Report on the Impending Showdown in the Sea of Cortez
Today an angry hombre named Sunshine Antonio Rodriguez and his gang of poacher thugs promised to drive Sea Shepherd out of the Sea of Cortez and to end Sea Shepherd efforts to save the endangered Vaquita.
On Monday Rodriguez and his poachers took an old panga, put Sea Shepherd’s name on it and burned it on the street in San Felipe as a warning they would do the same to the SAM SIMON and the FARLEY MOWAT. Rodriguez said that Thursday was the deadline for Sea Shepherd to exit Mexican waters.
Rodriguez said he would attack the Sea Shepherd crew with 200 pangas (small boats).
The poachers are angry that Sea Shepherd is working with the Mexican government to locate and remove illegal nets that are killing endangered Vaquita, endangered Totoaba and large numbers of marine wildlife including sea lions, dolphins, whales, sharks, turtles and numerous species of fish.
Rodriguez described Sea Shepherd as ‘unwanted gringos’ despite the fact that the ships fly the flags of Barbados and the Netherlands and include citizens of numerous nations including Mexico.
Despite false accusations that gringos are responsible, the poachers recently attacked Mexican environmental officials torching numerous government 15 trucks, boats, and ATVs.
Sea Shepherd is in the Sea of Cortez in partnership with the government of Mexico.
Sea Shepherd has responded to the threats by standing fast and continuing net confiscations. Captain Oona Layolle has filed a criminal complaint against Sunshine Antonio Rodriguez. The crew have reported the threats to their embassies in Mexico City.
The Mexican Navy has responded with Naval vessels detailed specifically for security in response to the threats from the poachers. They have brought in two large ships and three small boats (one interceptor and two defenders) plus a helicopter and the army has added more officers on the ground.
Sea Shepherd will deploy the JOHN PAUL DEJORIA presently in Panama north to the Sea of Cortez to back up the SAM SIMON and the FARLEY MOWAT.
Operation Treasured Islands is not cancelled but will be temporarily delayed in light of this threatened violence by the Totoaba poachers.
The JOHN PAUL DEJORIA and the FARLEY MOWAT are both former island class 110’ U.S. Coast Guard patrol vessels. The Sam Simon is a former 52 meter Japanese research vessel.
When threatened we are stronger, more united and more determined. Our ships never retreat in the face of threats of violence. We will respond by reinforcing our efforts with a third ship.
Milagro III campaign leader Captain Oona Layolle reported that, “crew morale is great and everyone is ready for today. We are confident that the Mexican Navy will provide the security we need to continue with our efforts to prevent the extinction of the Vaquita.”
There are less than 30 Vaquita remaining in the world. Sea Shepherd has been informed that now some poachers are deliberately trying to kill the remaining Vaquita, believing this will allow them to escalate their operations to kill endangered Totoaba fish whose bladders sell for as high as $20,000 U.S. A kilo in China.
Sea Shepherd applauds the efforts by the Mexican government to oppose these illegal activities by these poachers and Totoaba bladder smugglers.
I have every confidence in our officers and crew. They are dedicated volunteers, both passionate and courageous. They understand the risks of defending the Vaquita and they also understand the risk to the survival of the Vaquita if they leave. If Sea Shepherd leaves, the Vaquita will go extinct and that is a responsibility that we must defend.