Fighting illegal fishing – Following seven weeks of intensive intelligence work, community vigilance unit, ROC, help seize 600 kilograms of illegally caught fish during nocturnal operation at Isla Espiritu Santo
The Espiritu Santo Archipelago off the coast of La Paz, BCS, Mexico, has been under attack from illegal fishing by Pistoleros and Encerradores for the last 25 years, contributing to the rapid decline of its reefs and fish stocks.
The lucrative ecotourism and scuba diving industries, which contribute substantially to the economic health of the city, rely heavily on a healthy ecosystem to secure the future of the industries and the jobs within them.
Although the Mexican government has designated three of the most important areas around the islands as no-take nuclear zones and also prohibited the use of compressed air for fish extraction, bandit fishermen have been entering these no-take areas just before sundown and, using illegal fishing techniques, they have depleted the abundance of keystone reef fish species which in turn is severely compromising the health of this socially and commercially important ecosystem.
ROC , a community funded and directed vigilance initiative, was established in 2009 with financial assistance from SeaWatch. New agreements with government agencies, PROFEPA,
CONANP and CONAPESCA, to patrol with ROC have established regular patrols at Espiritu Santo from sundown and throughout the night.
These patrols with officials on board means immediate action taken against anyone fishing illegally in the waters around La Paz and the Espiritu Santo Archipelago.
On October 10, 2016 a joint operation between ROC and CONAPESCA was successful at tracing down an illegal fishing operation following seven weeks of intensive intelligence work including numerous surveillance patrols around Espiritu Santo.
The panga when detained was found to be carrying 600 kilograms of different reef fish species illegally caught using a HOOKAH rig (portable compressor with air pipes and scuba-type second stage regulators attached). This type of fishing is highly illegal and destructive to the reef, reef fish and general health of the marine environment. Fish are simply killed with a modified Hawaiian sling while they sleep. An illegal operation like this has the potential of extracting 1000 kilograms plus of reef fish in a single night, leaving an area of reef devoid of fish.
The boat, which was a 22 feet panga (open boat), along with the fishing gear and illegally caught product, were immediately seized and impounded by CONAPESCA. It was still impounded as of 2/12/17