Campaign leader targeted while on operation to save the endangered totoaba bass

M/V Farley MowatM/V Farley MowatA crew member aboard the Sea Shepherd vessel M/V Farley Mowat received anonymous death threats this week while on campaign in the Sea of Cortez.

The Mowat is currently in Mexico’s Gulf of California for Operation Angel de la Guarda, a campaign to protect the imperiled totoaba bass.

The vessel was patrolling the south part of the sea, near Isla Angel de la Guarda (aka Guardian Angel Island), a section that is notorious for drug and totoaba trafficking.

Totoaba is hunted by poachers solely for its swim bladder, which is sold on the black market in China in excess of $20,000 per kilo.  Due to its high street value, the totoaba bladder is frequently referred to as “aquatic cocaine.” 

On September 7, while the Mowat had returned to the northern area to refuel, campaign leader JP Geoffroy – a native of Chile – reported that he received a phone call at approximately 7 p.m. warning him not to let the boat travel back south.

“They knew my name, my mother’s and daughter’s names, what I looked like, a home address in Chile…” said Geoffroy. “They knew the boat’s name, its movements and said if we go back south my daughter and I will be dead.”

Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson said he is not taking the threat lightly.

“Sea Shepherd takes threats of violence very seriously, especially in high risk areas, but we will not be deterred by them. What we do is dangerous, we know it’s dangerous, but the stakes are too high to back down in the face of threats from criminals attempting to endanger the lives and the survival of our clients in the sea.”

“When we receive threats, it simply corroborates the fact that our campaigns are successful,” said COO David Hance. “While we will take steps to protect our crew, we will not run away. Threats will never deter us from our mission of protecting the oceans and the animals that live in them.

We Are the Cartel

According to Geoffroy, the callers did not ask for money. Their only demand was that the Mowat not return to the southern area of the Sea of Cortez. 

“They said, ‘We are the Cartel,’” although they did not specify which cartel, Geoffroy recalled.

The threat was reported to Mexican authorities and additional security measures are now being taken by Sea Shepherd, in light of the incident.

 “This is not going to stop our work in the south,” said Geoffroy of the threat.  “Our job is to be here to retrieve illegal nets and work with the Mexican authorities to prevent the extinction of species such as totoaba, along with other animals at risk.”

Fortunately, since the launch of Operation Angel de la Guarda last month, no totoaba were found trapped in the nets removed by Sea Shepherd. However, the crew recently found the body of a sea lion that perished when it was caught in those illegal gillnets.

When Sea Shepherd arrived at the scene, a male sea lion swam nearby, refusing to leave the floating corpse. He watched as Sea Shepherd worked to cut the carcass from the nets and properly dispose of it.

Gillnets are banned in Mexico, although they continue to be used illegally. View Sea Shepherd’s video (below) about what it takes for the crew to locate, retrieve and dispose of illegal gillnets in the Gulf of California.

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