A boat with conservationists and Mexican officials on board came under fire this weekend in the upper part of the Gulf Coast of California.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society was working in tandem with Mexican officials to monitor an area known as the “critical zone,” which is a section of the Gulf Coast that serves as a vaquita refuge.
Four small boats, known in Mexico as pangas, began shooting and attacking the Sea Shepherd vessel on Saturday morning. Officials believe that poachers were behind the attacks.
No one was injured in the incident. At the time of the attack, members of the Sea Shepherd organization, officials from a government environmental agency known as PROFEPA, the Mexican Navy, and the federal police were on board.
In a statement, the federal government denounced the crime and said that the attack would not dissuade its environmental efforts in the future.
“PROFEPA will collaborate in the investigations … to punish those responsible for the violent acts. The personnel of this unit will continue to fulfill their mandate in favor of the preservation of the Mexican environment,” the statement released on Sunday says.
The Sea Shepherd is working in the region to conserve the vaquita porpoises because they are severely depleted. Experts estimate that there are as few as six vaquitas left.
The Sea Shepherd said in a statement that their numbers have plummeted partly due to poachers setting out nets in hopes of catching the fish totoaba, which are worth a lot of money on the black market.
“This just shows how aggressive the poachers are here,” captain of the vessel Jacqueline Le Duc said. “It proves to us that they are armed and that we need to take every panga that we come across seriously, because we have no idea what they are capable of.”
Mexico has a history of violence against activists. The incident marks the latest in a series of attacks against conservationists and environmentalists in the country.
Within the last couple of weeks, two environmentalists in Michoacan have been found dead. Many suspect that the high-profile activist Homero Gomez Gonzalez was killed for his activism.