Illegal tuna clipper at Roca Partida??

Location: Enroute from Roca Partida (Socorro) to Cabo San Lucas, Baja California

Comments: We are on our way home after our last Socorro Island (Revillagigedos) trip of the year. I can’t believe how fast the season has gone. The seas were flat calm when we left Roca Partida yesterday afternoon but have now picked up to 6 – 7 footers 100 miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas. The Nautilus Explorer is rolling and pitching a wee bit but it’s not uncomfortable and all of our guests appear to have retained healthy appetites.

One of the many interesting things about this trip was that we came across two different boats that shouldn’t have been in the Biosphere Reserve. The first one was an 85ft Mexican longliner drifting 4 miles south of San Benedicto Island with all his lights off and his longline in the water. We noticed him on the radar and closed in to investigate, talk to him on the VHF radio, light him up with our searchlights and record everything on video. The Captain asked us for assistance and told us that his engine had broken down. We passed the message along to the naval base at Socorro Island who dispatched a high-speed interceptor to tow him in.

The second incident was more disturbing. While anchored at Roca Partida overnight in the open ocean, we noticed two red lights and a flashing white light on top of a mast on the other side of the islet. We checked the radar and discovered a large (225ft??) target doing tight circles off Roca Partida and clearly in the Biosphere Reserve. I suspected that it was a large tuna clipper and that they were watching us through their binoculars because as soon as we launched one of our inflatables, all the lights on the other ship blinked off. The illegal boat then started jinking around at high speed (15 knots plus), apparently doing it’s best to stay away from the inflatable.

They kept all of their lights turned off (which is not exactly a normal shipboard procedure) except for sweeping high powered brilliant searchlights towards the inflatable. And then they took off. The next morning we were buzzed by a Bell 47 helicopter with a Soloy turbine conversion which could only have come from a nearby tuna clipper. The very upsetting thing is that these guys could easily come in and quickly and easily wipe out all the beautiful sharks and jacks that we just spent the last two days diving with… Fingers crossed that the very able Mexican authorities will be able to get them. I just wish we could keep the Nautilus Explorer on full time station out here to act as more of a deterrent.

–Captain Mike


Weather: High overcast, wind 20 knots from the northwest, calm earlier but currently 6 – 7 foot seas, temperature 79°F

Water: Water temperature and visibility unknown.

By Nautilus Staff

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