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Organized crime operates poaching groups on Yucatan’s Emerald Coast

- August 2, 2021

Fishermen face one of the worst stages due to poaching, as those who practice it work day and night.

Organized Crime. The poaching that is practiced in the Emerald Coast of Yucatan has reached the degree of predation, endangering the marine species and the economy of the communities that support themselves from this.

Fishermen from at least six Yucatecan ports have denounced illegal fishing, which, they say, is out of control and they do not feel supported by any authority to solve the problem.

Faced with this panorama, MILENIO went to the port of Río Lagartos, for adventure tourism and fishing for grouper, lobster, and octopus, mainly, which is located about 220 kilometers from the state capital, Mérida.

Lobsters are one of the most extracted species. (Alejandro Ruvalcaba)

Upon arriving at the “ Manuel Zepeda Peraza ” fishing cooperative, we met José Santiago Vallejos Marrufo, skipper, and his assistant Gaspar Medina Gómez, better known as Coco and Fefeco, respectively, with whom we traveled about 20 nautical miles to the open sea.”Now approximately, as a boat skipper, about 800 pesos more or less, on my part and on my part as a boat (…), what is his part of the helmsman and my part is already divided (…) We invested about 700 pesos for gasoline and 200 pesos for food, plus ice, “said 

Coco. You need that same amount of money every day to invest and be able to go out to work.

The clock read 06:30 hours and the engine of Coco’s boat began to move at about 20 knots of speed for an hour; the sun was just beginning to “wake up” in eastern Yucatán. The temperature soon rose to 35 degrees Celsius, although there were some clouds.

Coco chose the fishing spot using satellite radar and the sun’s rays; he put on his black diving suit, while Fefeco turned on a compressor to provide oxygen through a hose to his employer, when he was ready to descend to the bottom of the Yucatecan sea, at points known as “sandboxes”. About six meters.

After this, Coco, ready, took a couple of rods and a harpoon and began to descend, among the green-crystalline waters: there he remained for about 45 minutes. Only the oxygen bubbles that floated up while he fished were visible.

The fisherman went down the crystal clear waters and was there for 45 minutes. (Alejandro Ruvalcaba)

At last, he came out, on a rod he carried lobster and grouper. His face was one of happiness.

And so, throughout the morning and until 2:00 p.m., both fishermen continued their activity, looking for the marine product at various points; in some places Coco reached the bottom about 60 meters deep, looking for stones, where grouper and lobster are housed.”Well, it is an effort that we make day by day, there are good days, there are bad days, there are runs where we can serve, we know we can fail, but we can still win.

Sometimes they don’t catch anything because poaching is killing species illegally, he shares.

– Doesn’t it upset you?

“Well, yes, but what else can we do?” He laments.

Going down again to Ríos Lagartos, already in the cooperative, Coco delivered his merchandise in a blue dairy, 20 kilos between lobster and grouper, which means about 3,500 pesos; He considered that fishing was good at this time because they are competing against poaching and sport fishing and he remembers that in other seasons he would have taken between 40 to 60 kilograms.” The lobsters have already moved them, they have already worked the stone, they have already taken it out, if it is the first day (allowed by authorities) that we are diving, that is, they (the” pirate “fishermen) have been long before they did.”

– Doesn’t it upset you? 

“Well, yes, the truth is, yes!”, Said the young fisherman, since sometimes he has taken out very little marine product and sometimes he does not even take out even to buy gasoline , ice and what to say about taking the “money” to the table of your home.

Hours later Coco gave 500 pesos to his wife: “Well, it’s for our daily household expenses, milk, and the girl’s diapers.”

Illegal fishing is out  of control

Carlos Puga, leader of the cooperative that houses 190 fishermen, which means the same number of families, denounced that illegal fishing is out of control and has become a terrible situation.

He explained that it is unknown how many exact tons are caught illegally, but gave us an example that in the month of July 2020 they captured 11,302 kilos of grouper, and on the same date, but only half of 2021.” The poaching is terrible, that is the reality, (…) there is no longer fishing, there is no fishing,” he laments.”The times are not suitable, that is, there are many factors, they are affecting the economy of the port,” said the fishing leader in Río Lagartos.

They consider that this season was a good one, taking into account the illegal conditions in which the trade takes place. (Alejandro Ruvalcaba)

He explained that few operations are carried out and predators work day and night.”All poachers do not stop working throughout the year, they do not only work at night, not only work during the day, but also at night, we can watch during the day, but at night how? Yes, that is, it is terrible and right now there are not a few, it is already too much furtiveness, and right now they are attacking us from both sides.“They come from here from the west ( 

Campeche ) and there they are beginning to arrive from the east ( Quintana Roo ); There is poaching from Quintana Roo and they come here, Río Lagartos (…) they themselves have preyed on their territory, so since they are predators, they come preying from where they end and start in another cycle, elsewhere ”, he denounced.

As long as packing houses continue to buy marine products when they are closed, mainly lobster and octopus, the corruption network will continue, he warns, since the merchandise is sent by land or air, mainly to Mexico City, Guadalajara and abroad and, he says, hardly anyone watches.”I have been saying that they are a mafia, the truth is that they are (…) because it already has (time) that this strong poaching began in this area, it already has like three or four seasons, we have a very low season and this season is an extreme, extremely low, “said the fishing leader, with courage and impotence to see how the food of his members is” stolen “before his eyes.

The authority

To talk about illegal fishing,  we sought the delegate of the National Aquaculture and Fisheries Commission (Conapesca) in the entity, Mauro Cristales Márquez, and to find out what is being done to combat it; however, the official replied that he could not provide information due to the popular consultation process.

Despite the bad times, the fishermen do not stop because the expenses continue daily. (Alejandro Ruvalcaba)

While leaving an event in MéridaDulce María Sauri, president of the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Deputies, and who in past years was governor of Yucatán, declared that the issue of poaching is very complex, but has to fight.“It is extremely complex, and not only for its human part, for the people, men, and women who have dedicated their lives (…) to the sea; the environmental part… we have to make what we have work.“We have responsibilities of the Ministry of the Environment, we have responsibilities of the Ministry of the Navy, and we also have responsibilities in the Ministry of Economy, as regards the issuance of permits for the export of marine species, then we must enforce the law, of course (…) that is the first, the second (…) consideration is that if modifications to the law are required, do it ”, he clarified.


This weekend, the state police arrested two men who were traveling together, but in different cars, with 720 kilograms of octopus, which is currently closed off the coast of Yucatan. Both were handed over to the Attorney General’s Office.

Source: milenio.com

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