HomeNewsFishermen Call for Aid Against Illegal Fishing in Yucatán, Mexico
NEWS

Fishermen Call for Aid Against Illegal Fishing in Yucatán, Mexico

ENVIRONMENTAL CRIME / 16 JUL 2021 BY ALESSANDRO FORD EN

Illegal fishing is out of control in the Mexican state of Yucatán, according to local fishermen and media, as illegal techniques, competition from out-of-state vessels, and dwindling fisheries combine to threaten a major national industry.

Fishermen cite a laundry list of problems, including vessels illegally capturing fish that are smaller than allowed as well as fishing during the closed season, according to La Jornada Maya, a local newspaper. Many of these fishing vessels are coming from nearby states such as Campeche, Tabasco and Quintana Roo, leading to a dramatic fall in the numbers of octopus, lobsters, groupers and sea cucumbers available to be fished by the Yucatán fleet.

SEE ALSO: Tentacles of Organized Crime in Mexico Extend to Octopus Theft

Some of these out-of-state vessels are even using industrial fishing methods such as unregulated transshipments - a controversial practice of transferring catch onto a mothership in exchange for fuel and food, allowing the boats to fish for longer periods and potentially launder illegally caught fish.

Similar allegations were also reported on July 1, when fishing captains told local media that about 40 boats from the port of Celestún in Yucatán were to spend ten days fishing in a range of protected areas. The captains stated that while the main boats would be catching fish within legal norms, they would dispatch dozens of smaller vessels to catch smaller fish than permitted illicitly.

One of the areas targeted by these boats is the Scorpion Reef, off the northern coast of Yucatán. This national park is one of Mexico’s marine protected areas most at risk from illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing, according to a May 2021 report by Oceana, a maritime protection non-governmental organization. Between 2012 and 2021, “106 vessels potentially engaged in fishing activities were detected in [the National Park’s] core area, a perimeter in which any type of fishing is prohibited,” the report said.

InSight Crime Analysis

Debates about illegal fishing in Latin America often focus on large foreign fleets or small-scale domestic fishing workers. What these analyses sometimes miss, however, is how in some areas, domestic fishing workers are increasingly acting like big foreign fleets.

Transshipping is a bizarre practice for fishing vessels operating in their own national waters, since in normal circumstances, the extra fuel, food, ice and transport costs would far outweigh the value of any additional catch. Even the big foreign fleets only remain profitable due to huge fuel subsidies from their national governments.

Thus, the answer likely lies not in strength but in weakness. The exact state of Mexico’s fisheries is unclear – government statistics claim 17 percent are overfished or depleted, and a further 63 percent cannot withstand any additional fishing pressure – yet anecdotal evidence suggests the problem may be far greater.

In the Diario de Yucatán, fishing workers complained that dwindling stocks mean they have to travel further and further out to fish and that even then, their catch is falling steadily every year. They attributed the appearance in their waters of fishing vessels – from Campeche, Tabasco, Veracruz and Quintana Roo – practicing transshipment to the same phenomenon. Those states’ reserves are even more depleted.

SEE ALSO: Chinese Fishing Fleet Leaves Ecuador, Peru, Chile Scrambling to Respond

“It’s a huge problem, all over the country. Illegal fishing has many manifestations, and in one form or another, it is prevalent in all of our coastal states,” Pedro Zapata, a senior campaign advisor at Oceana, told InSight Crime.

Furthermore, he added that many local fishing workers may inadvertently exacerbate the problem because of Mexico’s opaque, disorganized fisheries management.

“[T]he fisheries agency (CONAPESCA) has become more and more incompetent and absent… [and] even knowing exactly what is legal and what is illegal is complicated sometimes, as laws are changed constantly,” he told InSight Crime.

That shows up in the numbers. At the global level, IUU fishing is estimated to account for 20 percent of all catch. In Mexico, that number rises to a staggering 50 percent - roughly one in every two kilos of fish caught in the country is done so illegally, according to a 2013 report by the Environmental Defense Fund of Mexico.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

INFOGRAPHICS / 7 NOV 2011

How much is violence in Mexico really spilling into the U.S.? The answer is complicated by a long tradition of…

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 12 DEC 2014

A newspaper in Germany reported that 36 German guns were seized from the municipal police in Iguala, Mexico following the…

MEXICO / 13 APR 2012

The murder of eight taxi drivers in a Monterrey suburb appears to be the latest assault by organized criminal groups…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.