Fishermen attack conservationists in Mexico, 2 injured

MEXICO CITY (AP) – The conservationist group Sea Shepherd said on Friday that two fishermen were injured off Mexico’s Baja California coast when they rammed their small boat into a larger vessel used by the group in efforts to protect the endangered vaquita porpoise.

The attack is the latest round in an escalating spiral of protests by fishermen who use banned gill nets in the Gulf of California, the only place the vaquita is found. Only as few as a dozen vaquitas are believed to remain, making them the world’s most endangered marine mammal.

Fishing nets confiscated by Sea Shepherd vessels are expensive, so fishermen often harass the conservationists’ boats to try to get them back. The fishermen claim they have not received compensation from the Mexican government for lost fishing income. Groups’ representing fishermen were not immediately available to comment.

Sea Shepherd said its vessel, the Farley Mowat, was pulling illegal gill nets out of the waters of the gulf, also known as the Sea of Cortez, on Thursday when people on a group of about a half dozen small, open fishing boats began tossing gasoline bombs at the vessel, setting the bow and another part of the ship afire. The attackers also threw lead net weights at the crew, the group said.

It released a video showing one fishing boat approaching the Farley Mowat at high speed and slamming into the side of the vessel.

Two of the boat’s occupants were pulled from the water by Sea Shepherd crew members and Mexican marines, who usually accompany the crew on such trips. One was given resuscitation, because he wasn’t breathing, and both were taken by the navy to a hospital.