAPESCA but to no avail.
The most disturbing thing we witnessed during our investigation was the large number of pelicans that were killed that day. As we approached the sardine boats, we arrived after several nets had already been set and retrieved, we immediately started observing dead pelicans floating on the surface of the water. There were 5 commercial sardine boats fishing within the same area so you could easily go from boat to boat as the nets were being drawn closed and observe what was in them. As the nets are closed the boats do try to keep pelicans out of them with a large hose that sprays water at them.
Ultimately though when the net is closed many pelicans are trapped inside them and must be taken out by hand if they are to survive. Of the two boats that we observed closely only one of the boats freed the pelicans. We observed dozens of pelicans in nets and I would estimate that several dozen pelicans were killed that morning.
This is a very common practice and after reading over Norma 003 it would appear that it is legal to
kill marine birds and or any other sea life that is found trapped in these nets. Norma 003 was described to me as “very light” by some friends of mine in the business and after reading it there is no doubt that Norma 003 is indeed very light. The only thing that I observed that day that my have been technically illegal and that I could pin upon the commercial sardine boats would be the distance they were fishing from Guaymas. Norma 003 states that a sardine boat without refrigeration can not fish more than 40 nautical miles from its base of operation. If these boats do not have refrigeration then they were in fact just outside of that range according to google earth. Hence they would have been fishing illegally if they do not have refrigeration in their bodega.
I have just received the contact information for these vessels. I will now try to get an interview with the owners and or captains of these boats to get their side of the story in regards to the pelicans and whether or not they have refrigeration. A more detailed video and report in Spanish will be produced for release to Mexican news agencies.
The owner of the boats in question appear to be,
PESQUERA SIGLO SA DE CV (CARLOS ALBERTO ZARAGOZA DE CIMA)